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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.”
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)
Sign the Ban Blair-Baiting petition here
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)