FE student Amy Addison-Dunne argues that most politicians live in such a different reality, their opinions on the riots can be of little value.

Rioting has hit London for a third day now, and from what I’ve seen, very few people have bothered to look at the bigger picture. Swathes of middle-class liberals have jumped to condemn the rioting, calling it ‘mindless violence’ from ‘oiks’. But what people are failing to realise, is that there is always a bigger picture.

I’m not saying the rioting is all in all a good thing. All I’m asking is that people look deeper than just some teenagers looting and smashing things up. Many of these youths have had their EMA cut, disallowing many FE students to attend sixth form/Further Education Colleges, and indeed, the funding to those institutions has also been cut. The Tory government, in order to create a ‘fairer society’, has cut thousands of jobs, leaving many youth with no means of earning money, sending them on the dole, with no hope of a livelihood or practical qualifications.

On top of that, the cuts are clearly being unfairly distributed. For example, in Richmond-upon-Thames, £600,000 worth of cuts are being made. However, the borough next to it, Hounslow, is being forced to cut over £60m within four years. What is ironic about this comparison, is that Richmond is a considerably richer area than Hounslow. By any measure, in order to build a fairer society, would it not make sense to cut more from Richmond-upon-Thames (from people who can afford it) and ease the harsh funding cuts on Hounslow? Apparently not. This government only has the interests of the rich at heart.

In addition, £90m is being cut from Lambeth Council, where Brixton is, £17m is being slashed from Haringey Council (in addition to the £46m they’re expected to save) and Croydon Council is expected to take £22m in cuts. Outside London, Birmingham City Council will be expected to reduce their budget by £75m, and £91m worth of spending cuts is happening in Liverpool. I could go on. These are the areas in which rioting is taking place; the areas in which youth services have been deemed unsustainable and unimportant, and in which massive and unfair cuts are being imposed. Youth are going to be hit hardest.

Yes, people have said that rioting is only about ‘getting free stuff’ and ‘having some fun’. But why? In a recent interview I heard, youth in these areas have nothing to do, as their youth centres have been closed, causing them to hang around on street corners – during which the police use anti-terrorist laws to stop and search them in a humiliating way – making them feel like criminals. From this, I say that if you treat people like criminals, they will act like them.

David Cameron and Theresa May and other politicians have constantly referred to the rioters as ‘mindless yobs’, but I’ll bet you my last EMA payment (£30), that not one of them have experienced the life that many of the rioters live: have they been brought up on council estates? No. Have they gone to underperforming schools in deprived areas? No. Were they brought up on child benefits and a salary of less than £25,000 by a single parent? No. They all received the best, private education (David Cameron when to Eton College, and Theresa May went to St Juliana’s Convent School for Girls, and both went to Oxford University), all paid for by the government and their parents.

So to all the politicians who have returned from their luxury holidays (including a luxury villa in Tuscany, and a ‘country residence’ in Oxfordshire) I say to you: before you judge the rioters, go to their boroughs and live their lives for 6 months. Try finding a job, with nothing to do during the day. Try being told your education is ‘simply unsustainable’. Try being rendered a mere statistic to back up the fact that you are a ‘drain on society’. And then maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a millimetre of understanding as to why we must look at the bigger picture, and why people are being driven to riot.

Amy Addison-Dunne is an FE student from South West London.

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