Clegg: “You simply cannot go around breaking the law”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has again emphasised the critical importance of retsoring law and order to the streets of Britain after the widespread rioting of the past few days. However, he also noted that — once calm is fully restored — there will be a need for a proper debate about ensuring young people in deprived areas feel they have a much greater stake in their own communities. Here’s what Nick said on the BBC this morning:

(Also available on the BBC website here.)

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  • There is something wrong with this country. The rioters had a mindset that has been encouraged over the last 30 years and you find it in all walks of life.

    That mindset is basically people being out to take whatever they can regardless of the consequences for society at large. We’ve been taught to think only in terms of ‘me’, ‘mine’ and ‘my’ since Thatcher, all mainstream political parties encourage this.

    This attitude manifests it’s self in very different ways among different groups of people, but its root is the same.

    In politicians it manifests in them drawing up a set of expense rules that they can abuse to claim tens of thousands of pounds in ‘expenses’ which they can use to speculate on the property market and then dodge the taxes they expect ‘little people’ to pay.

    In the super rich it manifests it’s self as blatant tax avoidance even when the country is experiencing economic troubles, basically they’re saying ‘to hell with the country it’s all about me, me, me and if I can avoid paying tax I will, simply because I can’.

    In the city it manifests as traders betting on other companies failing and people at the top of the banking system choosing to walk a way with millions despite having ruined a bank.

    And in poorly educated young people it manifests itself as them simply taking stuff from shops during periods of social unrest simply because they think they can get away with it. It is very much like when the politicians claimed thousands from the public purse in dubious expenses simply because they could, and managers at banks paid themselves huge unjustifiable bonuses simply because they could.

    We seem totally unable to see our own part in this mentality and I therefore think we’re not going to be able to correct it.

  • @ John Roffey
    I’m intrigued as to whether Cameron et al truly believe there’s no need to understand and remedy the causes or rather it suits them politically not to do so. The outcome in your final para is not the one I’d like to see.

  • And now Cameron, who we all know smashed up a restaurant while he was in the Bullingdon Gang, is “looking at” closing Twitter, Facebook and others during times of unrest. I remember a few months ago he was calling Egypt’s actions “inexcusable” for wanting to shut down the internet.

    It seems like all it takes to turn people who would normally be “liberal” into hard-right authoritarians is removal of their perception of safety. I’ve seen people who I know to be quite liberal, who were appalled at the army being used in the MidEast on their people now calling for our army to be used on and to kill our people. I am not comparing the rioters to protesters in the Middle East, but rather the reaction of many British people to violence abroad and at home. I’m actually shocked at how easily some British people can be convinced more bloodshed and repression will solve the problem.

    “Those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither.” – Benjamin Franklin

  • Nick – “…they acted as if they didn’t really have anything to lose…” Well, guess what, they don’t!!

    In the wake of the riots in Athens, Nick predicted this would happen – why is he now behaving as if it is a big surprise!

    Interviewer: ” But rioting in the streets? It’s a bit much….”
    Nick: “I think there’s a very serious risk…”

  • Well it’s not as if they’re short of excellent role models, even if the immediate family falls short in some cases, they need only look to our bankers, politicians, footballers, business leaders, media etc for role models …. oh, well, maybe not.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '11 - 6:55pm

    “I don’t see that there will be much of an attempt to understand the causes”
    “I’m intrigued as to whether Cameron et al truly believe there’s no need to understand and remedy the causes”
    “I seriously doubt that there will be any real attempt to address the underlying causes.”

    I think I can help you guys in your efforts to identify those underlying causes :-

    People saw an opportunity to nab a pile of stuff for free, and they took it.

    Think of it as the download culture transposed to the hgh street for a few nights.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '11 - 7:00pm

    sam: “In the wake of the riots in Athens, Nick predicted this would happen – why is he now behaving as if it is a big surprise!”

    Sadly the clip does not include the hilarious moment when Bill Turnbull reminded Nick about his Greek comments.

    I was too bleary eyed to recall Nick’s reaction, though I’m sure it was the usual blustering nonsense and evasion of Turnbull’s question.

  • “‘People saw an opportunity to nab a pile of stuff for free, and they took it.’

    I don’t think anyone is really disputing that, However, the majority, with lives that they value, would not take the opportunity – if only for the reason that it could all be jeopardized.”

    That’s what we have become like as a society, and it is happening in all walks of life –

    * Millionaires paying accountants to find a tax loophole and then taking the opportunity to pay less tax than their domestic servants and doing it simply because they can.

