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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baby P, knife crime and the state of UK society

Words can't describe how terrible a crime it is for a toddler to be battered to death. What is more worrying is the state of society that has allowed this to happen.

Maybe, some might argue, this type of event isn't common and not, in fact, a reflection of society. However, combine Baby P events with the use of knives on our streets and there is an all too vivid undercurrent of menace and malaise in our country.

Tory leader David Cameron refers to it as a broken society. Perhaps more accurately The Times this week tries to describe the problem as being caused by broken communities around the UK.

Surely it is that. The evidence seems overwhelming. Dependency on the State is a way of life, says The Times - that this has become a country where the State's largesse can be a lifelong livelihood; where parents can have as many children with as many partners as they please without feeling obliged to care for any of them. These are people allowed to grow and develop without, it seems, an ounce of morality.

Broadcaster Joan Bakewell attempts to define the problem, saying, "It is a poverty of feeling that is to blame. People are growing up without knowing love, emotionally crippled themselves and hardened to the care of others. Such people are pitiable: they are the wretched of the Earth. Who is to reach out to them?... This week’s revelation from enclaves of misery in our midst cast a long shadow."

And of course from this long shadow comes, among others, knife carriers - people using blades as some kind of security blanket to protect themselves from dangerous, immoral broken communities that cannot help being bad.

At the same time, it is reprehensible and cringeable that a non-expert and inexperienced media bays for blood, calling for - in the Baby P case - child protection bosses to be sacked. They remind me of the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. "Off with her head," bayed the Queen - just like the self-styled so-called expertise in the Press.

All the time - to give them their due - these experts and commentators try to articulate the problem, cast blame and press for recriminations. By doing so, they want to move nearer a solution - yet is this "solution" they seek truly possible with such ill-judged, knee-jerk reactions? Not really, I believe. What is needed perhaps now more than ever is great leadership - of a Winston Churchill ilk, methinks. Inexcusably, current leaders are lacking - they won't get past bureaucracies, establishments and others self-interest that stands in the way.

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