Saturday, November 23, 2002

Could the BNP win seats in the 2004 Euro elections?

On the back of the recent election success of the BNP, I've been trying to examine the BNP's record in recent elections whether this might give them a realistic chance of winning seats in the 2004 Euro elections.

The 2004 Euro elections will be held under the D'Hondt system. An explanation of the system is given here.

The system for counting the votes (though not the voting itself) is rather complicated.

The Electoral reform society's simple explanation is "Put simply, the d’Hondt formula divides the number of votes cast for a party by the number of seats already won by that party +1. When this calculation has been done for each party, the party with the highest resulting number is the most disadvantaged and so wins the first seat. This process if continued until all the seats have been allocated."

In 1999 this system meant that for the first time, Minor parties won significant representation from the UK in the European parliament. The United Kingdom Independence party (UKIP) won 3 seats (south west, south-east and east regions) and the Greens won 2 seats (london and south east). In each of these regions, they needed a vote of above 7% to win seats.

Now, bear with me. Under D'Hondt, in order for a "minor" party to win a seat in the North-West it needed to get 72,006 votes (I'll spare you the calculation). The UKIP just missed this, with 66,779. The BNP managed only 13587. In the west midlands, for various reasons, to win the last seat you needed 79,224 votes.

Now, assuming the number of seats remains the same, and turnout stays roughly the same, we can say that in order to win a single seat in the European parliament, a solid 80,000 votes is needed. It is possible that fewer votes could still win seats (under a slightly different scenario, only 69,000 votes could have won a seat in the West Midlands) but 80,000 should guarantee seats in both regions for any minor party.

So, could the BNP win 80,000 votes in either region? In the 2002 local elections, the average BNP vote in the 66 wards they contested was 10% (but these would be their best wards). In Oldham, they received 27% in 5 wards contested (4,300 votes) , in Burnley 28% (10,000 votes), in Stoke in the Mayoral elections 18% (8,200 votes). In Tipton, they stood in 2 wards, getting 25% in one, 5% in the other (a more asian ward). In one ward in Birmingham, the BNP scored almost 1000 votes.

So how well would the BNP need to do to win a seat in the North-West?

Their base vote in the last Euro election is about 13,000. This is clearly no-where near enough and constitiutes grounds for optimism.

However, there was a substantial vote for the UKIP in these elections(50-60k), and it is quite possible that the increased media profile of the BNP may mean they take some of these votes from a rather poorly organised UKIP.

Second, there appears to be now a core BNP vote of 4-5% wherever they stand. I've not been able to find a BNP vote lower than this, In certain wards (notably those that fit the white, working class owner occupier profile of the Mill Hill ward in Blackburn) this increases to about 10%.

Third, It seems that there are also now certain BNP strongholds in the North West where they can count on substantial support above this level. for example, in Oldham in 1999 they got only 3% of the vote, less than a 1000 votes. In the last local elections they contested only 5 wards and got over 4,000 votes.

Lets assume that the base vote in the North-West reaches a very high 4%, but that in the Oldham's and Burnley's, their vote holds up at about 20%. What would be the impact?

Across the region their vote would go to around 40,000.

If we gave them a 20% share in Oldham (+5,000), Burnley, 20% (+2000), Bolton 10% (+2,000). This would leave them at about 49,000.

This constitutes some grounds for optimism, but at this level, it would only the BNP to achieve a base vote of around 5% plus a strong performance in places like Rochdale, Pendle, Bolton, Hyndburn, Macclesfield, Stockport (all places where the UKIP did well). In short, if the BNP can take the UKIP vote and add it too their new strength they might just win a seat.

So what should the other parties do?

1. Turn out ypur vote.

The manchesters, Liverpools etc were not particularly fertile ground for UKIP and look unlikely to be for the BNP. A strong vote for the main parties in their respective heartlands will negate a strong BNP performance elsewhere. This also has the advantage of meeting the main parties strategies for winning seats, not just contesting the BNP.

2. Campaign on the ground in the areas the UKIP did well and BNP have done well.
One of the reasons the UKIP did well was that most parties didn't fight a particularly good ground war. This meant that the minor parties who took advantage of their free election comunications had a high share of mind. To stop the BNP taking this vote, the other parties should make sure they are very conspicuously campaign in the area I mention above. not "taking on" the BNP, but putting forward their own policies.

