Yob Culture

We are once again being invited to have hysterics about the yoof of today, and yob culture, and once again Tony Blair presents himself to us as the father of the nation, pater patriae, the man who is figuratively going to put the offending yobbos over his knee and give them a damn good hiding on behalf of us all.

We the British public will never recover our individual and collective courage as long as we think that nanny Blair is going to deal with the problem himself.

Blair is not going to get yobs off the streets – you’ll have to

It was like being drowned in molasses. It was like being hosed in treacle. I was lying in a state of after-lunch torpor while the eight-year-old was playing and replaying her favourite track, and through the door it stole, and up the bed and into my ear until it filled the fjords of my brain with such glutinous aspartame-flavoured schmaltz that at last I could take it no more and cried: “Enough!” James Blunt, I thought, it’s time to get a grip! Come on, man: stop being so indescribably wet. If she’s so beautiful, stop standing there in your T-shirt and floppy fringe, and hush your hopeless falsetto crooning.

Go out and get her, is my advice, and if James Blunt seems drippy next to the rock stars of the good old days, he is positively macho by comparison with the Kaiser Chiefs. These are the weeds from Leeds whose hit single was I predict a riot, a tale about the bourgeois apprehension of a chap who tries to get a taxi on a Saturday night in the centre of town.

“Watching the people get lairy/It’s not very pretty I tell thee./ Walking through town is quite scary/And not very sensible either,” sing these epic softies. Then the chap meets another chap in a tracksuit, who looks as though he might offer violence, but doesn’t, and that’s about it. It’s pathetic!

When I was a nipper it was standard practice for a rock star to start the evening by biting the head off a pigeon and throwing the television out of the window before electrocuting his girlfriend in the bath and almost drowning in a cocktail of whisky, heroin and his own vomit. The self-respecting British punk rockers didn’t get up on stage and start whimpering about how they predicted a riot. They incited riots. “White riot, I want a riot, white riot, a riot of my own,” they sang, if my memory serves me correctly.

Let’s face it, the rock star role models of yesterday were far more thuggish, brutal and in-yer-face than the rock stars of today, most of whom are almost embarrassing in their niceness; and if one thinks back to the 1970s and 1980s, it is clear that the riots were nastier, too. I make this elementary observation, because we are once again being invited to have hysterics about the yoof of today, and yob culture, and once again Tony Blair presents himself to us as the father of the nation, pater patriae, the man who is figuratively going to put the offending yobbos over his knee and give them a damn good hiding on behalf of us all.

And, of course, he is right, in this limited sense, that Britain has long boasted quite large numbers of ill-educated and ill-disciplined young people. He is right, too, that under Labour there are more and more families lost in the bottom 20 per cent of the heap, who are simultaneously over-taxed and over-dependent on welfare, and who do not always have a sense of social responsibility, to put it mildly. But there is something about Blair’s solution that makes me ill, and it is not just the ghastly, patronising, mockney voice he adopts when he is saying something that he believes will have universal appeal on the estates of Britain.

What really depresses me is that these gimmicks probably will be immensely popular; and people will look at Blair blithering away about respect and say, yes, good on yer Tony, you tell them. Fine them! Send them to parenting classes! Confiscate their spray cans and send the whole family to the sin bin. Take their money away, even if it’s only on suspicion that it may be ill-gotten.

Asbo-lutely right!

My objection is not just that these measures are centralising and authoritarian – an objection that is unlikely to cut much ice with people enduring anti-social behaviour. The trouble with this stuff is that it once again lulls people into the belief that the Government is really going to sort out their problems, when the reality is that the whole of the new anti-yobbo programme, parenting classes and all, will be about as much use to thug-plagued estates as Blair’s doomed plan to march them to cashpoints for on-the-spot fines – i.e. no use whatever.

The police already have a panoply of powers to deal with these characters; they just don’t have the resources to be everywhere at once and all Tony is doing is intensifying the illusion that he, Big Tone, is going to descend on your noisy neighbours and bang them away, or send them on parenting courses.

He would go up hugely in my estimation if he fixed us with his glittering eye and said, y’know, there wasn’t a lot he could do, immediately, about the problem of these thugs, not with a million children being failed by schools. But what about you, he should say, pointing at the public with a Kitchener-esque finger. What are you doing?

I dislike his gimmicks because at every stage personal or communal responsibility is replaced by the state, and the more completely government assumes responsibility for problem kids, the less people will understand that part of civility is having the courage to reprimand someone for spitting on a granny, and not pass by on the other side. If we continue to treat comparatively small acts of thuggishness as matters purely for the Government, then we will never get thuggishness off our streets, and we the British public will never recover our individual and collective courage as long as we think that nanny Blair is going to deal with the problem himself.

The sad truth about Blair’s “announcements” is that they will play beautifully. Everyone will feel that someone is doing something about the problem, and everyone will slump back further into apathy and atomism. Mr Blair has obviously decided that his last months must be adorned with “eye-catching initiatives” with which he can be personally associated, so that no one can say he is going gentle into that good night.

But when the same old thugs and the same old families are causing the same old havoc, and the “problem family sin bins” have gone the way of other eye-catching initiatives he has promised, it may be that people will decide enough is enough. At this rate I don’t predict a dignified and glorious exit from Downing Street. I predict a rout.

111 thoughts on “Yob Culture”

  1. Melissa or whoever,

    Don’t know about anyone else but I can’t access the old Higher Education debate. What happened? Was it anything to do with Cameron’s Deus Ex Machina pronouncement on Higher Education policy? Indeed, what exactly Boris’s role if Cameron is going to come and, metaphorically speaking, sit on his face in this way every now and then?

    I was enjoying the debate and it seemed a shame to curtail it. Of course it might be jsut myu machine in whihc case, apologies all round for my aspersions, but it did seem a bit of a conincidence.

  2. Hi Field

    Click on the box on the left of the frame – Higher Education Section.

    We are trying to get the latest post to appear on the front page of the main site too – it should happen soon.

    Apologies for this … will all be cleared up soon

  3. Oh Boris I love you. I intend to write a smashing report about you in our local university paper!

  4. Sometimes, Boris, you remind me of why I detest the Tory point of view so much. And it is quite a relief to find myself in such antipathy to your ridiculous views. Not that I side with Mr Blair on these issues. What I object to is the good old Thatcherite stance of letting market forces sort out all problems. And these are the same Tory nincompoops whose forebears were the architects of the greed and selfishness that exploited the poor and underprivileged for hundreds of years, built their ill-deserved wealth on the sweat of suffering of these people and then blamed all the ills of society on them.
    Much as I love you Boris, old haddock, when you pontificate from your Henley Tower, you epitomise the Let-them-eat-cake Conservative who should by now be part of our sorry social history.
    From what I can gather, however, I would still rather listen to you than James Blunt.

  5. You think the song’s wet, you should see the video – he ends up throwing himself off an ice burg.
    OK, he’s very pretty, but get a grip man, it was just some girl you saw on a train.

    At least the eight year old isn’t listening to some of the more um, explicit, girl bands. That can involve some complicated technical explanations.
    “I Predict a Riot” is not a patch on The Specials “Ghost Town” but everybody feels like that about the songs that were important to them when they were teenagers and I was still at school up the road in Bristol when St Paul’s went up.
    I guess the Kaiser Chiefs just haven’t had much luck with taxies.
    “Every Day I Love You Less and Less” has it’s moments though.

    The thing that really annoyed me about Teflon Tony’s latest stunt was the sheer irrelevance.

    Life is such a struggle now even if you are not right at the bottom of the pile to start with. There is just too much to deal with. The sheer volume of things you have to remember to do in the complex business of working and keeping a roof over your head. The hoops to jump through and the bills to pay and the permits to keep up to date or get fined, clamped and whatever.
    The sheer uphill struggle of so much as trying to contact any utility, organisation, bank or hospital to sort out a problem.
    “Your call is important to us, just not important enough to answer it. Please hold at premium rates for some hours while we play you bad music very loudly”.
    “Oh, and you are wasting your time anyway because we are just going to put you through to a call centre who can’t actually do anything”.
    “Have a nice day”.

    People are being refused medical care in large numbers – Mr Collins and many others at Oxford, having been on a waiting list, have now been denied the same operation Teflon Tony got free on the NHS (jumping the queues of course) because of NHS cut backs. (They’ve been spending all the money on unwieldy computer systems again)
    Mr Collins can be incapacitated or he can take out a loan for £14.000.

    I read a while back that Britain has the largest proportion of it’s workforce in Europe chronically sick. Hardly surprising when it’s so hard to get treatment.

    Care for the elderly and disabled who can’t look after themselves is to be further cut.

    A £2.50 a day drug that enables Alzheimer’s sufferers to remain able to look after themselves for longer (oh, and, you know, actually have a quality of life) is to be disallowed by NICE because it’s too expensive. As opposed to full time care? Oh yes, they are stopping that so the government won’t have to worry about it.

    If you try buying drugs on a private prescription because your GP won’t prescribe them because he’s more concerned about his budget than your health, even after two NHS consultants have asked him to, you find you are charged much more than if you buy the same drug in Europe or America or the rate the NHS is charged because the Department of Health puts big taxes on many of them. You can find a drug is over four times the price here privately than it is in America and when you rack up your credit card and get it via FedEx it says “Made in Ireland” on it.

    Benefits for the sick and disabled are to be removed to force them into work. How when they are sick and disabled? All the MS sufferers supposed to miraculously pick up their beds and walk? The Cancer patients get their arses in gear and find a cure? Many of them are too busy going to court trying to get the drugs they need.

    Didn’t all these people pay taxes when they were working? If the treatable ones got treatment couldn’t they go back to work and pay more taxes?

    Wouldn’t any sane person rather be healthy and working rather than sick and poor? So refusing people treatment on one pretext or another and then treating them like spongers when they try and claim the very small pittance of sick pay is doubly horrific.

    And Teflon Tony’s biggest concern according to the papers I saw?

    – Graffiti!

    Finger on the pulse there then.

    Some people consider it an art form. Banksy is quite amusing. Not if you have to clean it off your walls admittedly, but it’s not exactly life threatening.

    Unlike the current government.

    In spite of the lateness of the hour and some dire early morning meeting at work, I am just going off to dig out The Specials and listen to Rico on trombone while rebelliously drinking slightly more than the currently recommended remarkably small number of units of red wine, while it’s still allowed, and in the full knowledge that if my liver packs up I’m on my own.

  6. Well said Thalia. I am terrified. The governmaent is a cynical media machine and the opposition is shaping itself into the government’s image. Just when I thought MPs couldn’t get anymore cynical. I just live in the blindest hope that like a chimp colony’s psychology Cameron is being Blair-like to sneak by the Primate/Priminister/Primale unopposed and will revert to some sort of common sense once in power. Oh dear, I have had more red wine than is allowed and it’s very late….

  7. Vicus old chap

    I don’t see where in Boris’ homily there is any reference to market forces. Possibly as a good old fashioned leftist you are inferring from your belief that the state should sort everything out that non-statists believe that market forces should sort everything out. Not a logical deduction I think! Possibly of rhetorical value which is about all the old fashioned left has to trade in nowadays.

    Being a sensible fellow Boris has outlined a problem and the problem arising from the thumb sucking solution to it.

  8. I too remember how things were in the late ’70’s. Punk rock summed up the frustration of the youth of the day who were facing the prospect of no prospects when they left school due to the abject failure of the then labour party to manage the economy.

    Lest we forget, Thatcher got hold of the situation and addressed the fundamental problems at the time – for the benefit of the nation as a whole – and new labour have basked in the results.

    However, NL’s policies, over time, have eaten away at Thatcher’s legacy and we are getting soft in many areas of civic life.

    Mr Blair can announce as many initiatives as he likes – but the laws needed to deal with the problem areas are already there. People would take more social responsiblity if they thought they would get the backing of the authorities rather that geting nicked for assault if they intervene.

    The issue is with the lack of this woolly-minded government’s political will to get on with the job.

    Mr Blair said ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’, but like so many other of his ‘third way’ policies, there are inherent contradictions.e.g. 50% to go to University vs Prohibitive tuition fees stopping just that!

    Let’s hope Mr Cameron ‘softer’ Conservative image fronts up an ‘immutable core’ of proper Tory values.

  9. Well said. Though I believe the great Joe Strummer intended the lyrics to ‘White Riot’ to carry more than a whiff of sarcasm:

    Black man gotta lot a problems
    But they don’t mind throwing a brick
    White people go to school
    Where they teach you how to be thick

    Certainly rather more knowing than today’s examples, but then what can one expect from a public schoolboy?

  10. Boris Johnson is my other God

    Boris Johnson simultaneously sums up the problem with the Blairite ‘legislate till they drop’ approach to social ills and the generally poor quality of modern ‘rock’ music in one article. It may l…

  11. Vicus is right of course. It’s not good creating new initiatives like they’re going out of style whilst at the same time making life more complicated for the police; but it’s equally not all right to leave it to fate and market forces. ‘Trickle down’ was a lie when Reagan and Thatcher first espoused, and it remains a lie to this day.

    Couldn’t agree more about the Kaiser Chiefs, though. And James Blunt. But then that’s exactly the kind of rubbish pop music you get when you let the record companies base all their decisions on what’s guaranteed to sell, rather than what’s any good. Market forces, in other words.

  12. “I predict a riot” upsets me in a rather different way as a fan of, and participant in, acappella music (human voice only).

    There are many fine examples of great popular and once-popular songs performed by acappella and barbershop groups, yet the only one to get any significant airtime is a cover version of “I predict a riot” by the women’s harmony chorus Cheshire Chord Company. What a sad comment on our times.

  13. PaulD: that particular choir performs other music equally well, including not only Bach and Handel,but other pop songs as well. Pop is not exactly my taste, but may I say “Well done”, nonetheless. Variety and the spice of life is possibly the choir’s motto. and as Barry Norman never said : ” And why not?”

  14. Thalia I live in Notting Hill and saw James Blunt on my evening walk going to a premier. He’s really short and looked a bit like people do who have lived in a commune too long. He was quite friendly though. No, I approve of James Blunt. He was the one celeb who bothered to sign for the professional autograph hunters. Photographers have a very hard life you know. They waited ages for a glimpse of Gwyneth and then got pelted with eggs by the local chavs. Fellow with a really chic suede jacket just running with egg. Got to feel sorry for them.

  15. Boris, mate. We can’t defend ourselves. Anyone attempting to scare off yobs who harass home owners is arrested. It isn’t possible to defend yourself if someone attempts to mug you, as you’ll be arrested for assault. One has to question for whom the law exists if the victims are turned into the criminals. I’m not saying that we should be allowed to kill muggers and aggressors, but one should be allowed to defend oneself with reasonable force. I know that, in law, this already exists, but in practice it is the victim who often is on the receiving end of ‘justice’.

    We all know that Blair’s Respect plan is nothing more than hot air. It’s up to M.P.s such as you, Boris, to raise the question of how, exactly, we go about defending ourselves and what powers our policemen have to deal with yobbish behaviour (bearing in mind that they themselves can be punished for dealing ‘too heavily’ with aggressors). The entire question of yob culture requires addressing from the very top downwards, beginning with Parliament (there are plenty of yobs in there, too!). Good luck.

  16. Mark

    I fear to tread in this part of the debate as I’m not entirely sure what the Kaiser Chefs are or who Blunt James might be. (Possibly one of Robin Hood’s band like Little John?).

    I ask this in all seriousness. You say we let the companies decide what to produce. What I see and hear in passing the steam television set as my heirs watch is very little to my taste. But if market forces do not decide this who or what should do? I can see arguments for non ideologically regulating market forces in various areas but not in arts and entertainment, except obviously where laws of the land come into force. I don’t think we should have a return to lions meeting Christians in the new Wembley stadium.

    I saw a few threads back the poem about first they came for the communists….

    Might we not anticipate a similar poem about first they banned the Spice Girls and end up with the Taliban?

    This is the problem of living in a free society. Market forces respond to consumers perceived wants. Those wants are often created by companies of course. Do we want a state run music business? If so who gets to choose what goes out? I suspect many of of my e-colleagues on this blog would be pretty cheesed off with my selection if I were Minister of Music.

    The problems of aesthetics and ethics in a free society are similar.

    In a free society individuals are free to make good and bad choices. It is to be hoped that the issues of respect and courtesy touched on in this thread will develop but not guaranteed. Kant’s injunction to treat each person as an end in themself and not a means could perhaps form a basis for morality in a free society as could much of the Sermon on the Mount.

    I saw Richard Dawkins grumpy program berating religion the other night. Clearly an angry man he selected what I suspect are rather unrepresentative samples of Christianity and Islam. However what was chilling about one of his Islamic selections was how the man castigated the West for not having rules about how women dress and so on. The point is that he wanted a set of rules detailing our every bit of behaviour, not underlying decent ethical principles.

    I seem to have wandered so I will ask the question again because I am genuinely puzzled as to any answer.

    If market forces do not decide this who or what should do?

  17. Jack Ramsey

    You ask in all seriousness and I shall answer in the same…

    My previous post was dashed off rather fast, so apologies for not being clear. I was talking specifically about the music business, though this probably applies to all the arts as well.

    Once upon a time the music industry was driven by individuals – by which I mean not the artists, but the managers, agents, DJs, and tiny record companies that gave us Elvis Presley, the Beatles, almost all of punk, and much else besides. In virtually every case, these artists were launched by financially brave entrepreneurs who heard something they liked and backed a hunch that others would like it too. Go even further back and you find the early blues entrepreneurs selling their artists’ 78s out of the trunks of their cars. The received wisdom was that there was no market for black artists at all, yet by backing their hunches these people gave the world a musical form that underpins everything we listen to today (excluding, but only in part, ‘classical’).

    Today’s music industry, like all modern industries, operates entirely differently. There are three or four multinational conglomerates running the whole show, and their only interest is shifting product that generates revenue. They control the radio playlists, they no doubt hold frequent focus groups to test their market on neutral consumers, and they’ve got the marketing and advertising down to a fine science. Of course good artists still break out of cult status occasionally (I’m thinking in particular of Antony and the Johnsons this year) but the average is very very low, and the only place for the independents to operate nowadays is the net.

    Consequently, we get James Blunt. Safe, pretty, doomed to disappear in two years.

    Consequently, we get boy bands. One after the other, all identical.

    COnsequently, we get the Kaiser Chiefs. Or half a dozen like them. Rock bands with a couple of tunes apiece but no teeth.

    Consequently, we get Pop Idol / Pop Stars / Fame Academy – brilliant in business terms because these programmes save the record companies from doing any A&R at all – but a tragedy for original music. Again, the exception proves the rule: Will Young. The rest are in and out of our consciousness so fast we can barely remember their names two months’ later.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating state control of music. The arts depend on entrepreneurs (you can probably expand this argument to other industries as well – the Bransons and Dysons of this world). What I loathe is the attitude that all business is good; that the market will always decide; that so long as we have free trade all will always be well.

    It won’t. Sooner or later free trade and market forces enable the beancounters to stitch together bigger and bigger businesses, populated by drones and driven exclusively by shareholder value. The bigger the business, the lower its spirit – and the fewer independent ideas it contains.

  18. Jack R.
    Within the law , “Chacun á son gout”, is my belief.

    What you described as being one man’s vision of a perfectly ordered, ( non-existant), society, with every possible, or even conceivable, piece of human behaviour, rubrically tabulated as acceptable or not acceptable is not very far removed of what is currently being advocated in Britain, by the,(possible),next Secretary General of the UN. ( Acc. to Bill Clinton , that angelic arbiter of moral rectitude).
    As long as the Human Animal is seen as the most “intelligent” form of life,with a moral code, there will be people behaving, by definition, outrageously. (This is of course an objective viewpoint). The majority will behave , in its own judgement,” normally”. This behaviour will be considered generally understanding and compassionate. Deviant behaviour will not be acceptable.

    Try to shoehorn everyone into one narrow category, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    As has been repeatedly said in the various previous threads on this blog, one size never did , and never will , fit all: in any walk of life.

    Variety, after all, IS the spice of life, in all its aspects. If it’s legal, Melissa , ” Vive la difference”.

  19. Mark

    I appreciate what you are saying – I’m not sure this is entirely off subject by the way, there seem to be parallels as I said between the problems of ethics and aesthetics.

    I don’t think business is good or bad. It’s a mechanism that underlies, for better or worse, the quality of life we have in the West. We have junk food but no starvation. I think many people could make their own lives better by considering their needs rather than their wants and giving arts that they are unfamiliar with a chance. No other economic system has given such opportunites and freedom. Another parallel I would bring in is that with the debate about God and free will. As I understand it, and I’m sure Jack T will put me right if I’m wrong, evil is done because we have free will to do so. So we get appalling music because people have free will to buy into it. (I’m no relativist by the way – JSB is better than the Spice Girls – full stop.)

    You sketch a picture of how the companies dominate and I have no reason to believe otherwise. But are they preventing the independent musicians from doing as they did before?

    Although overhyped the Internet could work in the favour of independent artists. You are one such of course. I don’t know how well it has worked out. I do know that I have followed up various musicians and authors having found clips and text on the net.

    My son is in a group with two other lads. To a father’s ear his music sounds rather good just as his football team seemed to play in a rather more interesting fashion than did England. Most of his chums seem to be in one band or another. Apart from wishing he could spend a little more time on his homework, I feel this an excellent way for him to use his free choice.

    I think that it isn’t useful to complain about the big companies. They are like McDonalds. Actually very now and then I like a Big Mac but I enter of my own accord. Perhaps those who are in favour of independent music should rejoice in the fact that there is so much amateur – used in proper sense – stuff going on, support commercial independents and generally spread the word.

    Going back on subject, the yob culture seems to be a feature of a prosperous society where many individuals do not have the self control that rightly or wrongly was instilled by religion and tradition in the past. Gross generalisation – Dickens and others show us that many things were pretty seamy even so. A start might be for each individual to strive for self respect and respect for others. Was that a load harumph! I heard from the memsahib?

  20. Did anyone notice that when Blair launched this new ‘initiative’ it was the headline news item on every terrestrial channel?

    First it led off BBC’s 6pm news. Fair enough, I thought, BBC is pretty much an arm of guvmint these days. I switched it off.

    But then it led ITV’s 6:30pm news as well. This is bad, I thought, as I switched that off too.

    As 7pm approached, I thought that they couldn’t have nobbled Channel 4 as well. But as the credits rolled, lo and behold, there it was again. And I switched off.

    Later in the evening, I thought I’d see if Newnight had anything interesting. But guess what? They were going to devote the programme to the new initiative! And I switched off.

    I have no idea what this new initative is all about, except that it’s called “Respect” (Isn’t that George Galloway’s party?), and is about locking up parents or something. What left me stunned was that they could, apparently on demand, get all the major news channels to run what is undoubtedly an entirely phony debate as their prime news item. Which seemed very worrying, when there are a lot of far more important things going on in the world.

    Some days I thimk maybe I’ll ditch my TV, and get all my news online, instead of the 50% I get there now.

    I quite like James Blunt. But overall, on balance, I still prefer Iggy.

  21. Macarnie said: “As long as the Human Animal is seen as the most “intelligent” form of life,with a moral code, there will be people behaving, by definition, outrageously. (This is of course an objective viewpoint). The majority will behave , in its own judgement,” normally”. This behaviour will be considered generally understanding and compassionate. Deviant behaviour will not be acceptable.
    Try to shoehorn everyone into one narrow category, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    One looming example of this is the proposed ban on smoking in all pubs – an initiative largely driven by the medical establishment (After all I haven’t seen any demos with people demanding smoking be banned in pubs: has anyone else?).

    In a society where it is unacceptable to smoke almost anywhere, or drink almost anywhere, or sing, and sometimes even talk, the pub is the only place you can go and do all these things. And that is the whole purpose of a pub. It’s a place where you can let your hair down, and escape from most of the strictures that apply everywhere else. It has the function of a safety valve.

    But not any more, now that Labour zealots have been scared by the medical establishment with its largely phony research into passive smoking (see the Times), a whole bunch of moralists have decided to destroy an English institution. I can only suppose that, apart from Charles Kennedy (bless the martyr), none of these MPs go to pubs. So why don’t they ban pubs selling alcohol as well, while they’re about it? It has “health risks” too aplenty. Pubs are also places where the ‘vices’ of drinking, smoking, singing, talking, flirting, etc. are all safely contained. With nowhere else to go, it will simply spill out onto the streets. Indeed, it already does.

    If this absurd and totalitarian law goes through, I predict a riot.

    In fact, hundreds of riots. All day, every day.

  22. Idlex: News channels took up the story because they know it strikes a chord with millions of viewers, not (necessarily) because they are in thrall to Labour. Blair also knows yobbism is hugely popular subject, which is why he dreamt it up.

    You say “there are a lot of far more important things going on in the world”. Are there?

    From the pensioner who daren’t go out at night, to the fiancee of the young solicitor who was stabbed to death yesterday for his wallet, to all of us who feel our fundamental right of pass and repass has been curtailed by yobs, there are few things more important.

    But your smoking argument is bang on! Well said, Sir (Madam?)

  23. To continue: Anyone seen http://www.chavscum.co.uk? This is a website devoted to chavs, who are labelled “Britain’s new ruling class”.

    The subhead may be tongue in cheek but it has a frightening ring of truth about it. Many people clearly feel that Chavs, the new embodiment of yobbism, are taking over our cities, towns and even villages.

    They represent a growing class of ill-educated, selfish, boorish, aggressive, fast-breeding, welfare-dependent, anti-social people whose language is primative and whose livery is Burberry clothing – although you don’t have to wear the uniform to fit the description.

    Their influence extends beyond the pack. It represents a whole Me First generation.

    Unlike any previous “alternative” lifestyle, it wears ignorance and tacky consumerism on its sleeve. Punks were tame by comparison – Sid Vicious may have preached anarchy but he didn’t take pride in stupidity.

    How did Chavism arise? It could be the subject of a fat book, if it hasn’t been already.

    Could mindless consumerism be playing a part? Children today are exposed at an early age to consumer pressure which most parents find repulsive but can do little to resist in the face intense advertising fuelled by peer fashion.

    I hate to say it: Is there a case for banning advertising to children, as they did many years ago in Sweden?

  24. ,, Idlex: I agree with the majority of what you say, but who is Iggy?

    Unless things change, and radically, it will, (and very soon) , be illegal to do absolutely ANYTHING without the express permission of that cradle of enforced feminity , the Labour Party Commissariat for Imposed Gender EQUALITY .(without the guarantee of QUALITY).

    We will be forever damned to listening to endless excuses why erring Ministers are never sacked, [make your own list here]. Q.) When was the last time a Labour minister VOLUNTARILY fell on his / her own sword ? Answers, in block capitals, on a pinhead please, no later than 2010. ( the snakes and ladders antics of certain recent changes do not count).

    These human examples of fleshed out MP3 machines, spouting, Dalek-like, Party lines, cleverly interspersed with programmed pauses, to allow the occasional respectful question, (skilfully hidden by interviewers like Jim Naughtie’s faux aggressive manner), without the said clone appearing to miss a beat in the predetermined repetition of the Party line.
    “ Exterminate : exterminate”.

    Respect has to be earned, Blair, my old mate. I, for one, cannot respect a Party which takes so many asps to its bosom, each asp sans the usual complement of fangs,( even though the forked tongues still work overtime),thus lacking the means to administer the necessary venom to free us from at least one further example of the flawed top management of key Ministries.

    Yobbism sells newspapers, and reports thereof are rife. The Government, in taking this as a rallying cry, may or may not, have nobbled the TV media, but the public still controls the remote. SWITCH OFF.
    Anyone preaching on an empty street is only wasting his/her own precious airtime; I’m all for that.

    Deeds, not cheap catchphrases, are what really matter Blair; take yobbism off the streets, and it won’t be necessary to make an issue of it on TV.

    We have the necessary laws,( they have long been in place), with which to rid us of this growing yob problem, but the police seem unable to deal with the conflicting messages emanating from the bankrupt think tanks of No.10. (bringing in 24 hour drinking is just one example).
    The Police have all the weapons, allow them to be used, (while you are at it; make sure they have no reasons to take on second jobs).

  25. PaulD wrote: News channels took up the story because they know it strikes a chord with millions of viewers, not (necessarily) because they are in thrall to Labour. Blair also knows yobbism is hugely popular subject, which is why he dreamt it up.

    I can imagine that a good bit of mass yobbism – fighting in the streets – could lead the news on a dull day. But a government initiative on yobbism? Surely not.

    all of us who feel our fundamental right of pass and repass has been curtailed by yobs, there are few things more important.

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve not noticed the problem, nor has anyone mentioned it to me. Perhaps I should actively ask people if they have any recent personal experience of yobbism (as opposed to having seen it on TV).

    And and that chavscum website is clearly being a little tongue in cheek if it counts David and Victoria Beckham as celebrity chavs. The only definition I know of a ‘chav’ is ‘council house and violent’, which I heard here a little while back.

  26. Macarnie wrote: Unless things change, and radically, it will, (and very soon) , be illegal to do absolutely ANYTHING without the express permission of that cradle of enforced feminity , the Labour Party Commissariat for Imposed Gender EQUALITY .(without the guarantee of QUALITY).

    Indeed. Perhaps we should be celebrating yobbism as the expression of an irrepressible masculinity.

    These human examples of fleshed out MP3 machines, spouting, Dalek-like, Party lines, cleverly interspersed with programmed pauses, to allow the occasional respectful question…

    The one who springs immediately to mind, somehow, is Hazel Blears (who happens to be Minister for Yobbism). Smug and self-important are two of the words that spring to mind in seeking to describe her. But I don’t think I can find any words to describe the peculiar feeling of intense revulsion that rises within me whenever I catch sight of her.

    And wasn’t there a Labour minister (of Education or something) who suddenly announced that she wasn’t up to the job, and it was all too much for her, and stepped down, without anyone even asking her to do so? I’ve forgotten her name now, but I thought that her admirable honesty contrasted strongly with that of other equally or even more incompetent ministers.

  27. I almost forgot.

    Iggy is the Right Honourable Iggy Pop, a 1970s pre-punk-rock American singer.

    Something of an acquired taste, some might say. But I noticed a year or two ago that one of his songs – “The Passenger” – featured as background music for a TV ad – which is these days the equivalent of being deified.

  28. I have an example of some yobs. MPs. They must be, as Nu Heilbour have just announced they are lifting the ban on monitoring MP’s phone calls.

    Clearly, Bozzer’s presence in parliament has upset MI5. Or the fuhrer (Hair Blerr). Probably the latter, as MI5 are not likely to be stupid enough to think MPs are terrorists.

    I hate it when Orwell is right, the cynical little git.

  29. Idlex: The Beckhams are perfect chavs in all but money and Burberry. Celebrity mad, obsessed with tacky fashion, thick, self-centred, inflated sense of their own importance (OK, so he’s a good footballer)… some even call them Uberchavs although most reserve that accolade for the lottery-winning lout Michael Carroll.

    Couldn’t agree more on the government initiative on yobbism but the news channels cannot ignore such a hot topic purely because it was a government initiative – indeed, it gives them a nice simple angle.

    I cannot believe you have not detected the menace of yobbism in our streets. Only this morning, in the small, quiet village where I live, someone set fire to the Sunday newspapers left in the bus shelter for the roundsman (we know the culprit – a chav kid up the road). A small matter but important in its own quality-of-life way.

    So who’s going to take up my point about banning advertising to children?

  30. Jack Ramsey…

    You’re right. Most of this is a moral problem. Therefore not something you can influence by legislation – only by example.

    Things always seem to go wrong when people want more than they need. The more they acquire, the more they seem to want. You can certainly apply that to individuals, but you can also apply it to business: exactly why did Sony need to take over BMG (it may have been the other way round)? Because their shareholders always want more, and it’s their job to get it.

    This is why we got lumbered with religion. To provide some crumbs of comfort for people who want more but haven’t figured out a way to get it. It’s probably why Islam’s doing so well just now, come to think of it. But religion isn’t the answer, because in the end it gets imposed.

    We live in a culture that applauds wealth and celebrity. It’s not always been that way, and there are plenty of cultures throughout history that haven’t been that way. I’m not suggesting this can be changed through legislation – that’s another evil – but I do think our attitudes will have to change.

    Greed is not good, despite all that nonsense we were spoonfed in the 80s. Passion is good. Enthusiasm is good. Awareness is good. Business is good, come to that, if it creates or launches something that genuinely benefits the human race or this place in which we live.

    Sadly, most business just creates clutter and waste, in the name of anonymous shareholders who always want more.

    There’s good business and there’s bad business, just like there’s good pop songs and bad pop songs. But I do think we need to abandon the prevailing wisdom that the markets and their mysterious forces are always a good thing. We’re surrounded by far too much garbage for that to be true.

    A final thought: you’re right to point to the net as an outlet for independent artists (and publishers/record companies). But the net is only a delivery medium. What will matter, when it settles down, is the attitudes that prevail on the net.

    I’ve gone on too long, and WAY off subject (sorry again, Boris).

  31. PaulD: I don’t think that the advertising directly aimed at children needs to be banned. It is a legitimate method of telling the world what is on offer. To ban advertising would also mean, amongst other things, the banning of shop window displays.( think of the poor window dressers).
    Any restraints should be placed,( gently , but with feeling), by the parents, on the ease of purchase of such items. A confident child should feel equally comfortable in being a trend setter as well as a follower of fickle fashion.

    Any parents of spoilt; impatient; acquisitive and downright greedy carriers of the family genes, (instead of acceding to the offspring’s plaintive cries of, “I WANT”), should spend time making their children aware of the difference between value and cost of an item. This would need to be renewed for whichever item is currently targeted as the next,“ MUST HAVE“ piece of ephemera.

    I am, from repeated experience, au fait with the oft-applied peer pressure. I believe that a child’s self esteem is, (or at least should be), sufficiently boosted, primarily in the home. This self esteem should be strong enough to resist the ‘commercial break’s’ incessantly repeated Siren call to buy some widget or other.. We must again remember that horse and water thing. It takes two to make a sale.

    The advertisers have learned how to create thirst. If such application were transferable to the education scene, it would be a gigantic step forward to making education acceptable amongst certain sections of society.

    Mark Gamon: Indirectly you were very much ON subject, since much yobbism is spawned by the envy of the possessions of
    other people .

  32. PaulD wrote: I cannot believe you have not detected the menace of yobbism in our streets. Only this morning, in the small, quiet village where I live, someone set fire to the Sunday newspapers left in the bus shelter

    I live in a small quiet village too. Perhaps this is why I haven’t detected any yobbism. Or at least, any more than there’s ever been.

    As for Sunday papers, I never buy them. They’re simply too gross. I really don’t need another foot thick heap of paper. And I half think that your chav may have been protesting against the immense waste of paper that most Sunday newspapers have become.

  33. Jonas –

    I think you’ll find some (I stress some) of Eminem’s lyrics far surpass Strummer in terms of wit, knowingness and internal complexity.

  34. Macarnie,

    “Q.) When was the last time a Labour minister VOLUNTARILY fell on his / her own sword ? ”

    Doesn’t quite fit on a pinhead, but here goes:

    Estelle Morris, as Education Secretary, October 2002

    possibly doesn’t really count as a resignation because it is actually just a cop out, rather than

    Robin Cook, March 2003
    which although a proper resignation on a point of principle, doesn’t quite fit the REAL question you are asking, which is about resignation for the behaviour of the department for which you are responsible.

    Any other suggestions?

  35. Off topic, but while I’m on newspapers, does anyone know why the Independent has gone entirely barmy?

    Today’s front page headline is: GREEN GURU SAYS: WE ARE PAST THE POINT OF NO RETURN. With 2 pages of reports, and a grim article by the green guru. My question is not about global warming, but why the Independent produces front pages like this almost every day. About the only one we haven’t had yet is: ASTEROID IMPACT DUE NEXT WEDNESDAY. Or maybe, GIANT VOLCANO FOUND UNDER SWINDON.

    It used to be a perfectly sensible newspaper 10 years ago, with headlines like INFATION SET TO RISE TO 3%. No longer.

  36. Idlex

    I don’t think the Independent would ever have had the headline about the Swindon volcano – it has never reported good news.

    The asteroid headline was in last Saturday’s – you must have missed it.

  37. Can we all stop having a pop at the chavs? They wear bad clothes, have terrible taste, and are probably too loud in company for the sensitive souls who inhabit Boris’s site. But they’re not the same as yobs. Who are aggressive, and mean to be.

    (Just think we should get our cultural stereotypes in order before we continue the debate, chaps)

  38. The asteroid headline was in last Saturday’s – you must have missed it.

    Well, I just hope it misses me on Wednesday.

  39. I don’t see why a single asteroid should make the headlines. Asteroids have nothing to do with the head, and they are ,( in general), treatable.

  40. Chavs v Yobs: It’s down to your own interpretation. I guess yobs and oiks are outdated terms, overtaken by a new breed of antisocial lout (another yesterday word?) called Chav who is more sinister than his forebears because he is proud of his stupidity, in particular his dependency on the state and his/her boundless ability at a young age to breed more Chavs who will, in turn, depend on the state (or thieving) for their material existence.

    It is a worrying development.

  41. Let’s see if I can parse this;

    Chavs are defined by class signifiers and yobs are defined by youth and violence, is that right?

    So yobbism is thuggery at any class level.

    On re-reading the post it seems to imply that if only the music were more violent the youth would be less so. I can only say it doesn’t work that way in North America.

    That said, I am off to download Black Flag, myself. Yes, legally.

  42. Mark

    Good point about chavs. Although not a huge fan of Julie Burchill I rather admire the way she took up the cudgels on behalf of chavs. She asserted, and I think not incorrectly, that teh chav phenomenom gives the PC tending middles a chance to vent their scapegoating spleen. My descendents have chav mates who are perfectly amiable although not so keen on home cooking that doesn’t involve pulling something out of a box from the freezer. Chav is meant to stand for Council House And Violent I understand but in most cases there is little V and often the Chs are ex-Chs rented off private landlords. It’s a sad fact that when many people have rightly given up blaming folk of different race, creed or how’s your father orientation they still feel the need to be beastly about someone, so the good old white ex-working class will have to do. Yes, I know I have probably done the same on this blog but I too am a sinner.

    Yobs are another thing altogether and not entirely restricted to the white ex-working class I think!

  43. Chav is meant to stand for Council House And Violent I understand but in most cases there is little V

    So, more like Council House and Vacuous?

  44. An awful lot of people seem to hate – I mean really hate – Chavs with a ferocity not even old-fashioned yobs could provoke. Perhaps this is unfair, given that many are just youths of low aspiration who enjoy having a group identitity. Nothing new in that.

    Chavdom is a state of mind as much as a uniform of Burberry, bling, and (for girls) scraped-back hair, aka the Croydon Facelift. It is a mirror on the Me-First society, obsessed with celebrity, junk food and self-gratification. Its trademark salute is the raised middle finger and communication is by grunt, peppered with the odd discernable phrase like “smash yer face in” or “gissa fag” to the innocent passer-by.

    Unlike plain yobs, the Chav in his/her various manifestations demands respect (“you dissed me”) yet gives none back.

    Chavdom also believes that scrounging off the state and shoplifting (the “five fingered discount”) is a virtuous way of life, yet it despises those who fund it.

    It is the Big Brother house magnified a thousandfold. And multiplying they are – fast.

    Is it any wonder decent people hate them? I suspect what they actually hate is Chavdom itself as a grotesque statement of our times, not necessarily the individual spotty youth in Burberry.

  45. It’s quite interesting that it’s ok to bag the Chavs.

    You can’t hack into someone for their race/sex/sexuality or class because these are now unmentionables.

    You are public enemy number one and Hitler’s handmaiden to touch any of these topics without 100% PC blinkeredness.

    But the thought police never pegged out style as a no go area (too superficial). So it’s the loophole. You CAN gripe and grumble and communicate about what you are experiencing despite a language and a culture that has done its best to limit expression/thought in these areas.

  46. Interesting point, Charlotte. I guess the main difference is that you can’t help your race / gender / age but you can choose not to be an arsehole.

  47. Mark Gamon: Jack has repeatedly admitted to LI, LII or even LIII years, perhaps he started the dynasty extremely young.
    This thread started by being concerned with Yobbism.
    Is yobbism confined any specific group or class?
    What does yobbism, specifically, encompass?
    Are all yobs automatically classified as criminals, or is there a graded list of things which they do, starting with something relatively harmless, and ending in capital crime?
    Does the term, Yob(bo), merely mean disreputable, having a want or loss of repute?

    Whatever the original meaning may have been; it has now taken on a more sinister meaning, and seems, gradually, to be taking on more powerful meanings.

    If yobs are deserving of correctional training, is the following the right way to go about it?

    According to a widely reported story today, Prisons Chief Inspector Anne Owers, has said that prisoners should not be wakened too early, and the name “ con “ should not be applied to them, because it hurts their feelings. Where does this Government find such examples of up tight; smugly grinning; self-satisfied; head –in-the-sand , double gusseted beknickered females? ( Is there a stash somewhere, known only to the NL mandarins?)
    [Ms Owers is almost a twin of Hazel Blears, or even better, Ruth Kelly, who will not countenance working in the Department of the NHS, because it condones abortion. Kelly refuses, moreover, to name and shame the teachers who are on the sex offenders list. Double standards or inverted Yobbery? Perhaps.]

    Amongst other outrageous proposals by this misguided Human Rights activist, Ms Owers , prison officers should not wear the Cross of St George on tie pins or other ornaments , since this could be interpreted as racist. Would she be so hard on the burqa? Are croissants ever served for breakfast at her home?

    Human rights? Where exactly do the responsibilities to society rate in her priorities? Will breakfast in bed become de rigueur for the rapists; murderers; con artists; arsonists; child molesters; heavy drug barons and the law breaking fraternity in general? Will it be served, with due servility, by forelock tugging prison officers?

    Anyone for a fortnight’s holiday in the Scrubs ?

    Get real Annie. Those serving time generally deserve to be punished: they ARE criminals.

    Featherbedding of hardened criminals surely cannot be seen as an option in the treatment of these people: it is no way to go. Show these people a weak side , and the floodgates are open: an inch given now is a mile very soon.

    Local,( to me ), press reports, about a certain, newly built prison, boasting a liberal regime do nothing for the confidence of the population of non-criminals. Amongst other fairly recent incidents reported, rioting in the various blocks, together with the intimidation of prison officers. Do yobs or the prison officers rule these prisons ?

    In the female jail at Styal, in Cheshire, there has been a ban on kissing of inmates, by visitors, resulting in a very marked decrease in drug abuse. Lesson , laxity in discipline is not to be recommended

    Those serving time already show, per se, a total lack of respect for society, and if society responds as Ms Owers advocates, by mollycoddling them, the last remaining vestiges of respect will be flushed down the drain. They complain about the prison food. So what! It is free and a perk of being a con. Ask for Jamie Oliver!
    I apologise for having rambled somewhat, but, at the top of the page, it DOES invite new comments amongst the old.

  48. Mac:

    You say that “Those serving time generally deserve to be punished: they ARE criminals”.

    Not always, and, before a precedent gets set (ie. no rights for prisoners), a reminder that crime CAN be just a matter of opinion. If no one else was affected by your “crime”, is it still a crime?

    Cue Martin Niemoller –
    First they came for the communists….


  49. I did qualify my statement by saying, ‘generally’, Psi.
    I abide by what I said.
    Of course there is always mileage in that piece by Martin Niemoller.
    Martin Niemoller was imprisoned in Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps from 1937 until the end of the war. Unlike many others , because he had friends abroad, he lived to tell the tale.(For those not acquainted with the man and his works, he, a Lutheran (Protestant) Pastor , wrote, in 1945:-

    First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me, but by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me…

    The above has nothing to do with the justice system in this country, and it is a red herring to suggest that the two regimes have, or ever had, anything in common.
    Whatever one might think, a murderer remains a murderer, regardless of his / her politics or religion. That is not a mere matter of opinion, it is a fact.
    I am all for ‘rights’ , but not at the expense of reciprocal responsibilities.

  50. Surely if something is illegal then it is, by definition, criminal (or at least misdemeanoral). Everyone in jail has been found guilty of a crime.

    Wait, spoke too soon. THIS is exactly why being held without charges is so heinous. If we can’t take for granted that we don’t throw people in prison until they’ve been convicted, we really have no basis for faith in the institution of government. Imprisonment without charges is an abuse, bypassing the justice system (such as it is) entirely; it’s a perversion, and a dangerous harkening back to the Dark Ages. And, of course, increasingly popular nowadays, although moreso in the US than the UK or the Great White North.

    Sorry, one of my favorite rants…shutting up now.

  51. Mark

    X is a descendent of Y
    if X is a child of Y
    if X is a descendent of Z and Z is a child of Y

    Psi and Mac

    First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Communist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up,
    because I was a Protestant.
    Then they came for me, but by that time there was no one
    left to speak up for me…

    As I understand it this means watch out when ‘they’ – the state in this case – do down someone you don’t like or you disagree with because there is a progression through various types to your own. It is an appeal to enlightened self interest. That’s all very good but it might be more morally uplifting if there were no progression and you stood up for the communist though you detest communism and there was no further repression.

    I hate to say this Psi as I usually watch out eagerly for your comments but it’s a bit of a facile rhetorical device to quote the first line and then metaphorically nod sagely and invite the reader to work out how it supposrts your view. In this case it obviously doesn’t.

    Let’s apply Niemoller’s progression to a current case. The BNP chairman is on trial for saying things that are pretty offensive. From what I’ve heard he did not incite violence or people to break the law – if he did someone will correct me no doubt. It is actually irrelevant what my views are but so we don’t get taken off track I loathe what the BNP really is. If the BNP can be shown to be materially organising or be connected to groups organising violence then it should be banned. (and not be let off as Sinn Fein was despite its connections with the IRA.). That is not the case at present. So first they came for the fascists but I didn’t protest because I wasn’t a fascist, then they came for UKIP……… I have just broken my own rule but I think my meaning is clear.


    Good point but gypsies can choose whether or not they are travelling folk and you say the same sort of thing about gypsies as people say about chavs enough and you may be in trouble.

  52. Jack:
    “As I understand it this means watch out when ‘they’ – the state in this case – do down someone you don’t like or you disagree with because there is a progression through various types to your own. It is an appeal to enlightened self interest. That’s all very good but it might be more morally uplifting if there were no progression and you stood up for the communist though you detest communism and there was no further repression.”
    To MY reading and interpretation, it is NOT about self-interest, but an awareness of the rights of others – because any of us could suddenly find we are criminals because the government is out of control.

    I apologise for not writing the whole poem…it was not intended as a cheap trick, but, as has been mentioned in this very thread, it is already in full on this site in at least 2 places…i was just being too lazy to write it all out again!

    Brian Haw sits outside Parliament every day and night, and has done since the Iraq war was illegally embarked upon. The Government tried to enact a law just to get rid of him (no protest within 1 km of parliament*). They are currently trying to ban long term protests, as this first plan failed to rid them of the troublesome protestor. Whilst Mr Haw is doing no harm to anyone, he does represent the feeling of millions of Brits. He is NOT a criminal…but our Goverment wants to make him one.

    That aside, I was aware you said “generally” earlier, and i apologise for exagerating the point…but losing contact with the fine detail can be a terrible mistake.

    (*=Why does the Government WANT protest made illegal anyway? Am I really the only one that finds this disconcerting?)

  53. Psi

    Probably I was being a little strong. Apologies.

    To MY reading and interpretation, it is NOT about self-interest, but an awareness of the rights of others – because any of us could suddenly find we are criminals because the government is out of control.

    The first part is spot on – the rights of others are what we are interested in here. But we should do this whether or not our own rights are threatened. So your ‘because’ introduced the self interest.

    I don’t agree with Mr. Haw but his right to what he does is the same whether millions of others or no one at all shares his views. If he has been stopped because he is an embarrassment then this is wrong. If there is a genuine security problem then this should be made clear.

    The example of the lady who read names off a war memorial is clear cut I think. There was no security issue at all and, although again I don’t support what I think her view is (anti Iraq intervention) I support her right to make such a protest.

  54. Iraq Intervention. Hmmm. A most interesting turn of phrase.

    The illegal bombing and subsequent invasion of a sovereign country is another way of putting it.

    The theft of vast mineral deposits by a technologically superior bully yet another.

    Saddam killed his own people, true. But the greater majority still lived in peace and safety. Now the whole country is a hell hole, the allies have been responsible for more deaths than Saddam, and the risk posed to this country is infinitely greater than it was before the war.

    No, on balance, I think I am on Brian Haw’s side.

    I also think that this attitude that the war had a positive side is the same type of attitude that Chavs assume to justify their anti-social lifestyles.

    Meanwhile… I notice that the infantry are advertising for recruits at the moment. How long is boot camp nowadays? Just trying to put a timetable on this forthcoming war with Iran…

  55. Can you choose not to be an arsehole? Hmmm..

    You could debate that point but I see what your saying Paul

  56. Psi

    The war against Saddam’s army ended over two years ago. Currently the coalition is trying to reconstruct Iraq not just from the effects of that war but much more so from Saddam’s legacy.

    Question – what is a sovereign country?

    I don’t support Mr. Haw but I think he has a right to protest where he is unless a genuine security problem can be shown to exist. I don’t support Nick Griffin either but unless he is breaking the law he also has a right to speak. This does not stop me thinking that a world with fewer Nick Griffins would be a better place.

    I suspect you don’t support Mr. Griffin but do you think he has a right to speak?

  57. Of course Mr Griffin has the right to speak. If he wants to talk a load of nonsense about things he actually knows nothing about, fair play. I would never deny him the right to say them.

    On the other hand, with free speech comes responsibility. If he, or anyone else, fails to accept that responsibility, then they must pay the consequences. Inciting violence or hatred towards others is irresponsible. There are consequences. They must be faced. But the freedom to speak (only actually a right here for a very few years) is something that should never be taken away.

    Ok, i repeated myself a bit there. Same words, different order, etc. Sorry. Very cheap trick, and i get told off for them! Hopefully you get my point.

    And a sovereign country is a self-governing independent country with a chief of state. I’m not a fan of Fuhrer Blair, but if the (insert random nation) invaded to get rid of him, then i’d fight for our independence using whatever materials and means that i could to repel the invaders.

    And the political mess in that middle eastern part of the world pre-dates saddam. In fact, i think it may well of been us that split tribal homelands (nations, if you will) into artificial countries that suited our ends at the time. As we sowed, so we shall reap i suppose!

    Getting back on topic, and also “responsibility”, the problem with your average Chav is that they love their freedoms, but evade the responsibility that freedom requires. This is something that requires education, NOT legislation.

    I’m not opposed to punishment – in fact, i’m a firm believer that, say, repeat rapists should be castrated using a pair of bricks. I am not altogether opposed to caning being re-introduced to schools (i learned how to behave myself VERY quickly – or, at least, how not to get caught…). Bring back workgangs too. Just make sure that it is all done with the proper amount of responsibility.

    (still opposed to the death penalty!!)

    The system, ANY system, is not perfect. And it is because of this that we must show our own responsibility in how we deal with those that do harm to others. We must also remember what crime actually is, and avoid punishing people for things that don’t do harm to others. And we must retain the stance that everyone is innocent unless proved guilty. Something that Labour are trying to do away with!!

    Can anyone pinpoint when commonsense became uncommonsense?

  58. Getting back to the more mundane question of yobs and stereotypes (ahem)…

    Jack’s note is as interesting as Charlotte’s. They both point to one thing: if you can develop a reputation as a victimised minority, you become a protected species, eventually becoming sanctified by the PC brigade.

    So, chavs, go for the “victim” plea and you’ll become untouchable.

    I suppose in some ways they are victims; victims of the insidious dumbing-down process that has been going on around us for the last decade or two. It’s hard to see where it all started. Educationists and teachers? The multinationals? Murdoch and Desmond? TV producers? The lawmakers and lawyers? Ambulance chasers and the compensation lobby? Human Rights Act?

    Not so hard to see who’s perpetuating it!

  59. Those serving time generally deserve to be punished: they ARE criminals. (Macarnie)

    i’m a firm believer that, say, repeat rapists should be castrated using a pair of bricks. (Psimon)

    In general, my own view is that we should not be punishing people at all. Ultimately punishment boils down to injuring people who have caused injury, and is another instance of “an eye for an eye”. As Gandhi remarked, given such a law, everyone will end up blind.

    For myself, I would look around for some sort of imaginative alternative to prison, where malefactors are obliged, in some way, to make good the harm they have caused, rather than in turn suffer harm themselves. Prison should be reserved for the minority of criminals who pose a genuine and continuing threat.

    And, in addition, we should stop inventing new crimes with which to criminalise people. It used to be perfectly legal for people to use more or less any drug until the drug laws of the 1920s, and now we have thousands of people behind bars. And even smoking looks set to be banned in public places.

    We are in growing need of a wholesale reform of the law, from top to bottom.

  60. Psi

    Sorry to labour the point but the reports I read, which may be incomplete of course, indicate that Griffin has said some pretty unpleasant things in private meetings but there has been no incitement to violence. Does the Niemoller progression apply and should we be demonstrating against the trial of Mr. Griffin?

    Chavdom seems not to require yobbism or criminality, just rather bad taste as far as some middles think. One of my original motivations in being a leftist so many years ago was middle class snobbery about the working classes and people of other races. (I’ve still got the motivation but it drives me more towards Mr. Cameron nowadays.) What cheeses me now is the same snobbery about people who eat and wear different things. I am not suggesting a PC Anti Anti-Chav League. On topic, if we are worried about yobs, hooligans and thugs there is nothing useful or right about targeting a visible minority like chavs, any more than there is about targeting gypsies.

  61. Jack –

    I agree. I used to be in favour of free speech restrictions in relation to racial hatred because it was obvious that no one can choose their genetic make up and therefore it should be considered a special case separate from say class, regional, national and religious hatred (although of course misogyny and its female equivalent should be placed on the same footing on that basis).

    However developments in recent years have caused me to question this. We see so many attacks on free speech now that one has to question even whether the laws on racial hatred are justified. The application of the law seems to have creeped into all sorts of areas – so someone cannot make the point even say that asylum seekers are reducing employment opportunities for
    citizens of this country (not necessarily my view by the way, since it seems the indigenous population isn’t v. keen to deliver Pizzas in the rain in the middle of winter).

    I hate Nazis and consider that if they are conspiring against our democratic state, posing as “nationalists” and so on, whislt secretly planning to estbalish a Nazi dictatorship then they should be dealt with on that basis. I would hope Special Branch collect relevant material on such groups.

    However, should we be punishing someone for saying how they see the world. I think not.

    Of course it is a fine line. We should always prosecute incitement to violence (but when was the last time someone on a picket line was prosecuted for shouting “die scum” at strike-breakers?). Some cases may be borderline in that sense.

  62. It seems that this racism thing has lost its way.
    The still white majority are castigated and even prosecuted for saying things which might,( and sometimes even do), cause the non- white population to be upset; even angry. It should not happen in a civilized society, but it does.

    There is , however,a question which needs to be asked, :- Apart from such obviously clear cut cases as that of the Hooked Radical Muslim Preacher, Abu Hamza ; at present undergoing trial; who makes much fuss about the obvious racism shown between members of the different minorities, or even between the minorities and the white majority?

    I am all for racial fairness, but not mere PC “fairness”. one sidedly posturing in a cul de sac .

    Justice wields a sword, as well as a set of scales: a balance must be drawn or there is no justice.

    It has been proved , on this very blog , that thinking people are perfectly well able to discuss racial and ethnic differences , rationally and objectively, without resort to insults.

    As for the Mahatma’s wise musings about about, “An eye for an eye until all are blind” ,it should not be forgotten that , in the Kingdom of the blind; the one eyed man is King.

    If the contributors to this blog form a reasonable cross section of society at large, there is hope for peace in the world of multi-racialism.

  63. Jack: I very carefully shyed away from saying that Mr Griffin had actually said anything offensive, going by my other point that people are innocent until proven guilty. Sorry, WERE innocent until proven guilty. I forgot Blair’s government was changing all that. I do not trust a single newspaper to report the trial accurately, and haven’t had the chance to go down the library to read them all (and divide by themselves, etc, hopefully leaving what is actually news).

    As i said, i don’t care what Griffin says – to me it’s all a pile of manure, i have no respect for him or his opinions, and will happily argue my points face to face with him. I would not prevent free speech.

    It’s up to HIM to be responsible for what he says.

    Field: Saying “die scum!” once, you may get away with it. Under the new anti-terror laws, though, saying it TWICE could get you up to 30 years inside. It has also been an arrestable offence since the beginning of this month. Just so you know…i wouldn’t want you to get yourself in trouble!

  64. Whilst James Blunt and the Kaiser Chiefs have formed the soundtrack to my life for the last few months – this is a column of legendary value.

    Though one must ask, with our new leader being of the iPod generation, perhaps Boris’s advancing years prevent him seeing the wonder of the Kaisers? Said with all possible respect, of course.

  65. What ever happened to these people?

    Grandmother-of-six Mari Savage and other senior friends in Margate, England, began a campaign this summer to wear hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps, in order to discourage teenagers from dressing that way, which Savage believes encourages gang behavior. Said Savage, to the Daily Telegraph, “Once older people like us get hold of (these garments), they lose all their street cred.” [Daily Telegraph (London), 7-14-05]

  66. All the people wearing police uniforms around here seem to be teenagers. I hope the ladies are over 16 else I’ll never get a job in a school.

  67. Jack Ramsey: Chav’s are not the minority. You are. Why else do you think your media is dumbed down, mass culture degraded and the mass market overflowing with tacky bits of kit? Its genus Chav.

  68. Charlotte

    We may need to tighten up on what we mean by chav and do some research on numbers to see if they constitute a minority or majority.

    I suspect I am a minority and probably a good thing for everyone else. Whilst I would love a television service with wall to wall Hancock’s Half Hour and Dad’s Army, the Dubliners and Shirley Bassey belting out of the steam radio and the Booker prize being won by George MacDonald Fraser, I don’t think the rest of you are ready for this cultural revolution.

    However I am a little concerned when undoubtedly good, kind and intelligent people, such as the people on this blog, blame a whole group for deeds done by a minority of that group and of other groups. I am concerned by Islamacism – roughly a movement to introduce the Caliphate and sharia law – but I don’t assume that Muslims I meet subscribe to this unless I have reason to do so.

    I guess culture is what you make it to some extent. The population under communist rule had very much more rigidly controlled access to the arts than is the case here. Yet there was, as Roger Scruton notes in a recent book, an illicit flowering of culture that ironically withered to some extent after the fall of communism. I am not suggesting an introduction or return of communism to revitalise culture West and East. That would be rather like in the story where roast pig is discovered to be good nosh after one was burnt in a house. Since the supply of houses was limited it was a rare delicacy.

    The domination of culture by lowest common denominator churner outers on the one hand and the weirdos of the Turner prize awards on the other does not stop anyone from exploring what I call for want of a better term real culture. The excellent Naxos people sell CDs at £5 a go (5 for £20 in many places), you can get all of Dickens’ at £1.50 a go in Wordsworth Classics from Amazon, the museums and galleries are mostly free or inexpensive. If your taste is for non-commercial up your nose music there are good little independent music shops. (Sorry folks I can’t stand it but chacun a son goat as Mac observed, though what goats have to do with it I cannot say)

    If all the people who lamented the dreariness of modern mass culture just keyed into what they like and talked about it more then we might spread the idea of a culture without prescription but with the idea that making a little effort in the aesthetic department may repay many times over. And we would still all have our own goats!

  69. I have to say Jack R. that some of the so-called ” music” being peddled today on certain radio stations sounds very much as if it might emanate from the larynxes of a tone deaf herd of goats.
    And, what about Julie Andrews goatherd song ; Yodel- eh – hi-who ? Were they the choirmasters of the day?

    It will soon be the 250th anniversary of the birth of a REAL musician: he had nothing whatever to do with a goat, unless Salieri had leanings in that direction:(btw zyx Classic CDs do a fine selection of Wolfie’s works at about the same price as your SAXON company )( Think about it !)

  70. Mac

    The last time I met a goat I could not help but be impressed by the ripe odour. As to its musical ability I would not venture an opinion.

    Inversely, I am reminded of the English lady who on hearing the bagpipes said “We must be grateful that they do not have a smell as well”.

    (Before I get attacked by Caledonians, Hibernians and Northumbrians let me say that I like a bit of bagpipes myself. And goat curry)

  71. J.R.
    What might have been a rank or ripe odour to you, would probably be as enchanting to another, differently gendered, member of the caprine family
    as Chanel N0.5 ,
    It is, after all, in the sensitivity of the smeller’s olfactory organ.

    I too have a tenderness for the pipes, so much so that I can’t prevent the odd lump in the throat, whenever I hear them.

  72. Mac

    I trust you do not think me speciesist. Moral relativism goes straight to my sinuses but I think a certain amount of olfactory relativism is only fair. There are limits of course. Reintroduce burning at the stake for people on buses who have forgotten where the soap is!

  73. You two are very funny. I hope you meet up some day; no doubt you would get along.

    Jack Ramsey good points all!
    You can seek out and get hold of most things you might want that’s true. It’s a bit isolating though at times. If your interests are counter culture there are fewer people to share what you love. Fewer people on the bus who have read what you have or thought what you have. Then of course there are things that are very expensive to make like television and film which become more difficult to make for a niche audience.

  74. J.R.
    It sounds as if you have had a great deal to do with the great unwashed. Do you travel extensively in France ?

    For about 3 months ,(until I eventually found a parking space ),I used to get the tram from outside Frankfurt ( Am Main) railway Station: if you think that BO alone is grounds for the Bell Book and Candle treatment , followed by the Stake and a Swan Vesta, you have not had intimate , although not requested , body contact with the Gastarbeiter hordes whose diet seemed , to an unschooled nose, to consist entirely of garlic and curry: in an infinite variety of mixes.

    I was only on board the hugely overcrowded tram for about 1 kilometre, but I was in dire need of oxygen at the end of every ride.

  75. 1. Female goats don’t really smell…it’s the males.

    2. It’s curried goat, not goat curry (so a west indian friend bellows at me everytime i get it wrong!)

    3. The french invented the bagpipes as a joke the scots still haven’t got.

    4. As an individual, i hereby declare myself a minority.

    5. Aren’t lists really annoying.



  76. Psi:
    If nanny goats don’t smell, why do billie goats reek so badly? ( To our sensibilility anyway ). The aroma must be an aphrodisiac in the goat world, otherwise they would not reek at all.

  77. Charlotte

    Of course we have this magnificent blog as an alternative to Big Brother culture. Vigourous proposal and defence of views, an e-camaraderie which takes pride in difference and a lack of pomposity (or else it gets punctured very quickly!). Perhaps we can all be forgiven for rambling off topic from time to time. Many thanks Melissa and Boris! You have provided a small but jewel like means of adding to the gaiety of nations!

    In East Anglia it’s goat curry. These Johnny-come-latelies in the Western Indies of Her Majesty’s Northern American Colonies can call it what they like!

  78. 3. The french invented the bagpipes as a joke the scots still haven’t got.

    I recently heard that hogmanay is actually french for something.

    But I’ve forgotten what.

  79. Since the thread has stretched so far already,the word ‘Hogmany’ has been in use since the late seventeenth Century.The old French ‘aguillaneuf’ ( the last day of the year),is said to be the root, but, since Lowland Eastern Scotland had lots of trade with the Netherlands at this time, Dutch words were absorbed into the lowland Scottish language (example: ‘ilke’ to mean ‘each’ or ‘every’: from the Dutch ‘elke’ which has that meaning).

    If I may,I would like, perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek, to nominate a possible root from which Hogmanay might have grown: ‘Oog’is the Dutch word for ‘eye’ in English . It is not a giant step ,to think, that perhaps at New Year, the merchants swore renewed honest trade allegiances by looking directly into each other’s eye; thus the bi-lingual ‘Oog mijn eye'( roughly , look me in the eye)— bingo! Hogmanay.

    Of course this is as likely as the imminent dicovery of the elixir of life , but a bit of fun , nonetheless.

    As for the pipes, the Romans ; the Greeks , and not to forget the Turks, as well as others, all played similar instruments. Not all pipes are of the same construction, and their sounds are distinctively different.
    As with the Dutch, Scotland had a long alliance with the French, so things do rub off.

  80. thus the bi-lingual ‘Oog mijn eye'( roughly , look me in the eye)— bingo! Hogmanay.

    Brilliant, Macarnie! I will use this explanation hereafter.

    I now look forward to your account of the discovery of the elixir of life – aqua vitae?

  81. On reflection, the bi-lingual ‘Oog mijn eye’ could be rendered into English as ‘Ogle mine eye’.

    English traders did not just look into each other’s eyes; they ogled each other’s eyes. This imbued a far more profound trust than the perfunctory Dutch glance, and led to the rise of the City of London to pre-eminence as a trade centre.

  82. Idlex: Just a thought : the result of such ogling was probably the founding of the district of Soho, where much ogling still goes on ,( so I am told). Trade is still brisk , (in some commodities).You can’t keep a good ogler down.

  83. the article started well, simply destroying the modern music scene with its ‘pink is the new black’ thesis; then carried on well to point out the inadequacies of Blair’s new policies and the inadequacies of the majority of the public to see through them.

  84. Once the practice of ogling was established, and one was ‘bound by ogle’, the boondoggle was born.

    I think we are on a journey of exciting discovery here.

  85. My understanding of the word boondoggles, (Polynesian : bundok,) is ” rough countryside consisting of dense brush”—- Not much changed there then. This word was imported , via Falmouth , and its use stretched slowly northward , throughout the whole of the fair land of Cornwall, until it was used exclusively, in its truncated form of ‘Oggie’ to mean a pastry parcel of delicate flavour, much appreciated by native tin miners.

    By association , it was also used to describe those eating the confection. One can still hear the echoes of the word whenever the Cornish and other members of the celtic fringes get together.

    I heard that in the eyes of these people,(some of them carrying giant leeks ),a rugby ball apparently resembles the original pastie, releasing primaeval cries of Oggie-Oggie – Oggie, whenever one is punted on the pitch.

  86. But then, ogam was the ancient (perhaps even Ogygian) celtic alphabetic system.

    This ‘og’ may be one and the same as the ‘oc’ of the Languedoc.

    Indeed, one should not needlessly multiply the entities. This was, after all, the famous maxim of William of Occam, also known as Occam’s Razor.

    His maxim, I mean, not him.

  87. Idlex: When I lived in Bayern, albeit but briefly, I was made aware of this most English of temporary immigrants, i’e Gastarbeiter, Ockham Willie, who died there at the age of about 64, making him sort of permanent.

    The church authorities, ( all powerful in Bavaria at the time) , called him either Venerabilis Inceptor,( venerable person of enterprise), or Doctor Invincibilis ,( invincible doctor).

    Whilst in Bavaria ,he never shaved : he never played rugby; and finally he was born in Surrey.
    Hardly a Celt.

    I cannot, in all fairness ,accepy his claim to be the originator of that most Celtic of chants, Oggie- Oggie -Oggie!
    What about that old favourite, floccinoccinihilipillification as a source?

  88. Whilst in Bavaria ,he never shaved

    Quite apart from your other observations, this undoubtedly calls into question the existence of even Ockham’s razor.

  89. One may even wonder if Billie O’Cam was just some unshaven Surrey yob, with a particularly nasty way with a knife, who has somehow been entirely mistakenly mis-identified as a leading Scholastic.

    I wonder how many other cases of mistaken identity are out there waiting to be discovered?

  90. My goodness, y’all have some powerful booze over there.

    George Macdonald Fraser is to literary fiction what Shirley Bassey is to opera. The dance mix is always better. Surely there is a Hyacinth Bucket Literary Prize for which he could be nominated?

  91. The law of parsimony( The famed Razor).

    Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate; “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.”

    Although a theologian, our Billie’s school of thought denied the concept of a father having any reality,apart from the signifcance of the term . Most disturbing thought really: it’s no wonder he didn’t shave.

    Attention Andrew Lloyd Webber!

    Cue musical ?
    I for one , am exhausted, (as I think is this detour).

  92. I’ll make sweet music with you *one eyebrow raised*, Mz Macarnie! Hehe… Sorry Kevin, I will remain loyal and faithful to you as long as our marriage documents survive…

    WHAT? THEY DON’T! bah.

    P.S. What? Surrey yobs? *Ahem*

  93. Halleluja !!
    Ewe are at long last back, presumably to face the music. We should perhaps, celebrate this particular re-union with a rendering of,” And sheep shall safely graze”, as a starter, with perhaps a particularly dirgeful rendering of the 23rd Psalm as a follow up.

    Either way the crozier is definitely called for.

    Kevin seems to have disappeared, rather mysteriously,without a trace, probably up his own exhaust pipe. What did you say to him ? His wife’s name , as far as anyone could tell, was of no importance.

  94. Slightly ,( but not entirely ) off topic : is it possible to accuse a corporation of yobbishness ?

    If so the title YOB might be applied to each member of those PC idiot bands of BBC mandarins, who propose to banish the Radio 4 theme tune: it is to be ignominiously damned as being nationalistic .

    Will they now decide that the BBC itself is too nationalistic because it harbours un-PC sentiments in its very title: BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION?

  95. Mac

    You probably know already but there is a petition at


    I recall that when the sprogs were very early at getting up that theme indicated that in just another 2 and a half hours I could go to work! It also brings back memories of the early morning holiday dash to the ferry. And I like it very much!

  96. Thanks Jack ; I have already registered my views on that petition.

    I am sick and tired of having to listen to the mewlings and pukings of the PC brigade, If they belonged to an endangered species , I would not contribute one brass farthing to the cause of saving it.

  97. I think the PC’s are prevented from breeding by their belief that heterosexual sex is by definition an act of sexism, so no worries there. I don’t think anyone who graduated from Antioch ever got laid.

  98. Mac

    On another tuneful matter Google lead me to believe that today is the 250th of young Wolfgang. As I recall you are a devotee so happy listening! Spin a disc and confusion to the PC brigade!

  99. I am listening , as I write , to his piano concerto No, 21 , aka Elvira Madigan. Brilliant! Thanks Jack.

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