Monday, July 10, 2006

Cameron defends youth crime speech

Even when Dave Cameron is right, he's wrong. His political judgement in leaving himself open to the "hug a hoodie" sneer from the NuLabour/Daily Mail authoritarians was weak. Of course hoodies are irrelevant. Virtually all young people wear them. I attended my elder daughter's final speech day at her highly respectable school on Saturday, and the school and its various houses had had "Leavers 2006" hoodies made. The young ladies you may see wearing them this Summer are no threat to anyone.

To condemn hoodies because some violent youths use them to conceal their features from CCTV during crimes is as absurd as to condemn ladies' tights for their regular involvement in bank robberies.

Cameron is right to encourage us not to demonise all youth because of the conduct of a few. To do so is to promote bad behaviour. To show more respect to people who behave well would stimulate more respect for others. Our arrogant and abusive police officers could usefully heed that advice. Cameron is right to suggest we should scale down the use of the ludicrous ASBO, which has made a laughing stock of the law.

Thousands of young people leave our schools every year ready, able and willing to play a constructive part in society. They, not the hoodied yob, are the norm. Our problem as a society is that we have allowed the yobs to set the agenda, firstly in schools where the inability to expel trouble makers has freed them from all restraint.

What kind of preparation for civilised society is an education in an environment where everyone in authority is open to ridicule and abuse, and where all punishments are vain - because they are simply ignored? My wife and I were educated in a comprehensive. My wife taught in several of them before giving up teaching as a bad job. We know of what we speak. If we could not have afforded private education, we would not have had children, precisely because the State Schools are so vile.

When yobs emerge from the jungle of state education, where they have ruled by fear and behaved exactly as they pleased, they expect to continue in the same way. They then meet a police force which, when it happens to be on the streets, has no interest in confronting their behaviours. In its discourteous attitude to others, the police force more closely resembles the yobs than the "decent" people. Police officers, rapidly becoming a politicised tribe apart, reinforce the uncivil nature of our "civil society".

If the police do take them on, the courts and the probation service will then continue to coddle them as their schools accustomed them to expect. However bad their behaviour, they can expect the Nanny State to protect them and support them, financially and otherwise. All the media take their tone from them, providing entertainment and information "dumbed down" to their Neantherdal level.

Cameron is right that the hoody has nothing to do with it. He is right that demonising our youth is no way to deal with our real demons. But namby-pamby Guardian liberalism is no way to deal with them either.

if he would like some policy suggestions, how about these? Give head teachers 100% discretion on the matter of expulsion, so that they can be as ruthless in disposing of trouble makers as the private schools. Take the view that taxpayer-funded State education is a privilege not an entitlement. If a child and his parents are not interested in taking advantage of that privilege, then that child will always disrupt the education of others. To protect their privileges, throw him out.

By all means provide facilities for such yobs, but let them be outside the normal system. If our expelled yob misbehaves there, then let the head have the right to throw him out again; this time onto the streets. Eventually, he will be picked up by the forces of law and order. Let them be unequivocally mandated to deal with him (and his neglectful parents) as they deserve.

Libertarians are not anarchists. We believe in as few laws as possible, thoroughly enforced. Being soft on any criminals, and young criminals in particular, is to be hard on everyone else. To hell with them - or to as close a facsimile of hell as a civilised society can tolerate.

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Cameron defends youth crime speech

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