3. Don't attack the BNP's voters, speak up for their potential voters concerns.

Forget the hardline racists. They're an insignificant minority. Focus on the issues that appeal to potential BNP voters and offer a better alternative. Jobs, development, housing, crime. Speak up on these issues and make sure the

4. But don't be afraid to reveal the BNP's true colours.

Many BNP campaigners are convicted criminals. When they are campaigning on a law and order ticket, Parties should not feel afraid to raise this as an issue. Tell the truth about their racism and their violence, but be careful to make sure you attack BNP candidates and activists, not imply that their potential voters are scum.

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Friday, November 22, 2002

A genuine government screw up

Iain Coleman hits on a genuine disaster for the government. As he says, it's a scandal.

Individual Learning Accounts were designed to encourage more people to take training by creating a kind of market.

Every person had a set value in training attached to them, so training companies billed government acording to the number of people they trained, payment being made in return for account numbers. Unsurprisingly, some people started stealing account numbers. So, Account numbers + phoney training supplier = free money for criminals. In the end, the government was forced to suspend the scheme and stop all payments.

There's absolutely no good news here for the government. Iain wants to know why it isn't much of a story for the media.

I can help. (it is, after all why I set the site up) It's because the government held it's hands up and said we screwed up.

That meant there was no hunt for the guilty, no drama of the drip drip of revelation. Total disclosure made it a one day news cycle. Ever since then it's been old news. What? the Perm Sec ot the DfES says his department is incompetent? Everyone knows that already, right? What's new? Well, give it a small column on page 17.

People think that Spin is abut lying and concealing. At its counter intuitive best, however, it's about telling you so much that you get bored and wander off.

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Thank God, they're all frauds

I'd always wondered about book awards. I mean the Booker. Every book written outside the US written in english? Who could ever read even a tenth of that? I regard myself as being an avid reader. I've currently got 5 books on the go (Jon Ronson's Them, Richard Cramer's What it Takes, Carter beats the devil, A Napoleon biography and Paul Auster's true tales) which puts me pretty firmly in upper middlebrow, I think. But how could you possibly read 400 books? Micheal Kinsley reveals all. You don't read over 400 books. You cheat. Thank God, they're all frauds. I can go to the bokshop without a booker judge kicking sand in my face.

(oh, and I have read all of Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson books. Every page. and Robert Dallek's)

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Just straight bad news

The BNP gained another seat on a local council last night. This follows their strong performance in Oldham in the general election, their gain of three seats on Burnley council in May, and their very strong performance in stoke in the Mayoral election.

The by-election last night was held in the Mill Hill ward in Blackburn, which was considered a Labour-Lib-Dem marginal. The BNP did not even stand a candidate in all of Burnley May, when the Lib Dems, beat Labour. This time, Labour and the Lib Dem vote declined (but the Lib Dem vote declined by more) and the BNP came from nowhere to come first.

Mill Hill looks like a respectable, white, working class ward, from the demographics. It has a high level of owner occupation for an inner city ward, low levels of EM population (at least in 1991) and is poorer than the Blackburn average. In short it is made up of exactly the sort of people the BNP are targetting. white working class communities that feel neglected comapred to the more deprived asian neghbourhoods nearby. What worries me is that the level of success was so high. To go from nothing to 560 votes in a month says that this message is very attactive.

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Good news and bad news

First, the Fire strike.

Though an 8 day strike is bad news, the good news is that the Government is not caving in to the FBU.

I've written on this before, and I'm glad to see that the government's current rhetoric backs up my feelings about their approach to this strike.

No 10 said today: "the proposals removed any plans "worth talking about" to modernise a service whose practices had been "set in formaldehyde" for the last 25 years." I said on Saturday "Fire-fighters shift patterns, responsibilities, work duties and demarcations were frozen in time. "

The way I see the events of last night is that the Local Government Employers gave up. They agreed to a 16% increase, with no pledge to modernise the fire service. I'd suspected this might happen, primarily because local government is always sorely in need of a backbone when it comes to management, and secondly because they have no real stake in having a battle with the FBU. They could always put the pressure on government to hand over extra money to fund a pay rise, and Lo, it came to pass. They offered 16% with a vague promise of modernisation, but no commitments, and early in the morning, asked the government to hand over the cash to fund this.

