Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Will the real David Cameron please stand up - the 'Hug-a-Hoodie' speech (2006) re-visited

It's interesting revisiting Cameron's  'Hug-a-Hoodie' speech from 2006 in the context of the recent riots. 

There are some interesting pearls of wisdom contained therein...

That film is set in my own neighbourhood in London - North Kensington, Ladbroke Grove, Harrow Road.
It's a very different Notting Hill from the one you see in Richard Curtis films.
Is he trying to imply that the comfortable street in which he used to live before moving to Downing Street was akin to the deprived areas nearby? Was that street full of £1million-plus houses actually a 'hood, or a ghetto?

Kidulthood is not really about bad kids.
Even the villain is clearly suffering from neglect and the absence of love.
The characters are simply children in circumstances none of us would want to grow up in.
Their reaction to those circumstances is not good.
But it is natural.
Crime, drugs, underage sex - this behaviour is wrong, but simply blaming the kids who get involved in it doesn't really get us much further.
It is what the culture around them encourages.
Cameron seems to be suggesting that criminality is "natural" if you grow up in certain circumstances. He also suggests it is down to "culture".

He goes on to say...

Of course, not everyone who grows up in a deprived neighbourhood turns to crime - just as not everyone who grows up in a rich neighbourhood stays on the straight and narrow.
Individuals are responsible for their actions - and every individual has the choice between doing right and doing wrong.
But there are connections between circumstances and behaviour.
The last sentence is revealing...It could have come straight out of an Ed Miliband speech.

So when you see a child walking down the road, hoodie up, head down, moody, swaggering, dominating the pavement - think what has brought that child to that moment.
If the first thing we have to do is understand what's gone wrong, the second thing is to realise that putting things right is not just about law enforcement.
It's about the quality of the work we do with young people.
It's about relationships.
It's about trust.
Above all, it's about emotion and emotional development.
Again...more out of central casting for the social liberal...

If the police stand for sanctions and penalties, you stand for love.
And not a soppy love! I don't see anyone soppy here.
But it is about relationships.
It is about emotional security.
It is about love.
Oh how the tune changes when 'events, dear boy, events' get in the way...
"It is about love" - did he really say that?...

It all leads me to conclude that Tony Blair really did have it right when he added into Labour's 1997 Manifesto: 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.'  It is wrong to over-emphasise either side of this equation. The recent debate about the response of the Prime Minister and Ed Miliband falls too easily into the trap of suggesting that either man is over-emphasising either the 'causes' or the 'crime' element.

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