Can economic policies explain the social unrest?

Cameron: Pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick.

By Steve Tolley

The political argument over whether Government cuts fuelled the violence seen in London and across the country in the past few days has begun in earnest.

In a heated exchange on Newsnight last night, deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman told Education Secretary Michael Gove that “short-sighted” Government policies like “cutting” the Education Maintenance Allowance, the trebling of tuition fees and closing job centres were adding to a situation where young people feel they are not being listened to.

Gove said it is “ludicrous” to claim people looting shops and burning down buildings were concerned about the “reform” of the EMA. He accused her of “speaking out of both sides of her mouth” for blaming Government policy after saying she wanted to elevate the debate above party politics.

Harman said: “The truth is the Government should be on the side of young people. And you are not…We want people to have opportunities although nothing justifies people who have not got opportunities taking and robbing.”

Gove responded: “I do not want any more of your double dealing, out of one side of your mouth saying you are going to show solidarity with the Government and with legitimate forces of order and on the other side try to make partisan points.”

There was widespread rioting, looting and arson in London on Sunday and Monday night and while 16,000 police on the streets last night meant the city was relatively quiet, trouble flared up in Manchester, three men died in Birmingham and a police station was fire bombed in Nottingham.


In his statement yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron said the “sickening scenes” were “criminality, pure and simple”. During the election he spoke about failures in education, political disenchantment and social breakdown leading to Britain’s being a broken society, although he dropped the leitmotif over fears the negative message would turn off voters.

Alongside Cameron’s strong rhetoric against the rioters, he has today also acknowledged that social problems have played a role in creating the violence that has exploded over the past few days. “There are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick,” he said. An interesting map on the Financial Times’ website contrasts the areas of London that have seen the worst violence with youth unemployment figures and high deprivation levels.

Nobel Prize winner Professor Joseph Stiglitz was among the first to wade into the debate in an interview with Channel 4 news. He said when people see nothing but long term unemployment they lose faith in society. He suggested that while a contributing factor, the picture is more complex than simply cuts leading to violence.

He said: “Our market economy is not working and our Governments are not succeeding in helping the market do what it has to do. In too many countries they are going in the opposite direction showing very little compassion. I worry the UK is one of those countries and that is very much connected to some of the scenes in London.”

On Thursday, a recalled Parliament will be the stage for a tussle for the public’s hearts and minds over links between economic policy and social unrest. The civil disorder will be debated and George Osborne will give a statement on the economy in the midst of volatile stock markets, falling growth projections, the Eurocrisis and the US credit rating downgrade.

The Government’s understandable hard-line could give way to ’Broken Society’ thinking if and when the violence recedes. Neutralising Labour’s line of attack will not be easy without finding other factors to pin the violence on, whether that is dissatisfaction with the police, poor discipline at home or other long-term social problems. But as a political historian, Cameron will know that a Prime Minister not in control of the streets does not remain PM for long, so for now he is showing his teeth. His top priority is ensuring and convincing people they are safe in their communities.

Gove told Harman the argument she was making was below her and the Labour Party. If Labour are careful, they could capitalise politically. But the party must be sure that in looking to explain the violence it is not accused of political opportunism with even Labour bloggers on Labourlist calling on the party to put politics aside and get behind Cameron until order is restored.

If the party can convince voters Government policy has in any way contributed to the violence, the days of the nasty party could return to haunt the Conservatives, adding extra stress to the coalition. But it will be a very difficult political move to get right. With emotion running high, get it wrong and the wrath of Michael Gove will be the least of Ed Miliband’s worries.


David Cameron: We need to have a clearer code of standards and values

Here is Prime Minister David Cameron’s Downing Street statement in full:

Prime Minister David Cameron and (right) Tariq Jahan with a photo of his son Haroon Jahan who died in Winson Green, Birmingham

Prime Minister David Cameron and (right) Tariq Jahan with a photo of his son Haroon who died in Winson Green, Birmingham Photo: EPA/PA

”Since yesterday there are more police on the street, more people have been arrested and more people are being charged and prosecuted.