The Government, in the form of the much maligned John Prescott, told them to stick it where the sun don't shine. Thank God. Although I had been convinced the Government should take this battle on, there is always the concern that they might fold.

I hate to say this again, but the FBU are behaving incredibly stupidly. It's lions led by militant donkeys. There is no way that the government can be threatened. There is no way they can pay more without a commitment to reform.

What the FBU should have done is say "OK we accept reform, but our members hate the idea. If we're going to make it happen we need a deal that makes it sellable to our members. What will you offer? How will you sugar the pill?" Instead, they put their head down and charged at the government.

Now I can hope for only one outcome.

As I said before.

"For the good of the union movement and the Labour party, the FBU must be seen to be broken, beaten and humiliated. It is the FBU leadership that has led them to this trap. There is no-one else to blame."

Well, the struggle is on now. There's no doubt that the Firefighters have won the early PR battles (anyone else listen to Today this morning?) but that's of no consequence. Now is the time for the government to show the resolve and purpose enemies accuse it of lacking.

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Thursday, November 21, 2002

You know, I think me and Natalie Solent are at one on this.

but damn her for her pithiness. I resolve to drown wit with a flood of words.

Anyway, I said I would respond to Mr Briffa’s last post on this.

I liked Peter’s post. I’m not going to be vicious or rude about it. I happen to disagree, but I think he has identified an interesting thesis. I shall call it the Clockwork Orange approach.

So what does he say? I shall try and boin it down.

1. Why do people commit Crime?

“Poverty does not cause crime. My view is that crime happens because people like it.”

“But why do they do it? What is the root cause? Well, I'm happy with the 'fun' answer. It's the same reason people go to the movies, watch football, read books, and set up blogs. It takes them out of themselves, and gives them a thrill.”

2. Does Inequality cause crime?

“Only in the same way that unequal good looks cause lust. The grass is always greener. In a society where people have similar incomes, similar amounts of property, then there is less of an incentive to envy. “

3. So is crime an ever-present, with any kind of inequality?

“Wouldn't the joy of living, and the infringement against freedom, autonomy and privacy not be worth the candle? Isn't it better just to punish people when they infringe, rather than to try and anticipate the evil-doing in the first place, which is something that can only be done successfully by a totalitarian state. How can you know if someone is going to do good? You can't. Any more than you can know someone is going to do bad.”

4. So what can be done?

“So long as they (politicians?) subsidise laziness, indulge envy, and give little toerags the benefit of the doubt then it doesn't surprise me that the little toerags will carry on. All they do, and this goes for Major as well as Blair, and Thatcher for that matter, is announce crackdowns, promise initiatives, but never really carry out their simple duty of punishing the seriously guilty.”

I think of this as a Clockwork Orange theory because it contains both the pessimism and optimism of that book.

People will do terrible things but then again they can stop. What is truly precious is that they have the choice. (Before people ask what optimism in the Clockwork Orange? I’m talking about the original British version, with the final chapter that was excised from the US edition and the film. In the final chapter, our hero finds himself in a café, no longer attracted by ultra violence and longing to get married and settle down), in the meantime, those who transgress must be punished.

This is intellectually elegant and has a ring of truth about human nature.

Sadly, I don’t think it fits the facts. Let me return to my beloved Meadowell estate. Crime has been consistently falling there for a decade. Why?

Well, in part it is that there are more police. There is a tougher approach to vandalism.

But, as importantly, the fabric of society has not been abandoned or left to survive on its own.

There has been a concerted, government funded and directed effort to support the community. It has attracted jobs, invested in education, supported the parents of young children, re-built roads, repaired houses, helped voluntary groups and even brought shops to the area. (I supported most of this with links in a previous post, and I can’t be bothered to repeat it.)

The result? Crime is down over a third.

So we know that even in our liberal socially permissive age, full of intellectuals and fun loving toerags conspiring to destroy society, Crime can go down as well as up. There must be a reason.

