Sunday, August 14, 2011

Jo Swinson and Stephen Williams show what Liberal Democrats are for

Remember the other day I was having a wee moment of despair that our MPs, while not putting a foot wrong and being eminently sensible, weren't really getting across our values in the aftermath of the riots.

Well, two of them did. Unfortunately Jo Swinson wasn't called to speak in the debate in Parliament, but she's published the speech she would have given over on Liberal Democrat Voice. I was really impressed by her passionate defence of young people, and her demonstration that social networking was actually a force for good during the riots and that we should be careful about restricting it. Here's just a snippet.

Of course many of these initiatives have been taken by young people, in a positive counter to the media image of teen rioters out of control.
Young and old. Black, white & Asian. Muslim, Christians, Sikhs… all races, religions and communities have united in a strong display not only of condemnation, but willingness to help and do their bit.
This generosity, determination, courage, hard work, and the spontaneous acts of kindness – this is more reflective of true British society.
This is the reason to be positive about UK society – this is the powerful alternative to hate and destruction.
The Independent had a characteristically thoughtful piece by Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids’ Company, who has more experience of helping to turn around the lives of our most marginalised young people than almost anyone else.
Those who committed these crimes must be brought to justice and face the consequences of their actions, the force of the law.
And in the long term, the challenge for us all, is that we do not write these people off. While serving their sentence for what they have done, we also need to help them to rehabilitate, to learn to value and contribute positively to our communities, and see for themselves the pointlessness of destroying them.
I'd already mentioned Stephen Williams' question to the PM, but he has written about it in more detail on his blog. His basic point is that we should expect those at the top end of the social scale, the wealthy and famous, who have all the privileges that life can offer to be good role models too.
If people at the bottom of the social pile are to be exhorted to behave and conform then that message should ring loud and clear in the ears of the social elites too.  At this time everyone should take a good look at themselves and ask whether they are a contributor or a drain on society.  Do we set an example that would be good for others to follow?  Do we take responsibility or do we act with impunity?
I like the fact that Stephen brought to the debate that the lavish and selfish behaviour of the rich can be damaging and destructive. Definite food for thought and no room for complacency in any of us, I think.

An integral part of Liberal Democrat DNA is a positive belief in human nature and the capacity of human beings to change and develop positively in the right circumstances. It was good to see Jo give so many good examples of how people were coming together and not just to concentrate on the negative. Her emphasis on restorative justice was also exactly what was needed.

This is the sort of thing I want to see and hear more of from our MPs and ministers.


cynicalHighlander said...

Why did you miss this part of her sniping?

Watching from Glasgow, I was certainly relieved that the riots did not spread to Scotland, but I think it is unhelpful for anyone, especially the First Minister, to express any feeling of superiority about that. My constituents are feeling solidarity with the victims of the violence, and with everyone who is afraid in their own community as a result of the riots, not gloating that this hasn’t been happening in Scotland.

What part of the FM's comment is this referring too?

Lemsip said...

Same here in Wales. The police and social services were working to keep it under control so there was a kind of mini riot one night in Cardiff with potential rioters trying to break into a sportswear shop and abandoned warehouses.

Must have something to do with having devolution and AM's and MSP's being more aware of what problems are arising which give rise to rioting.


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