I haven’t said much about the riots here, mainly because I thought I would just be commenting on other people’s comments and not really adding anything. However, David Cameron’s reported comments really got my goat so I emailed him the following:
Dear Mr Cameron
I note that the Evening Standard attributes statements to you in which you blame “the chilling effects of human rights legislation” and “health and safety rules that damage society” in part for the recent riots.
Surely it is the lack of human rights which have a chilling effect on society? I would be most interested in knowing which health and safety rules you consider damaging because from my viewpoint as an ordinary working citizen, they protect me from employers who might cut corners, endangering my well-being, to save money. The legislation which you regard as a problem I regard as something that goes a little way towards levelling the balance between me and the rich and powerful.
I do not pretend to know the causes of the recent disturbances but as a family man and someone who works in a secondary school I have some observations which may be of some pertinence.
Hard work is not valued by society as a whole. Public sector workers have been subject to non-stop denigration in the press for wishing to protect the services they deliver, have a decent wage for so doing and not suffer hardship in retirement. Private sector workers are in an even worse position. They have often suffered wage cuts – if they have kept their jobs at all – and their pension schemes have been gutted all in the name of preserving “shareholder value”.
When people of our generation were at school, hard work and self-discipline would get you a secure job or a place at University. Teenagers are not stupid, they can see that entering paid employment at any level is to be treated as a disposable economic pawn and to attend University is to incur a debt the size of a mortgage. In short, many of them do not see that they have any stake in society.
It is regretable that some have chosen nihilism rather than campaigning for change but might that not be because the political system itself is seen as corrupt? We have seen banks swallow billions of pounds of taxpayers money – and then reject any regulation of the behaviour that actually caused the financial crisis. We have seen that politicians would rather kow-tow to Rupert Murdoch and act in his particular financial interests rather than the interests of their constituents. We have seen MPs whose only interest seemed to be maximising their gains on the expenses system.
For as long as the country is seen to be ruled by the venal and corrupt, a living wage and a comfortable retirement seen as too much to ask as reward for a life-time of work, then we are always going to have disaffected citizens and the risk that last week’s troubles will be repeated.
I don’t imagine for a moment that Cameron will answer even assuming he actually sees it. However I have copied it to my MP as well so at least if Cameron claims total public support for his actions there will be evidence that at least one member of the public felt sufficiently strongly to call him on it.