Tottenham Riots IV

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Tottenham Riots IV
M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The final report from the Riots Communities and Victims Panel established by the government to investigate the causes of last August’s riots and their possible policy responses has just been published, as UK blogger [url=http://www.infernalmachine.co.uk/?p=1543]Matt Carr[/url] reports:

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In addition to ‘poor parenting’, failing schools and social deprivation, the report describes commercialism and materialism as significant driving forces behind the riots, which it describes as

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…characterised by opportunistic looting, very much targeted at brands – 50 per cent of recorded offences in the riots were acquisitive in nature….the Panel was told that the majority of shops targeted stocked high value consumer products – clothes, trainers, mobile telephones and computers.

These observations echo a report by the City Broker Tullet Brebon last August, which blamed the riots, in part, on an ‘out control consumerist ethos’ and argued that ‘The dominant ethos of “I buy, therefore I am” needs to be challenged by a shift of emphasis from material to non-material values.’

Faced with this dismal spectacle of brand-drenched consumerist youth, we are fortunate to have a number of high-profile models who can provide a route towards a less materialistic culture and the community-based values and social responsibility that our ex-Etonian PM once identified as the hallmarks of the ‘big society.’

We might start with the 23 members of the 29-strong ‘cabinet of millionaires’ who are worth at least £1 million, who have just awarded themselves and others in the same income bracket a big tax cut. Like the 2nd Baron Strathclyde, Leader of the House of Lords, with a total fortune of £10 million, and a £2.3million house in Westminster. And Defense Secretary Phil Hammond, who co-owns a £1million house in Westminster and a £400,000 home in Woking, Surrey, courtesy of his £6 m stake in the property company Castlemead.

Then there are our MPs, many of whom, as the Telegraph described it, when the expenses scandal broke in 2009:

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‘ …used taxpayers’ money intended to cover the cost of running their constituency offices to buy everything from the latest technological gizmos to fridge magnets and gardening services. Eight ministers have claimed a total of more than £3,000 to pay for digital cameras and camcorders, while several have claimed for a bizarre array of other purchases.’

These include Roger Berry, former Labour MP for Kingswood, who claimed expenses at his designated second home in London on a Sony 26-inch LCD TV, a £250 on DVD player, a £1067.49 washer dryer, and a £574.28 dishwasher.

And Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, who claimed £1,268 for carpets and £570 sofa bed; £689.99 for a television; £1,433.50 on decoration; £1,220 on furniture; and £1,135.20 on a bed.

And let’s not forget out our education secretary Michael Gove. In a Parliamentary debate on the riots last August, Gove blamed the riots on ‘a culture of greed and instant gratification, rootless hedonism and amoral violence’.

Between 2005-07 Gove claimed £7,000 expenses on furnishing his north Kensington home, which included a £331 Chinon armchair, a £493 Manchu cabinet, a pair of elephant lamps for £134.50, a £750 Loire table, a birch Camargue chair worth £432 and a birdcage coffee table for £238.50....

So look and learn kids – or at least those of you who come from low-income backgrounds or ‘troubled families’. Remember that material goods can’t buy happiness, status or prestige and that ‘values’ are what really holds society together.