Skip to Content


The coalition can’t ignore the Tottenham riots

7 August 2011

4:34 PM

7 August 2011

4:34 PM

As the early 1980s is recreated before our eyes, we now have a fully-fledged retro riot.
Various Conservative commentators have been tweeting and blogging away about this today, including Nile
on the Telegraph blog and Iain Dale.

They are right to warn against a knee-jerk reaction to the situation in Tottenham today. Clearly these riots were not caused by Tory cuts, which have only just begun to bite on the ground. There is
certainly an argument that many of the cuts in services in Haringey are the result of mismanagement by a notoriously dysfunctional Labour council.

But David Cameron needs to show some leadership here. Having admitted that there is such a thing as society, it will not be possible to distance himself from this tragedy. Haringey is a microcosm
of our divided society, with the wealth of Highgate and Muswell Hill (Guardian country) in the west divided from the poverty of Tottenham and Wood Green in the east.

Despite all the good work done to rebuild the community in the wake of the Broadwater Farm riots, David Lammy’s constituency remains one of the poorest in the country, with some of the
highest levels of unemployment.

As I have written before, this government is fast losing the youth of this country. The
combination of an increase in tuition fees and the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the Future Jobs Fund means that young people could be forgiven for thinking they were being
punished for the mistakes of an older generation.

Tim Montgomerie instructed me on Twitter this morning that “politicians should set strategic direction, not get
immersed in operational matters. Trust the professionals”.

I agree in principle. But this government has no youth strategy. Who are the professionals here? A demoralised and discredited Met or the youth workers who have been warning about the tactics of
the police in Tottenham?

I have been worried, even since I set up New Deal of the Mind to help young people back to work, that a disproportionate number of school and university leavers from the ethnic minorities were
coming through our doors (our early evaluation shows the figure is about 70 per cent). Communities such as Tottenham have been plagued by high unemployment since long before this government came to
power. But there comes a tipping point when worklessness, poverty and high crime lead a community to the point of desperation.

The Tories may not be to blame for the Tottenham riots, but they will be if they fail to deal with the aftermath.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments


The Spectator Comment Policy

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.