John Clark writes…
First published: August 2011 – Gazette & Herald
For 30 years British society has moved from being measured by ‘what we do’ to ‘what we have’. All levels of society have been engulfed by this greed driven ‘need’.
Bankers removed £1,000 from every adult in Britain. MPs had the public paying for mortgages and televisions. Our MP helped herself to £984 worth of gardening. Senior members of the press broke the law by allowing phone hacking and paying bribes to police officers. Senior police officers had meals and wine with members of the press they were investigating.
The problem has shown itself in another part of society. The Tottenham shooting or the alleged ignoring by the police of the peaceful demonstration does not make the police responsible for the explosion that followed. It did however create a spark. Once the protests had started criminal gangs saw it as an easy way to steal goods under the cover of a riot. This was followed by a ‘crowd mentality’ where many just joined in the excitements.
My main concern is the different approaches to abuse. Cameron said people who “loot and pillage their own community” should be evicted from their council houses. No equivalent action against MPs homes. Their houses were at a ‘discount’ just the same. Many rioters were swept along by the crowd; the same defence as used by MPs for abusing their expense claims. ‘Everyone is encouraged to supplement their income’ (only £60,000 plus).
Cameron says people stealing televisions is theft. One high profile Labour MP against the rioters said “Why are these kids not in school?” In August? It was the same MP who acquired one television at £850 and another for £913 – both within a year. No suggestion was made that she should lose her 1st, 2nd or 3rd home, all of which were at a discount.
Members of the Cabinet in their youth, as members of the Bullingdon Club, trashed restaurants, including arson. Did they appear in court overnight? No they used their parent’s wealth to pay for the damage – I blame the parents. The present crop of criminals have not been given the chance to pay for the bottle of wine or the 35p for stolen water. Another member of the cabinet committed arson, albeit only cacti in a greenhouse. He’s the LibDem who said that if the Tories got into government there would be riots on the streets.
The main ingredient that holds a society together is fairness. Bankers, MPs, Chief Executives of large companies and the press have not been treated in the same way as the looters. During the MPs expenses scandal the common doorstep comment was “If I’d done that I’d have been in prison”.
Not only is the system not fair, it is designed to be unfair. “Magistrates were told to disregard normal rules of sentencing”. Levels of sentence appear to support this view. Cameron may be right that we have a broken society. There is blatant abuse of the young, vulnerable, poor and the working class. The proposed solutions and unfair punishments will not mend the break – they will shatter it even further.