James Max - James Max is a broadcaster, columnist and business expert

Where are the Police? And where are the parents?

As London faces another night of rioting, I am cross. I am angry. And I am exasperated.

I am cross because our capital city is being trashed. Trashed by people who have no respect. This is a dreadful situation for the people who live in the areas they are targeting. I feel desperately sorry for those whose lives are being turned upside down. Also for those whose businesses and livelihoods have been ruined by the abhorrent and disgraceful actions of a significant minority.

I am angry that because of the complaints some have made, that the police have been hampered in their work. With this level of unrest anyone and everyone should expect to be stopped or searched at any time. The police need to be able to act swiftly and with some considerable force. Yet we have a further problem. I am angrier because the force of the law is seen as a bit of a joke. Sentences have been cut. Criminals know they can get away with it and for some reason the police have allowed looting to take place on an epic scale. The simple fact of the matter is that police need to protect people, property and the rule of law. And this needs to be done fast. A very nasty element of society is at force. They believe they can have what they want and take whatever they want because they assume they will not get caught. It is both infuriating and distressing that law and order has broken down to this extent.

I am exasperated because of the reasons behind all of this. This has nothing to do with the incident last Thursday. This isn’t even a race issue although it is true to say that from the television pictures I have seen the majority (though by no means all) of the people involved are black or Asian. More striking is that on this latest night of disruption, most of those involved are young. Teenagers and twenty somethings.

This is about failures. Failures by a generation of parents who have little or no control over their children. And failures of our educational system that has somehow allowed people at great expense to the taxpayer, to go through school and achieve nothing. The youth complain that times are tough or cuts have to be made. Yet if they had skills and had paid attention at school they would have tangible skills that would render them employable. So often we neglect the very basis of our society and how we can develop as a nation. I strongly maintain that although there are plenty of social issues that need to be attended to across the whole of society, the most important is that of the educational system.

For years we have thrown money building new schools. For what purpose? It has not raised the levels of discipline. Or improved the results achieved. Or levels of literacy or numeracy. Meanwhile we have thrown money into a benefits system that encourages people to sit on their backsides.

I recognise the need for a welfare system. Sometimes an economy will turn and people need help. Of course they should get it. However we also have benefits that encourages people to use that system as a lifestyle and not as a support mechanism.

However this is also a failure of society. There needs to be a reconnection with the notion that hard work leads to reward. You are not born with an entitlement to what you want. Nor that everyone will be equal in society. We have to rebuild the concept of hard work and education that leads to personal success. However these youngsters who find all of this funny or amusing or even a bit of a game need to be taught a lesson. And a very harsh lesson too.

So what needs to be done to sort this out? In the short term we need the rule of law to be enforced with vigour. Part of the reason this has spread is that those who are looting think they won’t be caught. That has to change. They need to be caught and punished. In the longer term we need to tackle this element of society who are prepared to undertake this wanton, moronic and violent behaviour. Those parents of these youngsters out on the streets must also take responsibility. A reintroduction of a structured society. Enforcement of a difference between right and wrong and a clear set of rules backed up by the force of law.

We are dealing with a small but significant group that is disaffected. We are also dealing with groups of youths who think the police are there to be abused and attacked. This is a dreadful situation. It’s of our own making and whilst the government has to take action, the police to regain control but also parents have to take more responsibility for their children.


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