Tony Blair has criticised claims that the London riots show Britain to be in a "moral decline". The comments come after David Cameron’s speech on Monday 15th August where he said the government are determined to tackle “a slow motion moral collapse” in Britain and mend its “broken society”.
Blair, writing in the Observer and giving his first public verdict on the London riots, accuses the government of playing politics with the crisis and passionately defends Labour’s legacy after his 13 years in power.
Blair defends the society his Labour government worked hard to establish and goes on to say that he meets youngsters from highly disadvantaged backgrounds every day who prove that today’s generation are more respectful, responsible and hard working than his own.
Giving a rare positive outlook on the riots he said, “The true face of Britain is not the tiny minority that looted, but the large majority that came out afterwards to help clean up.” The “open, tolerant and optimistic” spirit that won Britain the Olympic bid in 2005 is what he says represents modern London rather than the displays of criminality throughout the weekend of riots.
He praised today’s corporations for their progression to a race and gender fair corporate social responsibility, implying that Britain today is stronger and fairer than it has ever been. Consequently the rash talk of Britain falling into a broken society will not only ruin our reputation abroad but will unnecessarily depress a nation that is flourishing.
The former Labour prime minister warns that generalisations of a broken society by David Cameron imply that it is communities that are out of control. The communities, even in the poorest of parts, are decent, law abiding and desperate for action whilst it is a few individuals who bring down the situation. He has gone on to say that these individuals frequently come from profoundly dysfunctional families, “operating on completely different terms from the rest of society, middle class or poor.”
He blames this fact on many individuals having role models that are drug dealers and people with guns and knives. They are exploited and abused yet feel a belonging which creates such a destructive gang culture.
Blair says the continued arguments between the left and right over what caused the riots both miss the point and “we are in danger of the wrong analysis leading to the wrong diagnosis, leading to the wrong prescription.”
To avoid more problems he suggests his previous solution during his time as prime minister needs to be reinforced and gain momentum once again. Intervening family by family, at an early stage and before any criminality has occurred whilst also reforming laws around criminal justice and the treatment of gangs will give more hope of success.
Focus was also put on the tensions between Downing Street and Scotland Yard over their handling of the riots. He placed the blame on the fact that the government fail to support the police: “The police need to know they have strong support. They need to feel it from politicians and public alike.”
The comments come days after Russell Brand’s highly praised article on the riots via the Guardian. The articulate comedian turned actor wrote an honest account on why the riots happened and has been hailed as having a more upfront and educated opinion on the situation than many other reporters and politicians.
He admits to an inclusion in anti-capitalist protests earlier in the decade and has given his own reasons for feeling intrigued by the anarchist agenda. He does however confess that he was mainly affected by the “football ‘casuals’ who’d turn up because the veneer of the protest’s idealistic objective gave them the perfect opportunity to wreck stuff and have a row with the Old Bill.”
He described a “void” and lack of direction that gave him a sense of not being invested in the dominant culture as well as having a belief that the government existed “not to look after the interests of the people it was elected to represent but the big businesses that they were in bed with.”
Comments such as these, followed by a fear that if he, a young man with a caring family unit, a good education and strong support from his local community and government could feel this way then he shudders to think how disenfranchised he would have felt if he had been deprived of that long list of privileges.
Both Tony Blair and Russell Brand focus on family as being a privilege but if, as Russell mentions and the riots proved with many successful and well brought up rioters taking to the streets, is it where the problem really lies?