It’s this- Community matters. In a strong, close, supportive community, whether rich or poor, there are clear boundaries and social obligations to prevent transgression. This is backed up by family structures, even by harsh discipline. But, and it’s a big but, that community needs support to prosper.

When the industries they are built on founder, do not be surprised that a decade later the community founders too. The barriers to transgression collapse. Hope for the future, the entire purpose of the community disappears. The hunger for relief from the everyday and vulnerability to drugs increases (and the multiplier effect of drugs to crime is clear and direct). The quick fix, both financial and narcotic becomes a more attactive solution.

(As an aside, why do anti-globalisation protestors never complain about the incredibly complex global trading systems that bring drugs from the third world to the first? It is probably the only example of globalisation that destroys communities on both sides)

But we can do something about it. We can take those communities in danger and turn them around. More than that, we are doing it right now. Yes, by focussing hard on the Broken Window style of policing, but that’s only a part of a solution. In the long term you need to re-establish those social bonds. Pride in community, a sense of purpose, a shared set of responsibilities and the money to make all that happen. Of cours,e I could point out that if a certain government hadn’t allowe that societal breakdown in the first place, we wouldn’t still be paying for it now, but hey, that’s for another day.

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How times change

I am one of the few readers of Tribune. I disagree with pretty much everything in it, but somehow I keep on renewing.

Recently, Tribune has been at the forefront of campaigns to stop Private Finance inititiatives and at the forefront of campaigns to stop public private partnership. It holds that market mechanism do not help in providing an essential service.

How cheering then to see that Tribune has developed a business plan with help from a former Rupert Murdoch executive and will sell shares in itself to private investors and "philanthropists" (for philanthropists, read multi-millionaire owners of big companies).

Of course, this is not the way Tribune spins it, but this is a victory for capital financing, public private partnerships and all the rest. When next Tribune attacks the government for raising money for schools by attracting private finance, it will be hard not to remember that private finance paid for that ink and that paper.

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Friends and Rivals

Giles Radice's book is on my Christmas list (I'm sad. A whoe Christmas taken up with reading new political books would suit me just fine).

Donald Macintyre reminds us that we even today, personal relationships could be crucial in deciding our policies on the most important issues we face.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Say a big hello to..

You're bored of me banging on about crime with Peter Briffa? Tough, there's more to come yet. Peter writes an interesting and challenging post here, which I shall respond to shortly. It's good though so I might need to take some time. To keep you going while I scratch my head, here are two blogs I like to read regularly and so are going on the Blog Roll. Both the authors appear to be v. v. clever.

Iain Coleman, of Why do they call me Mr Happy? He writes good stuff, has one of the most intriguing facial hair set ups I've ever seen (Does it serve some nefarious sexual purpose?) and is clever enough to have written an article called "An ionospheric convection signature of antiparallel reconnection". I think it's about the way hot air rises and falls again in a a non parallel way really high up in the air? I'm guessing though. All I know is that I reading something like that makes me come over all C.P. Snow. relax, though, the blog is safe even for one ignorant like what I am.

Lance Knobel of Davos Newbies, who is important. Not only does he write with some insight, but he works in the Prime Minister's Forward Strategy Unit. This is both impressive and a little daunting as a job title. Strategy often is in political terms. I think of Downing Streets Strategic Communication's Unit or Karl Rove's Office of Strategic Initiatives. I think it's an intimidating word because there an implication that everyone else is somehow non-strategic. Imagine working in the ordinary inititives office or in the humdrum, boring non-strategic communication unit. Forward Strategy is even better because it gets rid of all those annoying backwards looking strategies that plague our lives. Anyway, Lance is worth reading, so check him out.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2002

and the next contender is.. intellectuals

Iain Murray, over at England's Sword, weighs in after my attack on Peter's post (below). Peter himself is mightily unimpressed.

Well, Peter, I'm afraid I think you're wrong.

As you said in your initial post "One is where good people live. The other bad. Or maybe he wouldn't quite put it like that." I'm not sure how you can claim the Hattersley said that, when in fact he said that it was not because"St John's wood was free of original sin" that it was crimeless. As for only criticising one part of your comment. I did mention your case that no-one forces people to behave badly. It was a reasonable point and deserved to be taken seriously. I'm not sure how I should have critiqued the other comments on the topic (That Hattersley was a bloated socialist and that the proles in Lambeth weren't exactly starving).