Last night there were around 16,000 police on the streets of London, and there is evidence a more robust approach to policing in London resulted in a much quieter night across the capital.

And let me pay tribute to the bravery of those police officers and indeed everyone working for our emergency services.

In total there have been 750 arrests in London since Saturday, with more than 160 people being charged.

Today, major police operations are under way as I speak to arrest the criminals who were not picked up last night but who were picked up on closed circuit television cameras.

Picture by picture, these criminals are being identified, arrested and we will not let any phoney concerns about human rights get in the way of the publication of these pictures and arrest of these individuals.

As I speak, sentences are also being passed, courts sat through the night last night and will do again tonight.

It is for the courts to sentence but I would expect anyone convicted of violent disorder will be sent to prison.

We needed a fight back and a fight back is under way.

We have seen the worst of Britain but I also believe we have seen some of the best of Britain: the million people who have signed up on Facebook to support the police; communities coming together in the clean-up operations.

But there is absolutely no room for complacency and there is much more to be done.

Overnight we saw the same appalling violence and thuggery that we have seen in London in new cities, including Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.

In the West Midlands, three men were killed in a hit-and-run in Birmingham and the police are working round the clock to get to the bottom of what happened and bring the perpetrator to justice.

In Birmingham, over 160 arrests were made.

In Salford, up to 1,000 youths were attacking the police at the height of the disturbance.

Across Greater Manchester, more than 100 arrests were made and, in Nottinghamshire, Canning Circus police station was firebombed and over 80 arrests were made.

This continued violence is simply not acceptable and it will be stopped.

We will not put up with this in our country, we will not allow a culture of fear to exist on our streets.

Let me be clear, at Cobra this morning we agreed full contingency planning is going ahead.

Whatever resources the police need they will get, whatever tactics police feel they need to employ, they will have legal backing to do so.

We will do whatever is necessary to restore law and order on to our streets.

Every contingency is being looked at, nothing is off the table.

The police are already authorised to use baton rounds and we agreed at Cobra that while they are not currently needed, we now have in place contingency plans for water cannon to be available at 24 hours’ notice.

It is all too clear that we have a big problem with gangs in our country. For too long there had been a lack of focus on the complete lack of respect shown by these groups of thugs.

I’m clear that they are in no way representative of the vast majority of young people in our country who despise them, frankly, as much as the rest of us do.

But there are pockets of our society that are not just broken but frankly sick.

When we see children as young as 12 and 13 looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of an injured young man with people pretending to help him while they are robbing him, it is clear that there are things that are badly wrong with our society.

For me, the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing I have spoken about for years.

It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities and their actions do not have consequences.

Well, they do have consequences.

We need to have a clearer code of standards and values that we expect people to live by and stronger penalties if they cross the line.

Restoring a stronger sense of responsibility across our society in every town, in every street, in every estate is something I am determined to do.

Tomorrow Cobra will meet again, Cabinet will meet, I will make a statement to Parliament, I’ll set out in full the measures that we will take to help businesses that have been affected, to help rebuild communities, to help rebuild the shops and buildings that have been damaged, to make sure the homeless are rehoused, to help local authorities in all the ways that are necessary.

But today, right now, the priority is still clear: we will take every action necessary to bring order back to our streets.”

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UK Riots: Youths Attack Leicester Stores and ‘loot’ – Not Good.

I am not feeling good about this – need to go home…

Damaged shop in Leicester
Windows were smashed and shops looted, according to witnesses

A clean-up operation is under way in Leicester after groups of youths attacked buildings in the city centre.

Fourteen people have been arrested, aged between 14 and 50, on suspicion of offences such as criminal damage, burglary and violent disorder.

The disorder was focused on areas including Highcross Shopping Centre, Granby Street, Humberstone Gate and around the cultural quarter.

One nightclub owner has described how gangs smashed windows and looted shops.

Leicestershire Police said large numbers of officers, along with the force helicopter, were deployed to combat the disorder and disperse those causing damage.

