UK Politics

Riots: MP David Lammy warns of 'workless core'

Rioting in Tottenham
Image caption Riots broke out in Tottenham after a protest over the shooting of a man by police

More must be done to tackle a "workless core" at the heart of British society, the Labour MP whose constituency was hit first by the summer riots has said.

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, told an event in London that youth unemployment was a key cause of the violence.

He said the government should guarantee "meaningful jobs" for young people out of work for more than a year.

But Simon Marcus, who is on the riot victims' panel, said too many felt they could "pick or choose whether to work".

The panel has been set up to investigate the causes of the violence that erupted in several English cities, including London, Birmingham and Manchester, last month.

It first broke out in the north London borough of Tottenham following the shooting dead of a man, Mark Duggan, by police.


Mr Lammy told an event run by think tank Policy Exchange that too many British people, particularly under the age of 30, lacked a stake in society, largely because they lacked a stake in the productive economy.

"The profound problem Britain faces in the 21st Century is a workless core," he said.

"If you are conservative, either with a small C or a big C - and there are some within the Labour Party who are - you are concerned about character.

"It's right that some of the debate about the riots concentrates on character, concentrates on what we are seeing at the bottom end of society, which is a sustained generation of worklessness.

"The repercussions for a society of sustained unemployment among young people is horrific.

"We can't have another generation that are routinely unemployed for longer than a year. We have to guarantee these young people work otherwise we will pay the price dearly."

He said the decline in manufacturing in the UK in recent decades had left a lack of "meaningful jobs for the working class", and an employment guarantee would be "a necessary short-term fix" which would also help address problems of family breakdown.

"I think work, having a job, getting up in the morning, coming home at night, doing it again day after day, week after week, it's at the centre of fatherhood and parenting and it builds character, gives a sense of worth," he said.

Shaun Bailey, youth worker and former Conservative Parliamentary candidate, told the event that the "down side" of the liberal political agenda of the past 25 years had been "a constant ramming home of what your rights are" to the detriment of responsibility.

"For a long time in this country you could make the decision to be on the dole," he said.

"There's also a social aspect to not working. When you work you're much less likely to be involved in crime, a) because you're busy and b) because you feel it, you see that people have worked for something and you don't want to take it from them."

Simon Marcus, who runs the Boxing Academy in Tottenham and the east London borough of Hackney, added: "Somehow we have developed a generation which thinks it can pick or choose whether to work, and can have a relatively comfortable life without a job."

He suggested a new "moral crusade" - religious or secular - throughout society to re-impose acceptable standards of behaviour.

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