Whilst leftwing commentators and the Green Party in New Zealand feel safe blaming the riots in the UK on “neo-liberalism”, UK Labour politicians have tried to be more careful. Whilst Ken Livingstone came out on automatic saying it was about spending cuts, Harriet Harman was cornered into saying she condemned it all, “but” and Ed Miliband more wisely has simply condemned the violence, with there being “no excuse” for it. This, of course, goes against his political instincts, for the bog standard Marxist/socialist point of view is that riots are related to class and race. Labour politicians wished they could parrot a “told you so” view that would say “this is inevitable”, much like the NZ Marxists have, but they can’t do so without alienating the vast majority of voters, including their own supporters.
For a start, few believe there has been such a massive turnaround in economic or social conditions in the just over one year since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition took over. All to easy for Conservatives to say “you were in power for 13 years, what did you do about it”. A reasonable point for reasonable people. Now the true Marxist would claim Blair and Brown were the Tories in slow-mode, but when so many Labour MPs and candidates came from that era, it doesn’t wash well either. Ken Livingstone being the clear example of one who figured he could get away with it.
Secondly, the victims of the rioting are mostly people in Labour voting areas, who are either small business owners, their staff, or people whose homes have been destroyed or trashed. They live in the more dangerous, crime ridden, poorer parts of town, but they didn’t riot. In fact they hate crime as much as anyone, because they are more likely to be victims of it. You see, despite the identity politics of the left, the poor/dispossessed (if they ever did possess) attack their own, they rarely go elsewhere, and the majority of them do have morals, don’t steal, don’t vandalise. They have aspirations for themselves and their families like anyone else, which is why when anyone achieves it, they would tend to leave the rest behind and move to a nicer part of town.
Thirdly, whilst calling someone racist or making people even fear being accused of being racist has been their stock in trade in debate for decades, again so many victims are of racial minorities. South Asian Muslim or Sikh voters aren’t going to tolerate the claim that Afro-Caribbeans find it hard in British society, when they just get on with working or owning businesses, and ensure their kids get a good education. There are more than a few Afro-Caribbeans disgusted by this behaviour as well. The “race consciousness” that once tied is awfully frayed when people turn on their own.
Fourthly, many people have found it rather hard during the recession. Those who have had pay cuts, lost jobs, found it harder to make ends meet don’t tolerate the notion that when people are poor, they become criminals. Most people have self-discipline, and don’t have the “class consciousness” that the left so disgustingly implies those in poverty as having. In short, the racial and wealth stereotypes are as appalling inaccurate for the left as are the more banal ones on the far-right.
Finally, most want criminals to be punished and kept out of harm’s way. It is natural, human benevolence to feel pity and sorrow for those who have lost everything to deliberate vandalism, left and arson, and anger at those who did so to get luxury goods, or pieces of tat, or just to have a good time. It is immoral, and that sense of outrage and distress is what keeps civilisation together. People want a hard line against those who commit crimes, they don’t accept excuses because most people work hard for what they have and would do all they could to defend their families. They regard the rioters to be the enemy of all they have, and they’d be right.
The answers the left will offer will also fail to inspire. Of all the talk about poverty and compassion, and addressing the causes of crime, they have two answers:
- Give poor people more money (in one form or another) for doing nothing;
- Hire more bureaucrats to help poor people.
The bribery with welfare has already been tried, and Labour knows with the country nearly bankrupt, it can’t promise more money with any credibility (even Labour would have halved the budget deficit, albeit by simply cutting the growth of spending and increasing taxes). However, the far left (read, Green Party of England and Wales)will argue for more money for better housing, better state schools and more benefits so people don’t feel “desperate”, or in their own words “creating employment and training opportunities, advice, youth centres, and community services”. “Creating jobs” by taking money from those who actually create jobs by generating wealth, and building more youth centres and state services. It isn't about producing anything, it is about using the wealth of others, taken by force, to keep people busy.
The language always used is the royal “we” by making everyone responsible. You’re not responsible for yourself, your family, your kids, your business alone, but for everyone else, including the feckless, the “breed without consequences” mob and those who are “alienated” – those same kids who bully your kids. You are responsible for them. This justifies this sort of statement:
we need to create a society where youth are not so extremely alienated in the first place
Not the parents, not the state schools who they are put through like widgets, but “we”, which means “give us more of your money so we can spend it”.
The thing is that taxpayers don’t want to do that. Even setting aside my libertarian hat, the majority view is not to increase taxes or welfare benefits. The far left couldn’t care less of course, because it will just keep saying “if you want this to stop, you need to pay more”, but democracy (which they putatively respect) says people don’t want that. They don’t vote for it. The British Labour Party tried selling that to voters in 1983, 1987 and 1992 and they didn’t say yes.
The UK is a liberal democracy. Most people believe people should get a fair go, that people shouldn’t be homeless, but also that if they wreck that home or make their neighbours’ lives a hell, they should lose the home they are given. Most people believe kids should all get an education, but if they waste it, or wreck the education of others, they shouldn’t be there. Most people believe people should work for a living, but if they are idle on welfare, don’t bother and then attack those who do work, they should lose their benefits.
Even if the public did vote for spectacular increases in taxes and welfare, it would be incapable of delivering. As thousands of entrepreneurs either arranged their affairs to avoid tax, or simply left, the purported revenue would not appear. In addition, the membership of the EU would guarantee growth in welfare tourism, ensuring the UK faced a sovereign debt crisis due to declining tax revenue and increasing welfare claims. Of course true socialists would leave the EU to put up trade barriers, so would chase away more businesses that don’t want to be excluded from their markets. Ultimately, the spiral of decline and stagnation would see the flight of more of the brightest and wealthiest, which could only be stopped by either reversing policies, or making it difficult to leave with ones’ money and assets. The latter would ensure the UK was abandoned even more rapidly as it would look more like east Berlin, where a wall was built explicitly to keep people from leaving.
In short, most people believe in people having opportunities, but if they ignore them, abuse them, or at worst turn on the people who took advantage of them to work hard to earn a living, they want little mercy. They don’t want their taxes spent on criminals, and don’t want them getting endless chances, following numerous offences for stealing, vandalism or assault. They want their homes, businesses and families safe, and don’t want to pay more taxes for people who aren’t grateful for what they get from others, and who will act parasitically towards them.
The answers so many on the left offer involve taking more money from employers, from people who strive for themselves and their families, and giving it to people who expect to be handed money, homes and jobs with no obligation, or paying for more people to be “employed” by the government in pseudo-jobs that don’t need doing anyway.
Add these carefully shrouded demands to throw money at potential rioters to the hand-wringing slogans of “racism” and “poverty causes crime”, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the vast majority. Most taxpayers are not rich, by definition the majority of them are around the average in income and wealth, they consider vandalism and theft to be wrong, especially when the victims of that are people who are themselves not wealthy, or who have clearly strived to make something of their lives from little. They don’t think the way to solve the problems of immoral behaviour is to pay people to not be bad. In fact they are far more likely to demand that they no longer pay people who are!
It is why the British Labour Party has, by and large, been avoiding talking about anything other than the need for a tough approach to law and order.