Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May have begun very early work on their gangs strategy in the wake of the English riots, and will publish their findings in October. But we are already starting to get some idea of the solutions they are likely to look at it. Some of them are encouraging, some are definitely not.
On Sunday, IDS told the Sunday Times some of his preferred measures, which are heavily influenced by a 2009 report called Dying to Belong from the CSJ, the think tank he established. The report is thorough and exhaustively researched, and has a comprehensive set of proposals.
It is based on a twin-track method, whereby senior gang members are offered an amnesty to leave the gang and then harrassed by official government bodies if they refuse to do so. If the latter, youth workers turn up at their home, the police go through their entire history to find evidence of any misdemeanour, from unpaid parking fines to a missing TV license, and they are brought in front of the courts at the slightest sign of wrongdoing.
Tory MPs yesterday tried to play down the similarities between David Cameron’s post-riots speech and the famous “back to basics” conference speech by John Major in 1993. The latter became an albatross around Major’s neck as a string of Tory MPs were caught out in various salacious scandals in the mid-1990s.
I’ve analysed the two speeches and found some very similar echoes in tone and content. Curiously, Major does not mention “single parents” or “single mothers” or “family values” or “absent fathers” – contrary to the collective memory of what the speech was all about. (That message was instead spun by aides who pre-briefed the speech to journalists.) By contrast Cameron very clearly suggests that family breakdown is a key cause of social discontent.
It was the turn of Nick Clegg to make a big speech today, following David Cameron and Ed Miliband yesterday – with Theresa May later this morning. (Perhaps tomorrow could be an oration-free occasion?)
The deputy prime minister diligently tried to avoid any open clashes with the prime minister over tricky issues around removing benefits from offenders and delivering tax breaks for married couples.