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Monday, 15 August 2011

Riots in England: Mending our broken society

The television series 'Shameless' supposedly illustrates the life of Britain's underclass but programmes such as this, like 'Porridge', often glorify the anti-hero blurring the edges between right and wrong, creating an acceptance that would not have been tolerated years ago. 

The court cases in the aftermath of the riots have illustrated a downward slide in parts of society so that even comparatively wealthy people have been helping themselves to 'freebies' in the looters' paradise that followed the riots. Therefore, a distinction needs to be drawn between this sort of spur-of-the-moment opportunism on the one hand and the alleged responsibility of the 'underclass' for the riots which all political parties are now, belatedly, eager to address.

While most of us have simply tried to get on with our lives, bemoaning the litter-louts, bad manners, lack of consideration  in general - the list is endless - we just wish that someone would sort out the problems that have blighted us for so long submerging us in a malaise of grudging acceptance of that's life now. Some of those who have 'had-a-go' have suffered injury or death so if we can, we ignore the problems and just pray that our children will escape the post-code lottery of the failing schools and secure a job which enables them to live in a 'respectable' area, pay the bills and, hopefully these days, make provision to live comfortably in retirement.

But problems don't go away by ignoring them. There have been many warnings of troubles ahead including an Audit Commission report which highlighted the fact that young people with five good GCSEs were failing to get a job or stay on in education and that in some parts of the country, one in four "forgotten" teenagers are living on benefits so 10% of teenagers – more than 85,000 across the country – were at risk of becoming an underclass, cut off from mainstream society and drifting into crime as they spend long stretches without a job, education or training.

That report was published over a year ago. It has taken days of rioting and looting for the Prime Minister to act on what he promised to do when he took over as party leader, that is, "to mend our broken society". He must now fulfil that pledge putting an end to the moral decay which blights our society. He keeps reminding us that "we all in this together" but the reins of power are in his hands, not ours.

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