Labour Representation Committee Statement on Riots in London

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by John McDonnell on Monday, 08 August 2011 at 17:04

This is the LRC’s Statement with regard to the riots in London, which aims to give some perspective to what has happening and where we go next. I think it strikes the right note.

“In March Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million. There was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including: closing the youth centres; connexions careers advice service for young people reduced by 75%; and the children’s centre service reduced. Haringey has one of the highest numbers of children living in severe poverty, and unemployment in the borough is among the highest in the UK. In London as a whole, youth unemployment is at 23%.

On Thursday 4 August a local man was shot dead by police. The circumstances of the death are still not clear, but – similarly to many previous cases – it appears the version of events fed to the media by the Metropolitan Police is a tissue of lies. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has opened an investigation, but given their histories of cover-ups no one can have faith in either the Metropolitan Police or the IPCC. On Saturday 6 August a peaceful demonstration marched from the Broadwater Farm estate to the local police station to demand answers.

In Haringey, you are three times as likely to be stopped and searched if you are black; and over two-thirds of those stopped are under 25.

Young people are suffering the brunt of the economic crisis, the cuts and, in many parts of the country, police harassment. The student protests in November and December 2010 highlighted the growing frustration and anger among Britain’s youth.

It is in this context of unemployment, public sector cuts, and police violence and harassment that the riots on the 6/7 August must be understood.

Some will used the riots and looting to call for further police powers, but instead the police need to be made more accountable to the communities they serve – and held to account when they kill. The IPCC has clearly proved itself unfit for this purpose.

We also need to step-up our campaigning against the cuts – arguing for job creation and investment instead of damaging cuts that are devastating communities.

Unless the underlying issues of (particularly youth) unemployment, poverty, and police violence are addressed there can be no guarantee that we will not see further riots of a similar nature across the country.”

http://www.facebook.com/notes/john-mcdonnell/lrc-statement-on-riots-in-london/10150284847828866

London’s Burning

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All things seem to come around again. From the 1980’s I remember Adam and the Ants very fondly, and the riots in our inner cities not so fondly, yet both are back.

Let me make one thing is clear – rioting, arson and looting are wrong. All are quite rightfully considered to be criminal behaviour and those caught doing them deserve the full force                                                of the law.

However, this does not stop anyone with empathy understanding why we have an angry youth, even if we disagree with what they have done.

The initial spark was a peaceful protest by the family of a man shot by the police last week. What ensued on Saturday and Sunday night spiralled violently out of control.

The youth of today face an uncertain future. Here are the statistics (source http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/22/youth-employment-rate-lowest, July 22nd, 2011):

  • In 1997 nearly half of 16 – 17 years olds were in work, now it is just 23.3%
  • 1 in 5 16 – 24 years olds are unemployed
  • The number of NEETS (not in employment, education or training) stands at nearly 1 million
  • The education maintenance allowance has been changed, effectively removing financial support for many
  • Tuition fees changes will result in students leaving University owing £30 – 40K

To many young people the prospect of owning there own home is looking slim. Some now consider the chance of ever having a job in the same way.

This group is also politically disenfranchised. No one really speaks for them. Politics too often gathers around those with money and influence, and this has led to a preoccupation will older, middle class people.

This group is now so adrift from ‘normal’ society, it has become dangerous. When angry young men feel like they have nothing to lose, it is easy to see how peaceful marches turn to violence. This is phenomena can be witnesses all over the world.

What is required is to deal with the root cause – this dislocation from society as a whole. The violence is and looting are just the symptoms of a deeper malaise.

What young people really want is engagement and a real hope for the future. They want the chance of training, a job, financial security and a decent home to live in.

Then again don’t we all?