(a bit later- though perhaps you wee a bit unlucky to have made a throway remark on a topic I was passionate about)

However, Iain did do what I demanded, and put forward a case for poverty not being the cause of crime, putting leftist tellectuals in the dock instead. It is a sensible and lucid case, and deserves to be taken seriously. I think it's pretty much nonsense though, of which more anon.

Iain believes that the leftist intellectuals are to blame, and he quotes liberally from two North-east Socialists to support his case.

On the factual level, the points he and they make are correct. Crme has increased hugely since the 1930's. This can be broken down to the decay of what might be called community cohesion. The question is, who or waht might to be for blame for this decline?

Iain, and his authors, posit that it was, the counter culture and more specifically, the intellectual tradition of Marxism, the counter culture and a hint that the pill was to blame too. (or am I reading this quote wrong? "they did not have a taken-for-granted project for life of responsibility for their own wife and children. Their expectations had ceased to be automatically geared to unavoidable parenthood.")

|Iain's conclusion is worth quoting in full. "The "middle-class upbringing" that Mr British Spin wants for all children is something that previous generations achieved in the working class. Yet, in destroying the institutions that bind such a community together -- the family, education that speaks to history, property rights -- it is the leftist intellectuals who have caused crime."

Now my first reaction to this was amazement at the power of leftist intellectuals. My picture of sociology professors at Essex has transformed into a mixtue of Rasputin and Blofield.

How did they achieve such a feat from their studies and their Common rooms? I hesitate to attack here, because Iain is quoting and summarising, but seriously, I would like to know. Was it leftist intellectuals who developed the pill, so their was no longer an unavoidable family? Did the abolition of the death penalty and the legalisation of the homosexuality send spasms of criminal intent through the underclass?

OK, perhaps it was more gradual than that. I'm assuming that Iain means the creation of a viable single parent familiy unit, the creation of a welfare state that subsidised housing for families with children, the creation of mass education and the introduction of new teaching methods in schools, perhaps even the ending of the old grammar school system.

Well, perhaps. I can certainly see the case that the development of a system of social housing might reduce the stigma and cost of having children. I can also see that the development of contraception might lead to an increase in sexual promiscuity (I just don't blame lefties for the pill). I can see that an end to corporal punishment might cause greater indiscipline in schools. However, It still doesn't answer the question about why this social revolution only had such catastrophic consequences in poverty ridden areas.

I don't see a causal relationship established between these events and the breakdown of community. If you take poverty out of the equation, single parent children aren't much less likely to commit crimes.

Instead, I can see a causal relationship between the explosion of crime and the withdrawal of the middle class ladder of opportunity amd consistent work income.

Crime hotspots are often in areas typically populated by former manual workers in large scale industry. In 2 decades significant numbers of these jobs disappeared. Communities were suddenly left without income. Local services, community organisation and resources began to decline. At the same time, government expenditure was held down, so housing stocks began to fall apart. Responsible and in work families purchased housing (especialy in "good" council areas), Problem families became concentrated in smaller areas. Educational investment in problem areas did not increase substantially. Little effort was taken to introduce new businesses to areas that had been ravaged by these huge levels of unemployment following the closure of traditional manufacturing industries. (In the case of both Toxteth and the Meadowell, it took a riot to turn this around).

A generation of children were born to parents with no job and little expectation of getting one. They were put through education with no purposeful expected outcome. They lived in communities without facilities, without much in the way of entertainment or shops, and the little that was left was under siege. In their wake came drugs, vandalism and burglary.Nick Davies's Dark Heart shows the impact of this process very graphically and I recommend it. Responsibility, shared values and the virtues of conforming became irrelevant, even negative values. So Crime became attractive, Small scale anti-social behaviour increased and legitimised greater crime. Certain communities bacame untouchable, No-one wanted to live there. No-one wanted to set up business there, and those that were stuck there were either hostages or hopeless.

One might think that there is no way out of such an abyss, but there is, one that is happening in Britain today, and is beginning slowly, to have results.