Commander Rob Nixon said: “We would like to thank the community for their support during the evening, people have been helping us with our policing operation by passing on any intelligence or rumours they have heard about possible disturbances or criminal acts.

“We would like to reassure the public that we will continue to monitor the situation and carry out high visibility patrols in the city centre and investigate all incidents reported.”

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

This wasn’t any sort of protest or anything that had any meaning to it all. These were kids”

Sir Peter Soulsby Leicester mayor

James Cockerill, who owns two pubs and a nightclub in the city, said: “There were swarms of hooded Asian, black and white youths in their 20s, and some as young as 12, being hounded out of Leicester city centre at around midnight.

“Thankfully, my businesses – two gay pubs and a gay nightclub – have not been affected, but my staff and managers have barricaded the premises. They were very shaken by what they saw.”

‘Senseless criminality’

Two Age UK ambulances were torched, one of which was completely destroyed.

A charity spokesman said more than £30,000 pounds of damage had been caused.

The ambulances were used to transport frail elderly people, many with dementia, to and from day centres.

Leicester’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, said he had seen children aged under 12 taking part in the riots.

“I was totally bemused really because this wasn’t any sort of protest or anything that had any meaning to it all. These were kids.

“What on earth do their parents think they are doing letting them run around the city centre doing this sort of damage?”

Leicester East MP, Keith Vaz, said: “I strongly condemn the violence of groups of youth in Leicester last night.

“The damage this senseless criminality has caused will not be tolerated, however we need to get to the bottom of the reasons why this tiny minority have behaved in this disgraceful way.”

Maths Lessons ‘should be toughened up’, Says Gove

All primary school children should be given daily maths lessons and weekly tests to stop pupils falling behind those from the Far East, Michael Gove suggested today.

Primary school children should be given regular maths tests to check their progress, said Michael Gove.

Primary school children should be given regular maths tests to check their progress, said Michael Gove. Photo: Alamy
Graeme Paton

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor

Lessons for under-11s should be toughened-up with a greater emphasis on fractions and basic algebra, the Education Secretary said.

He insisted that fundamental reform of maths education was needed to ensure the youngest pupils have a firm grasp of the subject by the time they start secondary school.

Mr Gove also signalled an overhaul of classes for those in secondary education, with calculus and statistics playing a more fundamental role.

In a further development, he suggested all sixth-formers should continue studying the subject in some form up to the age of 18 within the decade amid concerns that half the adult population currently lack “basic maths skills”.

The comments come amid fears that standards in English schools have “stagnated” while those in countries such as China, Singapore, Japan and Korea pull ahead.

It follows the publication of a major international league table showing that British teenagers are now ranked lower than peers most other developed nations for maths. At the age of 15, pupils in China are around two whole academic years ahead of British counterparts.

In a speech to the Royal Society on Wednesday, Mr Gove said: “If we are to keep pace with out competitors, we need fundamental, radical reform in the curriculum, in teaching, and in the way we use technology in the classroom. Unless we dramatically improve our performance, the grim arithmetic of globalisation will leave us all poorer.”

Currently, maths is a compulsory subject between five and 16 but it is claimed that the demands put on children of all ages falls well below those elsewhere in the world.

Mr Gove said a review of the National Curriculum in England – currently being carried out by an expert panel – would lead to a renewed focus on the basic knowledge pupils should master at each key stage of their education.

Schools in East Asia place a “much greater focus on fundamental number concepts, fractions and the building blocks of algebra”, Mr Gove said.

“It may be, therefore, that we will adopt the same approach and have much more emphasis on pre-algebra in primary and remove data handling and some other subjects from the primary curriculum,” he said.

Mr Gove said schools should also “bear in mind” a system used in Shanghai where pupils have daily maths lessons and regular tests to “make sure that all children are learning the basics”.

