David Cameron is right.
That’s not something I ever thought I’d write, let alone a viewpoint I’d ever share in public.
I have not had a right-wing epiphany though.
In the speech given on 10 August, the Prime Minister spoke with forceful authority on the causes of the appalling scenes of rioting, looting and criminal destruction visited upon the UK.
Clearly he is a man who wants us to know he is not only going to be tough on crime, but tough on the causes of crime too.
“For me, the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing that I have spoken about for years,” Mr Cameron said.
And I agree with him on that point. I have often regaled people with my opinion that the UK has lost its sense of civic pride and civic duty over the last three or four decades.
He went on, as politicians often do: “It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society. People allowed to feel that the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities and that their actions do not have consequences.”
On this point, David Cameron and I speak with a single voice.
However, I do feel he is being somewhat selective with scope of his argument.
When I heard the Prime Minister speak these words the first thing that sprang to mind was this:
And especially this:
It also brought to mind this:
The rioting, looting, and arson that the UK, and in particular London, has witnessed in recent days cannot be excused. The wanton destruction, criminal damage, lawlessness, and violence are all things that defy legitimisation.
Homes have been destroyed. Livelihoods ruined. Some people have lost everything they owned and worked for. Some have lost their lives.
I look around and wonder what on earth has happened to my country.
And I ask myself who the hell is actually in charge.
Is it a callous minority, hell-bent on helping themselves to whatever’s available while no one is looking, and doing their best to conceal their illegal and immoral behaviour?
Or is it a callous minority, hell-bent on helping themselves to whatever’s available while no one is looking, and doing their best to conceal their illegal and immoral behaviour?
In his speech David Cameron also said: “Well, they (referring to the ‘actions’ in the above quote) do have consequences. We need to have a clearer code of values and standards 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’m determined to do.”
Once again, Mr Cameron, you and I occupy common ground.
But – without wishing for one second to sound like an apologist for scum – this code of values and standards needs to embraced by everyone.
I do not want to live in a country where seemingly ordinary people wreak havoc because of greed, avarice, a lack of respect for their fellow human beings and a disregard for the safety and wellbeing of anyone and everyone around them.
Similarly, I do not want to live in a country where politicians steal from the public purse, where newspapers hack into the phones of dead teenagers, where corrupt police officers are being bribed by journalists to supply information and turn a blind eye.
Anyone in a position of authority and leadership will find out, if they weren’t already aware, that respect is earned – it doesn’t come with your job title, or your accent, or your grey hairs and wrinkles.
Leaders are respected most when they are leading from the front. After all, if you’re not out front you’re plainly not the one doing the leading.