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UK Riots Aftermath: Blair Bashes Cameron’s Response

Posted on the 22 August 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
UK riots aftermath: Blair bashes Cameron’s response

Tony Blair. Photo credit: Monika Flueckiger

writing in The ObserverDavid Cameron’s insistence that the riots are a symptom of “slow-motion moral collapse”.

Blair was careful not to attack Cameron directly and even conceded that “there was much to agree with” in Cameron’s response to the riots, but also warned that “we are in danger of the wrong analysis leading to the wrong diagnosis, leading to the wrong prescription.” Blair argued that too much analysis of the riots has been little more than “a high-faluting wail about a Britain that has lost its way morally,” and claims that the real cause of the unrest is “the group of young, alienated, disaffected youth who are outside the social mainstream.” These young people are, Blair said, “an absolutely specific problem that requires deeply specific solutions.”

The specific solution Blair has in mind seems to be a kind of centralised social work on steroids. Government must be “prepared to intervene literally family by family and at an early stage, even before any criminality had occurred,” he wrote. He didn’t go into much more detail than that, but said that this “completely different” approach had been developed while he was British leader, and that “the papers and the work are all there.” Maybe he should send them to Cameron?

  • Criticism of Blair. Responses to Blair’s piece have been mixed, to say the least. Stephen Glover gave the ex-PM short shrift indeed in The Daily Mail. Blair’s article was “myopic, self-serving” and ignored what Glover saw as the reality of ‘moral decline’ in Britain. “It suits [Blair], of course, to deny that there is some sort of general moral decline or a ‘broken society,” wrote Glover, “because New Labour so manifestly failed to address these problems during its 13 years in office.” David Blackburn took up this theme in The Spectator, calling Blair’s article “insightful, especially as a testament of his failings in government.” Blackburn argued that the ‘specific’ problems Blair identified were caused by his government. “Family breakdown and inherited worklessness are legacies of the Blair years that need to be reversed,” he wrote. Stephen Tall, blogging at Liberal Democrat Voice, praised Blair’s “optimistic and realistic” analysis but bemoaned his “top-down, Orwellian approach to social control” as “a liberal nightmare.” Tall also wished that Blair had been courageous to offer such balanced analysis when he was in power. “Politicians seem to make these speeches only once they are no longer in power, when they can no longer influence either policy nor elevate the standard of public discourse regarding our deep-seated problems,” he wrote. “Why do we have to wait til they’ve retired to get the grown-up politics we need?” There was also qualified support for Blair in The New Statesman, where Jonathan Derbyshire appreciated his “rather thoughtful” contribution to the debate, and suggested that “We should be grateful, I suppose, that Blair doesn’t think, as the current Prime Minister seems to, that jerking the knee suffices at moments like this.”
  • Cameron’s knee-jerk. Derbyshire was referring to an article by the current Prime Minister in The Sunday Express that appeared on the same day as Blair’s article. In it, Cameron restated his thesis, explicitly rejected by Blair, that “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.” Cameron went on to demand a “fightback” against these problems, and promised tougher policing as well as some other, newer ideas. One of these was a National Citizen Service, designed to show teenagers that “real fulfilment comes not from trashing things or being selfish but buy buildings things and working with others.” Another was a promise to tackle “the twisting and misrepresenting of human rights.” Setting him on a collision course with his Lib Dem coalition partners, Cameron said that “We are looking at creating our own British Bill of Rights. We are going to fight in Europe for changes to the way the European Court works and we will fight to ensure people understand the real scope of these rights and do not use them as cover for rules or excuses that fly in the face of common sense.”

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