Last night the BBC website streamed a live 3-hour debate about the recent riots, hosted by the producers of Today. It looked at policing, families/parenting and morality, using a lively format of 3 sets of panellists, and lots of audience input.
Several contributors highlighted that young people were a minority of the rioters, and echoed my warning here last month about the danger of tarnishing a generation due to the acts of a tiny number. One stated that the average age of those convicted in Manchester was 29.
Strong points were made about the persistent sense of injustice felt by some communities. The statistic that over three hundred young black men had died in police custody in recent years without a single police prosecution is shocking. Nonetheless, it was accepted that even in these communities, relations with the police had improved over the years: these disturbances were not simply a re-run of the 1980s riots in Brixton, Tottenham or Toxteth.
There was an emerging consensus that the events did say something about wider public morality. A surprising number laid the blame on an individualistic, consumerist culture that lacks healthy community bonds. (Canon Giles Fraser’s quote, “these were the ‘because I’m worth it’ riots” got a big response on the twitter feed.) This is a view I have some sympathy with, though I think the root causes are as much to do with physical and economic changes as cultural ones.
The event was by turns engaging, encouraging and frustrating. Progressive perspectives had more airtime than I was expecting. But the section on families in particular lost focus, and was blighted by the sound of axes being ground.
Overall I felt the programme was a useful start to the process of reflection that has to happen, and more thoughtful than any mainstream political comments I have heard. What did you think? (I will add links to the programme if I can find them.)