Monday, February 23, 2009

Stirring Up Trouble

Summer's here & the time is right for rioting in the streets (apologies to Martha & the Vandellas).
Well, no, actually, it isn't & it isn't, if you get my drift.
Today's Guardian leads with a claim by a senior police officer at the Met that the middle-class will create their very own long, hot summer ( ):
"Britain's most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return to the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming 'footsoldiers' in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.
"Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police's public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year."
The thought of newly redundant IT consultants, journalists & middle managers massing behind an array of banners & flags as they trash the local Starbucks, McDonalds, etc. is fanciful in the extreme. They'll mutter, slam doors, leave a libellous message on the company's intranet system, perhaps, but riot? You must be joking.
If there is the potential for unrest this year, it's more likely to emanate from those students who've amassed debts while studying, only to find that they're confronted either with McJobs, or the Job Seeker's Allowance of £60.50 per week, which will go a long way towards paying off an average debt of £20,000. Even in this pocket of dissent, however, don't expect any sort of mass movement to emerge; denuded of effective organisation, thanks to a supine trade union leadership & a consumerist culture they've grown up with, graduates will react in typically individual ways. Some might urge the others to fight, but the rest will shrug their shoulders & accept all that the slump throws at them.
The real agenda behind Superintendent Hartshorn's claims is referred to later in the report:
"[Hartshorn's] comments are likely to be met with disappointment by protest groups, who in recent weeks have complained that police are adopting a more confrontational approach at demonstrations. Officers have been accused of exaggerating the threat posed by activists to justify the use of resources spent on them."
In other words, it's part of a turf war between competing Whitehall spending departments; what better to validate the expenditure on the Met at a time of economic depression than a couple of manufactured public order scare stories?

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