After Riots, will Cameron’s Big Society NOW have legs? Blairism revisited?


Comment at end

Or –

11th August 2011

It’s not often I sing the praises of the BBC, as you may have noticed.  But there are some excellent people there, despite all. Jon Sopel for one, who wrote this a few days ago on Tony Blair in Nazareth:

“After ten years at the top of British politics, he has managed to improve the economic well-being of the Palestinians, and his quiet painstaking work is respected by both sides.  But as I watched him working the streets of Nazareth, I sensed that Tony Blair feels he has one more big job in him — and this might not be it.”   

Wish-Fulfilment As News thinking, but from a different angle than that which John Rentoul refers to? Perhaps. But one with which many of us would like to concur. Vision and leadership doesn’t come in and hang around long with every parliamentary session.

And today, as we struggle with the first major riots on the British mainland in thirty years, Mark Easton reminds us of this:

“Within weeks of coming to power in 1997, Tony Blair set up a Social Exclusion Unit inside the Cabinet Office specifically to deal with what his party painted as Margaret Thatcher’s underclass – hundreds of thousands of people, workless, skill-less, often homeless and hopeless, a group cut off from mainstream society – dubbed the entrenched 5%.

Huge sums were pumped into schemes in the most deprived neighbourhoods, but tussles over budgets and the sheer challenge of engaging with people who are often hostile to officialdom meant ambition couldn’t translate into outcome.

In February 2006, as knives were being sharpened by Old Labourites, Tony Blair still had his mind on social exclusion issues, when many of us were looking the other way. This is by Brian Wheeler  –

“The fact that Mr Blair has now decided to appoint a Cabinet minister with special responsibility for social exclusion will be seen by critics as a final admission of that failure.

It is also, perhaps, a sign of his impatience that many of the social problems he set out to tackle in 1997 are still there.

Mr Blair clearly thinks it is time for a rethink on the issue of social exclusion.

There is a growing mood on all sides of the debate that civil servants and ministers in Whitehall may not have all the answers and that a centralised approach is not the answer.”

Enter Stage Right – Mr Cameron’s Big Society? Well, maybe.

Personally I don’t know if his heart, or that of his party is in it. I certainly don’t recall Mr Cameron  saying before recent events that social exclusion should be dealt with.  Not until now.

Cometh the moment, cometh the man? Or what?

I think I’ll opt for “what?”

As Tim McLoughlin puts it here – on “Tough on crime – tough on causes of crime”

“Cameron needs to show that Conservatism really is compassionate and that it won’t just be tough on crime, but also its causes. This means that budget cuts should never take precedence, as they seem to be, over public safety or rebuilding our communities.

Cameron isn’t Blair yet and never will be.”

Today in Parliament

Cameron: More power to Police – curfews – ban face-masks – street gang injunctions – possible use of water cannon/(rubber bullets) – review of instant messaging services – greater powers to courts. Oh, and eviction.


“Let’s be clear, however, that the criminal actions of a few can and do undermine quality of life for the vast majority of law abiding tenants in Britain’s social housing. The sense that a rogue element are “getting away with it” is a corrosive force in these communities.

Former prime minister Tony Blair recognised this when he launched the (rather lacklustre) rights and responsibilities campaign in the mid-2000s – and having been unable return to my own home for much of this week, I feel it myself. Blair saw that institutional deference had been eroded in the equally important fight for a more liberal society with greater opportunity for all, and predicted the serious consequences which have now come to pass.”

Parliament’s Riot debate as it happens

Andrew Sparrow on UK riots: Commons debate and live updates including list of responses. For instance, David Aaronovitch in the Times (paywall) says only a relatively small number of people were involved in the riots.

“The highest realistic estimate I’ve seen for rioters in one place was 200, and pictures of that event suggest that it was too high. It also seems that one must make a practical distinction (if not a moral one) between rioters and looters — people who entered shops already broken into to steal goods. There is some evidence of the same people moving from one location to another. With the number of arrests at about 500, I seriously wonder if many more than a few thousand people were involved in rioting.

This is important because it tells us two things. First, we are not dealing with a mass criminal insurrection. And second, that a remarkably small number of people, if they are mobile and use surprise, can cause mayhem out of all proportion to their numbers. I was told this by Tony Blair once, in the context of terrorism, and it’s true.”

Update: My dear friend John Rentoul has this today. Though I must say I am not sure what his last sentence has to do with the price of free tv sets today –  “But no one pointed out that there was looting during the Second World War. “


If you think Cameron’s response today to the riots was less than you’d have wished for (I’m reasonably content, btw – yes this is me, reasonably content!) read this from civil rights guardian(!)  Ahmadinejad, via The Guardian – UK riots: Iran calls on UN to intervene over ‘violent suppression’  –  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemns British government for its ‘brutal beating’ of ‘the opposition’

Perhaps we should stop complaining about David Cameron.

OK. I’ll take my own advice. Mr Cameron you did well. (as well as could be expected)

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Recent comments:

I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)

The greatest and most successful leader the Labour Party has ever had with the courage to fight the Islamist terrorists who really would like to kill us all, and you never hear a good word about him. The herd of independent minds, commentators, activists etc who have never had to make a difficult decision in their lives drown out all debate with their inane chants of war crimes and blood on his hands. Defend him at every chance. I just wish more people would do it. (Glasgow, UK)
Blair was the greatest Labour Prime Minister. It is a disgrace that the party has turned away from his legacy. Shame on Ed Miliband and his so-called ‘new generation’.


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5 Responses to “After Riots, will Cameron’s Big Society NOW have legs? Blairism revisited?”

  1. Stan Says:

    Yes Cameron did well on how to tackle the symptoms of what’s gone wrong but he’s still stoking the fires of the kind of frustration that spill over into outbreaks of violence which will continue from time to time until the root causes of our discontented and disconnected society are addressed.

    • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

      True, Stan.

      But this addressing “root causes” is a Catch 22 situation which I predict will remain incomplete. Why? Because when one looks at “root causes” (and they are complex, imho) one is leapt upon as racist, inciting, stoking fires. See reaction to David Starkey on Newsnight last night.

  2. Tony Blair | -a lesson to learn from TB on extreme violence- « Says:

    […] After Riots, will Cameron’s Big Society NOW have legs? Blairism revisited? ( Rate this: Like this:LikeWees de eerste om post te waarderen. […]

  3. yinka25 Says:

    For Tony Blair to have stepped forward to give his views on August 2011’s riots smacks guilty conscience. The policies; some racist set by his government – during New Labour’s time in office – contributed significantly to the riots. Stepping forward and attacking an unpopular Prime Minister’s (David Cameron) comments is just a defensive approach from Blair. Can someone please explain what the big society is really about?

  4. keeptonyblairforpm Says:

    Some might suggest that his too-liberal policies towards immigration stoked the fires. He is/was THE most UNracist PM ever, imho.

    “Big society”. No idea what it is. A catchy catch-phrase, they hoped.

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