    * Senior bankers in failed nationalised state banks seeing taking the opportunity to take a few million in undeserved bonuses from the tax payer and doing it simply because they can.

    * MPs abusing a system that they themselves designed to claim expenses that they shouldn’t really have claimed, again, they were doing it simply because they could.

    It’s all the same really, just a different manifestation of the same underlying attitude of everybody being out for them selves with no regard for the wider society at large. And that attitude has been encourage from the top down. If the rioters could have claimed £100,000 for living in their parents spare room and claimed it was ‘within the rules’ they would have done that instead.

  • “If Cameron’s plan was to demonize this underclass and set the majority of the population against them – he has been very successful”.

    Yeah right – it was Cameron’s plan. What are you smoking? Do you think Cameron was sneakily tapping away on the Blackberry in Italy, secretly directing the nation’s youth with cunning messages designed to trick them into looting and ransacking? Perhaps he even instructed the cops to pop a few caps in yo ass when he was on the way to the airport. Get a grip.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '11 - 9:05pm

    “However, the majority, with lives that they value, would not take the opportunity – if only for the reason that it could all be jeopardized.”

    It is of course true that those with the most to lose will be more reluctant to take such a risk.

    However, if you have been following the court reports today as I have, you will have been as astonished as I was by the broad range of individuals on display.

    Young people from wealthy backgrounds.
    Teaching assistants and school mentors.
    A kickboxing instructor (not sure why that one surprised me so much but it did).
    An 18 year old lad who, far from being one of the million+ youth unemployed, actually left his job in Manchester, went home to get out of his work clothes, then returned to join in the looting.
    Many others in their 30s, 40s, or even older.

    Those who are trying to characterise this as a problem of one particular age group or social class are barking up the wrong tree. Many of the people jailed today had a plenty big enough stake in society. They were prepared to risk it all on a looting binge. “Amoral greed” seems the best description for it.

  • There are parts of Essex which suffer deprivation on a par with Liverpool and Tottenham, yet Essex did not riot. Why is that?

    There are parts of Britain which have been the recipients of all manner of public funding, yet the lot of the population of the areas does not seem to improve in any sustained way. Why is that?

  • I’ll add one more thing: bringing David Laws back into government would be a continuation of this very problem of the rich and powerful not facing any kind of punishment for their actions.

    If a benefit claimant lies on his application for housing benefit, he is a cheat, is committing a crime and will be fined or given a custodial sentence based on the severity of the fraud. If he was also entitled to claim a larger benefit, but did not, that does not excuse or invalidate the rules he broke in the first place. This situation is the same with David Laws. He broke the rules about his benefits, but only got a slap on the wrist for it.

  • PW – Two points in relation to your questions above.
    1 No two places or situations are the same. Tottenham clearly had a direct spark to ignite the mayhem. In other places it would depend on how persuasive those getting people on the streets were, how strong were the counter pressures on people etc. There were several places where something almost “kicked off” but not quite. So someone or a small group made an attempt. It also from the court cases emerges that many of those convicted (70% I think quoted) were from areas OTHER THAN where the mayhem in question took place. Somaybe the correlations you should be looking for are home postcodes of those convicted?

    2 Your second question seems more overtly political, and looks as if you are trying to justify your own opinion. There is also evidence the otherway, ie that aid does and can help areas

  • Stuart Mitchell 12th Aug '11 - 6:45pm

    Daniel Brett: “Happy, contented people do not riot.”

    That’s the strangest statement I’ve read all week. Do you seriously believe that it’s impossible to be a happy and contented looter, arsonist, or thug?? Sadly, life simply isn’t like that.

  • Wandsworth Council (always one of Thatcher’s favourites) have started eviction proceedings against a family after the son was charged with offences relating to the riots. Note the word “charged”, not convicted.

    Notwithstanding that Cameron has backed the move and has effectively declared the boy to be guilty in the process. It seems the PM does not understand the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. If even the PM cannot be trusted to uphold that simple concept, what hope is there?

    Is it too much to hope for a senior Lib Dem to condemn these remarks?

  • You simply cannot go round breaking the law.

    Unlesss you have a rich Daddy. Why did the millionaire’s daughter get conditional bail and others less privileged remanded? No doubt Daddy will hire a very good lawyer when she goes to court, wonder what the outcome will be? Why are Cameron and Johnson in their positions after the Bullingdon Club antics? Oh yes, rich Daddies. There will be even more anger when it is seen that the courts are coming down harder on some more than others just because they will pay their way out with expensive lawyers and who knows, use a special sort of handshake?

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