Monday, 8 August 2011

Responding to Tottenham - and now Lambeth

The trouble that began in Tottenham has now spread to Lambeth.

Some politicians and commentators have gone no further than expressions of outrage, suggesting simply that what has happened isn’t supported by the overwhelming majority of people in a community, and heaping the blame on a few ‘criminals’.

But this does nothing to explain the timing, let alone make any headway in getting to the root of the problems and issues involved.

Several observations can be made, and there are concrete actions that should be taken:

1. To locate those involved in the rioting and looting ‘outside’ our communities is to wash our hands and abdicate responsibility. No one exists in a vacuum. What is taking place affects all our lives. Those directly involved also have friends, families, and surrounding networks, whose attitudes, opinions and behaviour will have a direct influence and bearing on what is going on. This is not simply about the behaviour of a handful of people, but the feelings and actions of whole communities.

2. Central are the relationships of these communities with the police, both in the broadest sense, but also in the events which were the catalyst for the rioting and looting - the shooting of Mark Duggan and the subsequent protest.

3. The Broadwater Farm riots in 1985 were triggered by the death of Cynthia Jarrett, who suffered a stroke after police officers searched her home. As we saw over her death the truth is a vital part of the healing and restoration process. A full and urgent investigation is needed into the shooting of Mark Duggan.

4. We need an urgent independent review of the wider relationship between police and local communities, and in particular of stop and search powers. I travelled through Brixton every day at the time of the Brixton riots 30 years ago, when the 'Sus' law under which anybody could be stopped and searched if officers merely suspected they might be planning to carry out a crime, were used. The Scarman report which looked into the riots eventually led to their abolition. But the impact of current laws needs to be urgently examined.

5. It is notable that the trouble has not taken place in the leafy suburbs, or the richer areas of London. The wider economic climate, in particular large rates of youth unemployment must be taken into account. The situation is made all the more worse by cuts to youth services. In Lambeth there have been cuts of £11.85m to the council’s children and youth services budget, including a £250,000 reduction to the youth offending team budget alone. This makes the possibilities of addressing the underlying problems even more remote. We need swift action to restore vital youth services.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Yes you are absolutely right. Plus I read a report recently that Lambeth had the highest crime rate in Western Europe but also has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the UK.

Put all of this together, and with the cuts to public sector jobs and increasing alienation from the workplace by a whole generation and you have a toxic brew.

Lambeth Council has not helped by 'exporting' jobs from its Call Centre to Southampton. The same neo-liberal policies from Lambeth Labour are creating the deep sense of social exclusion and political rage in the young.