I look at the Meadowwell estate now and I see an area still with huge problems, but an area with new schools, with community based Sure Start projects teaching parents with young children parenting and life skills, I see houses that are worth taking pride in and Crime falling substantially year on year. I can even see good quality social and private housing being built side by side. Unemployment is falling, not as fast as one would like, but falling.

How has this been produced? By sustained and high levels of government investment. Development agencies, Higher schools investment and as much investment in the fabric of community, an attempt to give back to these ravaged communities what had been taken away. Hope, purpose and a sense of possible progress. Crackdowns- on drugs, on anti-social behaviour, on fraud are a vital part of this, creating disincentives to bad behaviour as well as providing hope for those who suffer from them (this, incidentally, is where I part company from Roy Hattersley).

In all of this history and current experience, the impact of leftisit intellectuals has been marginal. Perhaps they worked to prevent a stronger policing response. Perhaps their recommendations on how to deal with the collapse on society were misguided. However, they were generally not responsible for the collapse in jobs. Perhaps councillors in areas like Liverpool did little to try and regenerate communities, finding it easier to blame it all on capitalism. However, these Intellectuals cannot be held to account for the reduction in investment of new business. They simply had nothing to do with the policy development process of (certainly) the thatcher government (excluding Heseltine) and the Callaghan government.

Our society was changing at the same time al this was hapening. It was becoming freer, less bound by role and radition. Perhaps left intelectuals played a part in this, and perhaps the worst impacts of this were felt in the poorest communities. However, they did not cause it. That we can leave to the ravages of declining industry, failure to replace, short sighted planning and housing policy and underinvestment and support for the community values and support that can get areas through tough times.

(as an aside, Junius weighs in on this too, but being an intellectual himself, doesn't take the Derrida? who he? line that I follow here.)

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Monday, November 18, 2002

A window into boy's souls

Peter Briffa, over at Public Interest, knows where the righteous and the sinners live.

In an attack on Roy Hattersley's piece in the Guardian today, he quotes Roy and puts him right.

"It is not because St John"s Wood is free of original sin that its telephone kiosks are less vandalised than those in Lambeth. It is because the social conditions of the two are different". says Roy

"True enough. One is where good people live. The other bad. Or maybe he wouldn't quite put it like that." Says Peter

Really? How odd. Do the virtuous have a particular affinity for tree lined streets and well appointed living rooms which was previously unknown to religious scholars and seers? Is the answer to Lambeth problems a crack squad of exorcists and holy warriors?

More importantly, Can Peter provide us with a list of other suburbs inhabited by saints and sinners? At the very least, such knowledge wuld definitely have an impact on the local property market. Live in Hampstead, gateway to paradise. I'd heard about a post-code lottery in healthcare, but in Godliness?

I'm sure Peter's being at least semi-lighthearted, but you still can't say nonsense like this and expect to get away with it.

I don't like Hattersley's article, primarily because he takes the word "opportunities" out of the Prime Minister's mouth and replaces it with "rights" in order to make his argument work.

But his point is a serious one. Across the Western world, crime is highest amongst the poorest. The percentage of the poor in prison is far higher than the middle class or the rich. If you deny that poverty is a causal factor in crime you need to supply an alternative hypothesis.

Parenting, or the lack of discipline and personal morality have frequently been put forward. I find these arguments circular in the first case (why are poor people generally worse parents?) and reasonable yet insufficient in the second (strong Morals/sense of purpose/Drive can rescue families/communities, but why do they need to be rescued and why do such attempts frequenty fail?) In any case, why should the poor need a tougher moral standard to prevent them from committing crime than the wealthy?

Peter's point has the benefit of cutting through these questions. People who live in bad areas are worse parents because they are Bad. People who live in slums need tougher moral standards because they are infected with evil. What we need, presumably, is a big wall to keep the bad people away from the decent ones.

Peter dismisses Roy's suggestion that City Technology Colleges are useless as motivators to prevent crime by saying that no-one forces scum to smash windows. Exactly so. Free will always. But no-one forces nice Middle class kids to not smash windows. Why don't they? inner goodness? or perhaps a sense that there's a point staying straight combined with parents and a wider community who have the resources, the support and the inclination to care for them?

If the latter, what's the issue with doing all we can as a society to give that to those Children? What Roy is calling for is a middle class upbringing for every child. Does Peter really object?

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