A Whitehall source said there was an aspiration to repeat the same system in England, although it would not be compulsory. Labour introduced the “numeracy hour” – daily maths lessons for primary pupils – but this was scrapped two years ago, with claims it has since led to a decline in the subject in some schools. Continue reading

Fears that Willetts’ hellish week may leave debate in limbo

By Simon Baker (story + comments)

‘Knee-jerk’ reactions to minister’s musings endanger sector, v-cs claim. Simon Baker writes

Fears that Willetts' hellish week may leave debate in limbo

Credit: PA Wire/Press Association

Ideas man: David Willetts received mixed reviews from senior sector figures for a proposal to create ‘off-quota’ home student places

The future of higher education is being put in jeopardy at a time of unprecedented change because coalition politics and “knee-jerk” reactions to policy proposals are stifling debate, vice-chancellors have warned.

Their concerns come in the wake of a furore last week over an idea floated by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, who suggested removing number controls for “off-quota” home students who can fund their tuition fees up front.

Within hours, angry claims that the policy would allow the rich to buy university places forced Mr Willetts to issue a statement insisting that the proposal would apply only to students sponsored by companies or charities.

Prime Minister David Cameron also intervened in an attempt to quell the political storm whipped up by the suggestion.

Mr Willetts’ torrid week continued two days later when an apparently speculative remark he made about the possibility of universities cutting tuition fees late in the application cycle sparked another media row.

Some newspaper commentators took personal aim at the minister, who in the past has been criticised for thinking in an “academic way”, and more than 170 scholars at the University of Oxford signed a motion of “no confidence” in his policies. Continue reading

Oxford plans reform confidence vote – the wrong decision

Oxford University academics have called for the prestigious institution to pass a symbolic vote of no confidence in the Government‘s higher education reforms.

A no confidence motion is likely to be debated by Oxford’s “congregation” next month.

Around 175 academics have added their support to the motion, which is spearheaded by the Oxford University Campaign for Higher Education.

The campaign group wants Oxford to “stand up and speak out” over budget cuts and to “communicate to Government that the University of Oxford has no confidence in the policies of the minister for higher education”.

The motion is likely to be heard and a vote taken at the next meeting of the congregation on June 7. Congregation, Oxford’s equivalent of a parliament, is made up of around 4,000 academics and senior staff.

Oxford Union president David Barclay told BBC News online that he was “delighted that we are finally seeing a university taking a stand against the Government’s dangerous and rapidly unravelling plans for higher education”.

He later told the Press Association that it was hoped the motion would put pressure on the Government to reconsider its plans. “Just before the White Paper is the perfect time to say think again,” he said, adding that the Government had failed to convince students and academics of the plans.

The motion follows a no confidence vote taken recently by the Royal College of Nursing in Andrew Lansley‘s management of NHS reforms.

The announcement comes a week after ministers were forced to deny accusations that the Government is considering plans which would allow wealthy students to “buy” university places.

The Government is due to publish a White Paper this summer setting out its plans for a more market-led university sector.

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Financing Freedom

San antonio riverwalk

Image via Wikipedia

Gustavo Lasala, MBA ’04 created a credit-scoring system that transformed an industry. His work is helping overlooked borrowers realize their dreams—one microloan at a time.

By Dashka Slater
Photographs by Ryan Heffernan

Gustavo Lasala

Lasala at an in-store branch of California-based Progreso Financiero, where he is director of retail operations.

Sitting in the offices of Acción Texas, a San Antonio–based microlender, Noelia Gutierrez posed a familiar problem: She had a nice face, a good story and a lousy credit history. The daughter of migrant field workers, she’d come to the United States with her family at age 4 and had spent her childhood alternating between school during the week and work on the weekends, sometimes laboring in the fields, sometimes selling tamales with her mother. At 14, under the tutelage of a neighbor who was a notary public, she began helping other farmworkers with their tax returns, hoping to build the skills to have a different kind of life than the one her parents led. Now, she was hoping for a $2,000 loan so she could buy a computer for her expanding business, Electronic Tax Refund.

See full story by Posted by: Tracy Mueller | March 7, 2011 – 3:50pm