Riots, looting and the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, appeared on Radio 4 this morning and was asked about the underlying causes of the recent riots. He attributed them to a “sense of entitlement” among young people who were showing the effects of a lack of discipline in school.

When Johnson was a young person, he attended Eton, the most elite school in the UK, before making the natural progression to Oxford University. At Oxford, he was part of the Bullingdon Club, a gang of upper class yobs. Other members included David Cameron.

For Johnson to criticise young people who have a “sense of entitlement” shows either a staggering lack of realism about his own past or a reckless level of public hypocrisy.

Blaming a lack of discipline conveniently ignores the realities of economic and social injustice. The gap between the richest and poorest has got gradually worse over the last forty years and Britain is now more unequal than any other western country, with the exception of the USA and Portugal. The coalition government is slashing services on which the poorest members of society rely, while managing nothing more than feeble criticism of bankers’ bonuses and corporate tax-dodging.

None of this excuses the violence, intimidation and looting that have taken place over the last few days. None of it should stop us condemning the horror of ordinary people suffering the effects of riots that have seen small businesspeople’s shops burnt down and their livelihoods potentially destroyed. To tackle this situation effectively, we need to look at roots causes.

Boris Johnson prefers to criticise a “sense of entitlement” while being part of a party, and a political trend, that has spent the last three decades destroying any sense of social solidarity and defining success in terms of possessions and personal status. He condemns a lack of restraint while calling for a cut in the top rate of tax, which applies only to the richest one percent of the population. He attacks thuggery, but supports a government that consists of a gang of thugs launching a daily assault on the poorest members of society.

Next month, Boris Johnson will welcome one of the world’s largest arms fairs to London, where representatives of some of the world’s most brutal regimes will stroll round the Docklands viewing sophisticated weaponry. Then we will see the reality behind his condemnations of violence.

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4 responses to “Riots, looting and the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson

  1. Every time Boris opens his mouth I keep remembering his comment that his payment for his Telegraph column was ‘chickenfeed’ – I believe it was £250,000 (then taxed at 50%), though have also read it was ‘only’ £100,000. Whatever it is it is certainly not chickenfeed, and it is his additional income. I have read that he gives away 50,000 but even so it still leaves much more than nurses doctors & other public servants have to support families on.

    I think your piece was very good.

  2. Nice one Symon!

    Successive governments have done nothing to secure a base of social justice and opportunity offered to all regardless of position. Some have even eroded this social contract starting with the poorest and most vulnerable. University fees, removal of EMA, closure of youth services to name a few.

    Any solution needs to start with those in power and influence examining their consciences, if they do have any left that is.

  3. I’ve yet to see a convincing argument for what the ‘roots causes’ are. Some people talk about ‘social justice’, but fail to provide a convincing mechanism by which, for instance, the removal of EMA translates into violence on the streets: are you really suggesting that fourteen-year-olds are on the streets stealing trainers and televisions because in two years’ time they won’t be given extra pocket money for just turning up at school? That would display a foresight which I’m sure I didn’t possess at fourteen.

    ‘Closure of youth services’ probably has more to do with it, in the sense that if there aren’t youth clubs operating in the evenings the boredom will make a spot of recreational rioting more appealing.

    Still, I suppose that as long as we know everything the Tories do and think is wrong, we can spend our energies fighting that rather than wondering if our own pet answers are any righter…

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