Sleepy London town might seem like no place for a street fighting man this autumn, but in an interview with Radio One this week Plan B predicted that we could see a repeat of last August’s riots. He thinks the government is “out of touch”, and hasn’t done enough to solve the problems which initially provoked the unrest.
He’s not the only one.
Nobody wants to see a return of the destruction and violence that ended with 3,000 arrests, but plenty have said it could happen. This includes many of the police officers who were interviewed for an LSE study into the riots. One superintendent from Manchester said: “I don’t think anything has changed between now and last August, and the only thing that’s different is people have thought: riots are fun.”
Similarly, a Centre for Social Justice report argued that the crackdown that followed the riots has itself led to more gang violence, as younger members battle to replace their arrested leaders.
The strangest fact for anybody who remembers how earth-shaking the riots felt at the time is how little has changed. The government has ploughed on with funding cuts for all manner of youth services, while since last August youth unemployment has increased. Today in the UK there are over a million unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds, 12% more than when the riots kicked off a year ago. It’s particularly difficult to find work with any sort of criminal record, as those 3,000 arrested for their part in the riots will be finding out. Anger and resentment about how young people are policed still runs through many areas of Britain’s cities like kindling.
This is why it’s so inspiring to see Plan B using the stage he’s earned himself to talk about these issues. In an age when it’s routine for musicians to worry more about the state of the record industry than the wider world, and to avoid getting political for fear of being seen as divisive, he’s switched-on to the social power of art, saying things like: “Through music and through film we can change people’s perception of the problem and show them the reality of it.”
He’s also putting his money where his mouth is. He recently said that’ll be donating £1 from every ticket sale from his 2013 arena tour to his new charity, Each One Teach One, which will give money to people doing good work in communities who aren’t receiving financial support.
David Cameron could pick up a lot from watching Plan B. He doesn’t have to learn how to rap, act or direct films but he does have to learn how to listen.