Crime and punishment

Now that the riots of earlier in the week seem to have fizzled out there has been endless talk about what now. Most of this rhetoric has been about who to blame and how to punish the offenders. Callers to radio talk shows are keen to string em all up or at least ship em out to Afghanistan with nothing but their hoodies and stolen trainers.

The prime minister has declared it to be the fault of the police and the police blame cuts. Parents have come under fire for not being able to discipline their little darlings and the rest of us tut about society break down and the youth of today.

In today’s Guardian G2 Alexander Chancellor declares that teachers should shoulder the responsibility and that parents should, ‘somehow be coerced into siding with schools.’ Good luck with that and don’t forget to tune into Thursday evening’s #ukedchat on Twitter to see what real teachers think.

My local Co-op. Business as usual.

So who is to blame? I think we all need to take some responsibility here. Much as I’d like to blame everything on the government (and believe my teeth are gritted as I write that sentence ), as I wrote in my previous post before everything had really kicked off across the country, many factors have come into play. We all need to take responsibility be we parents, educators, politicians or ordinary folk about our daily business.

I also think we need to think carefully about the punishments the guilty receive. Custodial punishment needs to coupled with proper rehabilitation and restorative justice. Lock em up and throw away the key is really not going to work in the long run. I’d like to see those involved in looting working activitely. This might be cleaning up, working at the youth centre, shopping for old folk or digging flower beds. I’d also like to see them listening to those affected by what‘s happened. I think there is a view that stealing is a victimless crime but it’s important to understand how many lives have been turned upside down as people have lost their hard-won business (and all business that are still standing after the recession are hard-won) or their homes. I’d like to see looters listening to old folk who are scared to go out of their homes, families that are moving out of their homes because their afraid for their own safety and business owners and workers who are now unemployed and struggling. I’d also like to see the looters and arsonists come face to face with the guy who watched his family furniture shop that had stuff for five generations first burn and then be demolished. 

So let’s stop pointing the finger at each other and accept responsibility. It’s up to all of us to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  Are you listening Mr. Cameron?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Watching the people get lairy

Sometimes I think I’ve fallen asleep and woken up in the eighties. Teens sport leggings and batwing sleeves and the only money to be found is in The City. The Tory government are off on their hols and there are riots in Tottenham and Brixton.

Choose Life! The eighties are back.

2011 will be remembered as the year of the riot. The Middle East started us off with their desperate call for a voice. We’re lucky enough in the UK to be able to be able to express our views freely and to criticise the government as much as we like but peaceful demonstrations have had a habit recently of turning into violence. Students started us off at the end of last year when their demonstrations against university fees turned into a free for all. On March 26th we marched peacefully against cuts while others broke into shops, set fire to stuff and chucked things at the police.

The most recent riots started out after a peaceful demonstration from the family and friends of Mark Duggan, the man shot by police in Tottenham. What followed seems to me to indicate a general malaise. This time it wasn’t the public school-educated sons of rock stars throwing bottles at police, it was the ordinary London kids.

I’ve read several articles about the inevitability of the violence of the last couple of nights but I don’t believe a riot is ever inevitable, it’s a choice. In this case I believe it’s a series of factors that came together: long summer evenings along with the feeling that the police are against you. And surely the constant drip feed of service cuts and lack of jobs for young people are part of it. The country’s decision-makers and law-enforcers don’t care about you, your community or your future. And what the hell, you’re bored and fed up and others are out there looting nice stuff and attacking the police so you may as well join in.

My neighbour Brixton has taken a balanced view of things. The high street and tube station are closed to prevent groups gathering and local councillors, MPs and community leaders are meeting to discuss what happens now. Which is more than be said for the prime minster and the mayor of London who are away on holiday (but not together. Wouldn’t that be an interesting scenario? They could reminisce about their elite educations) and really don’t want to be interrupted by nasty things like common people protesting.

Tottenham's burning

I have no doubt however that when the communities clear things up and get those youngsters back in front of the telly where they belong, that both Cameron and Johnson will be claiming responsibility for sorting things out. Or am I being cynical?

Meanwhile I’ll be putting on a Bananarama record and slipping into Choose Life t-shirt. Because we’re living in the eighties, right?

 

Oy Cameron! Give me my job back.

Trafalgar Square at 8am before it was shut.

Being a dutiful daughter I escorted my monarchist mother to the royal wedding yesterday. Personally I would rather have been safe at home watching it on the telly and pottering around but needs must. We squashed into The Mall at a ridiculously early hour and killed time by watching a rather attractive NBC reporter clad in a smart suit and manky old trainers do his live to camera pieces. We then stood behind a French camera crew (this was the trick- they have so much equipment that you get a clearish view through them and I translated what they were saying for my mother. Hours of endless fun I don’t think.

The French TV crew film an interesting-looking tree

Trafalgar Square was shut so no chance of watching on the giant screens. We hightailed it to a little pub just off Pall Mall and sat on the beer-stained floor to watch the ceremony. The whole pub joined in the singing of Jerusalem much to the bewilderment of the French tourists. (PS three Hubert Parry pieces in one wedding ceremony? They must be keen. Or was that Charlie’s choice?)

I was quite ready to go home but my dear mother was re-energised with royal fervour so we trooped back to the Mall and wandered down where my mother made friends with a bloke in a top hat and feathers. The police were keeping people at arm’s length from Buck House itself (in fact the police did a good job in keeping everyone far away from pretty much everything) but we did get a vague glimpse of the happy couple revving off in that rather fine Aston. By this point my feet were killing me so we were wandering off in the direction of St James tube when we spied a small crowd and, lemming-like, decided to go and have a nosy. Who should emerge from the back of the Palace but the Prime Minister himself, his skin as eerily smooth in real life as on the telly.

