In the aftermath of the Riots and Looting in the UK, I wanted to add my perspective into the mix for my own sanity if not for anything else.
Firstly, I am not going to try to make any excuse of the behaviour and actions of the rioters as I do not understand why they felt the need to riot. I however feel the justice process is a fact of policy and fact which I have little emotion about. I have a strong believe in rights and responsibilities where every action has consequences. In this way, the justice system is just a matter of fact rather than any desire of revenge.
I am however concerned at how the process of justice is being used for political gain. People should be fairly punished for the crimes they commit not harshly punished to make a weak government look strong. If everything said on facebook was handled in the same way as the ‘peaceful rioters’ were, everyone apart from David Cameron and Eric Pickles will be in prison. The laws on free speech need to be clarified and I challenge the government to explain which part of social networking it has abolished in secret.
The real issue is to understand the ‘social crisis’ we are facing and understand the government’s attitude to the people its regards as undesirable is adding to the problem, they are not the ones with the solution as they try to drive poverty under ground. It is also true to say the previous Labour government that a better approach but they were to soft in tackling social issues, missing many opportunities to restore the social fabric destroyed by Maggie Thacter.
We are facing an uphill battle to building an 21st inclusive and empowered society. This is very far from David Cameron vision of the Big Society, which is simply about handing power to the local middle class can they are dominate their communities for their benefit. I am talking about having strong democratic local neighbourhood councils.
These councils will have a degree of control is managing local policing priorities, planing permission, youth development and many other neighbourhood issues. It would exclude social care which is a personal issue as is anything dealt with behind someone’s front door is not for the public eyes of neighbours.
The councils will be supported by larger authorities which will ensure the infrastructure needed exists and they will be small enough to deal with real and immediate issues. Their aim will be to involved as many residents as possible in their running both large and small, from council members and responding to online surveys.
The councils will not solve the problem but they will be a starting point to establish a new relationship with all residents from all backgrounds. Another idea is the concept of Citizenship Agreements for everyone which clearly lays out the relationship between state and citizens, explaining the rights and responsibilities on both sides.
While some may argue its already there in law, the point is that it is a proper clarification and a commitment owned by both parties. It can therefore be seen as a part of the right to passage into adulthood. It will also enable a new firm and fair approach to justice.
I am not saying I have all the answers but we need some radical thinking to solve a radical problem. I feel the result must be a positive one for the long term rather than one that further divides society.