London: “Alienated, Disaffected Youth” Cause Of British Riots: Tony Blair

21 Aug

LONDON (AP) — Former Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday rejected the British government’s claim that this month’s riots were caused by the country’s moral decline, and said talk of “broken Britain” would unfairly tarnish the nation’s reputation.

Prime Minister David Cameron has blamed Britain’s “slow-motion moral collapse” for the riots which raged for four nights in London and other English cities.

Blair wrote in The Observer newspaper that the violence was not caused by social rot, but by “alienated, disaffected youth,” who are found in most developed nations.

“The key is to understand that they aren’t symptomatic of society at large,” Blair wrote, adding that “Britain as a whole is not in the grip of some general ‘moral decline.’

“The truth is that many of these people are from families that are profoundly dysfunctional, operating on completely different terms from the rest of society, either middle class or poor.”

He said the only way to start finding a proper solution was to focus on the specific problem.

“Elevate this into a high falutin’ wail about a Britain that has lost its way morally and we will depress ourselves unnecessarily, trash our own reputation abroad, and worst of all, miss the chance to deal with the problem in the only way that will work.”

Blair left office in 2007 and rarely comments on domestic politics.

The riots, triggered by a fatal police shooting in north London’s Tottenham area on Aug. 4, were the worst civil disturbances to hit Britain since the 1980s, and left a trail of looted stores, torched cars and burned-out buildings in many areas. Five people died in the violence, including three men run down by a car as they protected stores from looters in England’s second city, Birmingham.

As politicians debate the causes of the mayhem, British authorities have promised harsh punishment for the rioters.

Police in London said Sunday that they have recorded almost 3,300 separate offenses connected to the riots, including 1,100 burglaries and 400 cases of criminal damage.

More than 1,300 people have been charged nationwide.

NEWS UPDATE:

Blair: 'Riots Not Caused By Broken Society'

Tony Blair has accused David Cameron, Ed Miliband and his successor as Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, of not properly understanding and addressing the underlying causes of this summer’s riots.

Writing in The Observer, former prime minister Mr Blair said suggestions that what happened shows Britain is in moral decline are nonsense.

“The big cause is the group of alienated, disaffected youth who are outside the social mainstream and who live in a culture at odds with any canons of proper behaviour,” he claimed.

“The truth is that many of these people are from families that are profoundly dysfunctional, operating on completely different terms from the rest of society, either middle class or poor.

“This is a phenomenon of the late 20th century. You find it in virtually every developed nation.”

For which reason, he added, suggesting Britain has lost its way morally will depress people unnecessarily, trash our reputation abroad and fail to deal with the problem in the only way that works.

Mr Cameron has promised a fightback against “the wrong-headed ideas, bureaucratic nonsense and destructive culture” which led to the current problems.

He writes in The Sunday Express: “There are deep problems in our society that have been growing for a long time: a decline in responsibility, a rise in selfishness, a growing sense that individual rights come before anything else.

“The British people have fought and died for people’s rights to freedom and dignity but they did not fight so that people did not have to take full responsibility for their actions.”

In a thinly veiled attack on Mr Cameron’s critique, Mr Blair said: “We are in danger of the wrong analysis leading to the wrong diagnosis, leading to the wrong prescription.”

But Mr Blair also said the left places too much emphasis on social deprivation as the prime cause of the rioting.

Violence broke out in cities across the UK two weeks ago, with the Metropolitan Police confirming some 3,000 offences had been recorded in relation to the riots in the capital alone.

The correct response, he contended, is to intervene family by family, and to reform criminal justice around antisocial behaviour, organised crime, persistent offenders and gangs.

This formula has much in common with the approach now advocated by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Blair said the Labour government was working on it towards the end of his time in office.

But, in a dig at Mr Brown, Mr Blair maintains that after he left the agenda lost momentum.

He also admitted that, after the murder of two-year-old Jamie Bulger in 1993, he had made a similar case to that being advanced by many today about moral breakdown in Britain.

But that speech, he said, was “good politics but bad policy”.

In an apparent endorsement of Mr Cameron’s political response to the riots, a Comres poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror puts support for the Conservatives at its highest level for almost a year.

At 38%, it is up two points, and just 2% behind Labour.

But the same survey gives the idea of the former American supercop Bill Bratton taking over the Metropolitan Police the thumbs down from voters, by a majority of more than two to one.

(Editor’s note: Lives lived in POVERTY are lives lived in PARALLEL).

 

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