Martin Kettle on IDS

One of the most thoughtful speeches I have heard in Manchester this week was from Iain Duncan Smith, who has re-invented himself from a right-wing party leader to a much more successful thinker and reforming secretary of state addressing welfare and social deprivation.

Interestingly, he also impressed Guardian commentator Martin Kettle, who pointed out that IDS was the only platform speaker at any of the party conferences to say anything constructive or thoughtful about the riots. Martin had this to say on the Guardian blog:

"It is barely two months since the urban riots of 2011. Yet the party conferences of 2011 have scarcely addressed them. There have been exceptions, of course. Nick Clegg had a section in his leader's speech to the Liberal Democrats, which concluded that young people could be put back on track with a bit of extra summer schooling. Yvette Cooper, speaking at the Labour conference, had a section on the riots because she saw them as an example of Tory police cuts leading to lawlessness. Doubtless David Cameron will have a section on the riots on Wednesday when he addresses the Tories.

"But it's a simple fact that the only speech at any of the conferences which really attempted to say something thoughtful about the riots was the one given by Iain Duncan Smith at Manchester this morning. It wouldn't be true to say that IDS said everything there is to say, but at least he tried to rise to the seriousness of the subject. Nor did he break free of clich̩. The riots were "a pertinent reminder" about Britain's social problems. They were a "wake-up call" on gangs. On the page, this looks pretty pedestrian stuff. But IDS nevertheless tried to wrestle with the difficult issues Рthe underclass, family breakdown, the importance of drugs and alcohol, and the allure of gang culture. Gang members were "like child soldiers of the third world", a powerful image. The inner city "is not just a place, it's a state of mind," РI'll remember that phrase. And "we must end the false belief that we can arrest our way out of this crisis."

"Compared with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who trivialised the riots, IDS took them seriously. He is interested in them, and therefore has something interesting to say. The other parties, Labour in particular, merely slotted the riots into their pre-existing frame of government negligence. But IDS's response was a world away from the entirely draconian approach of the Conservative government in 1981 after the last serious urban riots too. Duncan Smith's speech may not have been the final word, but it was a reprimand
to the superficiality of the other parties in their responses to the riots."

You can read his and other Guardian comments here.


Tim said…
The only person who has spoken any sense on this issue is David Starkey - look at the reaction to hom !!

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