Inconsistent opinions

I’ve suffered from conflicting responses to the riots. After seeing rioting round the corner from me and the TV pictures from across London, I find myself with some sympathy with the toughest penalties. Then I find myself in disbelief at the harshness of a 4 year sentences for a Facebook message about criminal disorder which didn’t even take place. (As a regular twitterer, blogger and Facebooker, I hope the precedent of tough measures against those who say stupid things online does not spread.)

Tony Blair wrote in the Observer yesterday:

“some of the disorder was caused by rioters and looters who were otherwise ordinary young people who got caught in a life-changing mistake from which they will have to rebuild.”

It’s hard to see how custodial sentences for such mistakes will make rebuilding possible.

But enough of my flaky opinions. There’s some real research out now about what people think about the riots broken down by ‘social grade’. It shows that people at the lower end of the scale back tougher penalties that those who are better off.

36% of ‘C2DEs’ think the sentences being carried out are ‘too soft’ and 9% too harsh, the rest ‘about right’.

That’s pretty striking.

It means those most likely to be living in social housing (they are most likely to be C2DE) are among those who want to see custodial sentences for riot-related Facebook messages. Passing the now peaceful Pembury Estate yesterday, it can hardly be surprising that those who suffered most from the looting, violence and criminality want to see the perpetrators put away – and have less sympathy for explanations relating to poverty and disadvantage.

In ‘defending social tenants’ and those in poorer neighbourhoods by arguing against evictions, cuts to benefits, draconian sentences, we need to remember that a large number of the same people  will want to be ‘defended’ by the implementation of such measures.

Doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right, but we can’t just discount the views of those in the bottom half of society. The liberal argument needs to be one that appeals to the whole social spectrum. Its advocates need to recognise they begin on the wrong side of the argument for millions of people whose interests they would otherwise champion.

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3 Responses to Inconsistent opinions

  1. Pingback: A tale of two rioters | Red Brick

  2. Stephen Mcconnell says:

    “It’s hard to see how custodial sentences for such mistakes will make rebuilding possible.”

    It makes rebuilding possible for the victims not for the perpetrators, and these are the people that deserve your sympathy.

    Not giving a custodial sentence to someone who is involved in such serious crimes gives a very clear message “there is no punishment for individuals under the age of 16 who commit crimes of any nature”. Or as one young rioter put it “this will show the police and the government that we can do whatever we want”.

    The reason you find yourself so helplessly out of touch with your core working class support on this issue is that your wrong. And they recognise the damage that wishy washy slap on the wrist sentences will do for already undisciplined and difficult to control youths.

    Whatever Tony Blair says it is not otherwise normal well adjusted disciplined youths who somehow succumbed to some form of mass hypnosis and went out looting and burning at all hours of the night. Look at your own children and consider whether if confronted with a situation where people around them were attacking police, committing crimes and putting their own and other peoples lives in danger they would seek to return to the safety of their own homes or throw caution to the wind grab a bottle of petrol and join in? If the answer is the latter then I’m afraid they are not ordinary in any sense of the word.

  3. DaftAida says:

    Who, in their right mind would give a stuff what Blair thinks or says; he’s a criminal on the loose. All this riot business can be put into perspective by observing the rather more ‘rapid response’ of over-riding our freedoms and rights as upheld in law. As the entire debacle is said to hinge on the question of law and order, what on earth does the Guv’ and judiciary think its doing, whilst jauntily engaged in the slaughter of Libyans against a ‘tyrant’ who purportedly witholds such rights to his people? Look at the measures being implemented by those who prompted the riots. We are shifted to guility until proven innocent, to judgement without trial by jury, bail or voice/expression of dissent. I’m not talking teenagers and children, I’m talking everyone. Leaders who can back the horrors hacking across NATO’s range are not to be trusted or listened to. They are mass murderers with no inkling of ‘morality’ other than as a convenient word to create the illusion of unity.

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