Before I knew what I was doing I yelled, ‘Oy Cameron! Give me my job back,’ as he strode off towards his Range Rover with nary a ‘calm down, dear,’ to me. The crowd giggled and even a copper or two sniggered. With my mother in mind, I left it there not wanting her to see me being grappled to the ground by the PM’s security and carted off to the local nick.

But I can’t tell you how good it made me feel.

The thin blue line keeps the crowd at bay.

Travel card for one happy mother: £7.30

Policing: millions.

Shouting at the prime minster: priceless

The Big Little Society

Today the Prime Minster relaunches the Big Society. This will iron out the misunderstanding that it’s just a way of getting things for free once the bulk of staff have been redundant from councils and third sector groups have their budgets cut to the bone.

 No funding for schools? Set up a free school! Library closing? Run it yourself! Woodlands being sold off? Plant an acorn! Leisure centre shut? Go for a jog around the woodlands acorn seedlings!

 Rather than Big Society I prefer Big Little Society. I’m lucky enough to live in a part of London where there really is strong community. We have a community choir run by the music department of the local secondary school. We have a summer festival run by locals and we have a community Arts centre. We also have a community forum where we can share ideas and ask questions.

Our house has just sprung a leak and I’ve just found a list of local plumbers on there. The sergeant from the Safer Neighbourhood Team answers questions on the forum and the ward councillors sort out local problems.

 I’d also like to see some more basic community issues being addressed across the country too so we can all take more responsibility. Here’s my list for the Big Little Community:

  1. Make friends with your neighbours and keep an eye out for each other. Offer to keep an eye on their property and invite them over every now and them for Christmas/ Eid/ Diwali etc.
  2. Sweep the snow from your little patch of Great Britain and don’t be put off by gloomy emails about being sued if someone slips outside your house.
  3. As above but with litter. It only takes a moment to pick up the rubbish outside your house and pop it in the bin/recycling. And pick up your neighbour’s junk mail that he insists in throwing out onto the pavement. Or is that just me? If you live in a super clean part of the country, vow to pick up and dispose of two bits of litter when you’re out and about.
  4. Challenge anyone who drops litter without believing they’re going to stab you. I can’t help myself doing this; I think it’s the teacher in me. Mr R once challenged a woman who chucked her rubbish on the ground in front of her kids. ‘If you’re so worried about, ‘ she replied, ‘you pick it up.’ So he did because he was.
  5. Keep an eye on other people’s kids when they’re out and about but tick them off if they do something silly (eg point 4). Parents: allow this to happen.
  6. Use local shops as well as out of towners but insist on using your own bags. Hold the door open for the next person and say please and thank you. You may also wish to smile.
  7. As a wise man once said, ‘Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights.’ And stand up for others too. If you think that something is wrong or unfair in any part of your life, don’t whinge about it, do something. And if anyone upsets your friends, family, colleagues or neighbours, stand up for them.

 Right I’m off to phone a plumber. So in this new Big Little Society what would you like to see?

Power to the pupils!

One thing I really enjoy about working with London school is the students. Despite what the media might have us think, they’re not all knife-wielding, granny-robbing hoodies. The ones I meet through my day to day work are often articulate, feisty and funny. Pupils at Little Ilford comprehensive school in Newham are a fine example: the school was due a multi-million pound rebuild as part of the Building Schools for the future (BSF) programme. As with many schools, this funding has now been cut and the building work will not go ahead.

 The pupils have not taken this lying down. They have made a film protesting at the lack of funding and are presenting the film and their campaign to the Prime Minister today. Far from moaning about specific grievances, the film includes soundbites from pupils, teachers, parents and community members about how much their school means to them. This is clearly a school that takes its position in the community very seriously.

 What I admire about Little Ilford film is the fact that thepupils are clearly proud of their school and that’s the biggest recommendation anyone can have. I don’t work in Newham so I have no vested interest in this story but I like to see ordinary people taking a stand so best of luck to the whole school community.

Pay checked

More than 9,000 public-sector workers earn more than the prime minister, according to a new analysis of public-sector pay.

Ah, the prime minister’s pay, that great British benchmark. Up there alongside ‘as big as x football pitches,’ ‘the size of Wales,’ and ‘as big as golf balls.’

My local newspaper was indignant at the levels of pay of the various local authority chief executives and so it should be. The head of Wandsworth in London earns a salary of £299,925 including bonuses of £54,000. Many other chief executives are not far behind.

Fair enough for a demanding job in difficult times but it transpires than many of these CEOs have been awarded massive pay rises in the past year, just as many posts are being made redundant and costs are being cut to the bone. There has been a lot of whingeing from them about pensions and bonuses being added in to these salary figures and cost of living and take home pay being reduced but it’s a bitter pill to swallow for the rest of us.

In hard times we look to our leaders and we want them to support us and stand up for us- the drones that don’t receive prime minister-busting salaries. And as for bonuses…obviously we’re not talking banker bonuses here in the public sector but perhaps naively I didn’t realise that council leaders even got bonuses. When you work for the council you accept that you are duty bound to give council taxpayers best value for money and not grab it for yourself. The biggest bonus I got last year was a couple of biscuits left over from a training meeting. And no, don’t worry, tax-payers, we don’t supply tea and biscuits at training any more.

If I earn some consultancy money for the council then it goes into their pocket not mine. Last year I was set some hideous Local Area Agreement targets.  If I reached my targets, I’d be earning the council a great deal of money. I sweated, slogged and struggled but eventually met the targets and the money came flooding in. I had hoped for a tiny bit of this dosh to go into my own budget for use with my schools but it got swallowed into the great melting pot.

Now I can’t help wondering if any of that pot went into the pockets of the executives.

%d bloggers like this: