If I could speak to Dave..

I’d rant for a good hour or so. Here is some of what I’d say:

Stop blaming everyone you can think of for the riots, especially those who you think won’t argue back.

Stop touting ridiculous, draconian measures that you know will excite your supporters. (Where do you propose the families of rioters will go to live when they are evicted from their council homes?)

Stop saying this happened because of children who have no father.

By blaming the absent fathers, you’re saying that single mothers are doing a rubbish job.

If you think the children of single mothers are to blame for this, are you suggesting parents should stay together at all costs? Research conducted by Refuge* recently revealed that one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in her life. Don’t blame that on your ‘Broken Britain’ – it’s been happening since time began. Should these women shut up and stay put, for the sake of a ‘happy family’ and a tax break?

My son has no father. Sometimes, he interrogates me about where his daddy is and I can’t answer. All I can do is bring him up the way that seems best.

So far, it’s going well. A couple of weeks ago, my son won a trophy, for his outstanding attitude to school life. Last week, his sports teacher said he is ‘an absolute joy’ to teach. His school report described him as ‘a lovely, bright little boy’ who is ‘very well behaved’ and has ‘impeccable manners.’

I know there’s nothing worse than a parent boasting about how wonderful their child is, but there is a place for it here. Lots of other single mums are also raising lovely kids.

Don’t get me wrong, my son is only five. I know there’ll be trouble and angst in ten years from now. But he watched with horror when he recognised his local shops on fire on the news last week. I’d like to think that if he was fifteen when Salford Precinct, just down the road from us, was being looted, he wouldn’t have joined in.

My son hasn’t got a father, but he does have family and friends who love him dearly and help me endlessly. I know I am lucky to have so much moral and practical support – support which some parents, single or otherwise – simply do not have. Some parents struggle. This where brilliant projects like Reclaim come into play. We can help children to become leaders in their own communities, to realise their potential, to buck stereotypes, to have ambition. It works. Some of the most sense I have seen in the media about all of this has come from the young people of Reclaim.

I went back to university and finished my degree when my son was a baby. I don’t think I could have done that with the changes you have made to the system. Having a degree made me more employable and enabled me to get a good job. It was only then that I could afford to stop claiming child maintenance. I wouldn’t have been able to start claiming it in the first place had there been a charge of £100, plus money deducted from the rare fiver a week I got. That’s what you’re about to start doing. Charging people to claim child maintenance because they have ‘chosen’ not to come to an amicable arrangement is a spectacular example of the ignorance your government has for people living life as it really is.

I know I’m lucky Dave. I know my education has made it easier for me than it is for others, but what does that mean for the next generation?

Education just got more elitist. EMAs have gone. Degrees will cost 50k. There is no incentive for children to stay on at college.  They are watching the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. They’re bored, they’re frustrated and they’re furious. They’re constantly told that massive tellies and flash trainers will make them look good but there is nothing to make them ever think that they will be able to obtain them. They feel like they’ve got nothing to lose.

There is no excuse for what people did to their own cities last week, but there are some explanations as to why it all began.

If Britain is broken, who broke it?

Last week didn’t happen because of single mums, but a lot of it was to do with you and your policies.

If I could speak to Dave, I’d say all of that and a whole lot more… I wonder if he’d listen.

*Show your support for the 1 in 4 Women Campaign. Help break the silence: http://www.facebook.com/oneinfourwomen

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “If I could speak to Dave..

  1. Fascinating report detailed in the most recent More Or Less podcast… http://itun.es/iBX2PD Basically says that one contributing factors of riots include massive growth in population of Tottenham over the last two decades and the austerity cuts. Even cuts that have yet to take place can contribute to riots and demonstrations. It’s a short but excellent examination of some relevant and interesting data. I really love your blog by the way.

  2. Great post! You can just tell that Cameron was itching to blame single mothers for the whole thing. I’m not condoning the violence of the riots either, some scenes were simply horrifying, but simplistic, slap-dash and knee-jerk ‘solutions’ are not the answer either. I just don’t think Cameron does, or ever can, live in the real world where some days you have to choose between paying the bills or feeding your family.

  3. Good stuff! Don’t forget the research that shows children of parents who are in an abusive relationship and who stay together regardless, are worse off emotionally & behaviourally. Meaning that it’s actually a better “choice” for everybody to leave an abusive partner. I forget where the reference is but I’m sure I’ll have got it from Refuge / Women’s Aid resources.
    Honestly, Cameron seems to be taking on board no expert advice on this, whatsoever, or indeed on any of his government’s austerity measures. He’s really giving the impression he’s just making shit up as he goes along because he hasn’t got a clue what else to do.

  4. Rache

    Very much agree.. Well written Em xx

  5. I wouldn’t waste your breathe. Guy’s clearly a numbnuts. You however speak much sense. Great blog.

  6. Amy

    I’ve read several of your posts on the subject of Dave’s ‘absent father’ line and whole-heartedly agree with the points you make. I’m not a mother myself so I can’t totally ‘relate’ (in fact, my financee is a Father who has had to fight long and hard to get access to his child) but I do think these proposed policies designed to “keep families together” are utter utter nonsense. You sound like you’ve done a great job bringing up Tom and I love reading your blog – thanks for sharing.

  7. Ragged Thread

    I thought Dave was shallow when he first popped up, and I think so now. Shallow and mean. You on the other hand have just put into words the succinct, most pertinent parts of the whole argument. Brilliant piece of blog. Thanks!

  8. Maddie

    I’ve not commented on your blog before but I’ve been reading it for quite a while now (no idea how I first found it!) and I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with a blogger more! Im currently doing my best to convince my sister that being a single mum isn’t going to ruin her son’s life as his dad is a total loser and I’m definitely going to be pointing her in your direction.

    If all parents were like you seem to be from your posts, single or otherwise, the world would be a different place!

  9. If I could say anything to Dave I might just let my single mum’s open palm do the talking.

  10. 24601

    The Prime Minister did not blame the riots on “children who have no father”. What he has said is that it is unfair that single parents, usually mothers, are not supported by the other parent. Clearly a lot is wrong with British society, the eroding of the family is a major factor. There is a huge underclass of families with no wage earner; people who have children with no means of supporting them. All too often these are the sorts of people who we saw on TV showing up at Court with their little thugs, fag hanging out of mouth, screaming abuse at awaiting reporters – hardly the heroes Gingerbread lauds. It is this lack of parenting that has produced these children. What do you want the PM to do? Throw money at these people? New Labour did this for 13 years and all it achieved was to convince these people that the State (tax-payer) owes them a living – it is their entitlement. To compound this, cheap credit for all ensured that they all got nice TVs and holidays, etc. While people who do not get out of bed and work are rewarded for not working then this state of affairs will continue. In case you had not noticed, the benefits culture has brought this country to its knees. The PM is trying to sort this out and if that means that luxuries such as EMA and “free” post-18 education must go then so be it. Your words on tuition fees, etc. are very much red herrings – you know full well that degrees have always cost a lot of money, they were paid for by the tax payer. If you want that to continue then that money must be borrowed – and that money will be paid back by the next generations – your children and grandchildren. In any case, you know as well as I that fees are not payable up front but when the graduate is earning a decent wage. Do you really believe that the little sh&ts that thought nothing of smashing up, looting and burning shops with a total disregard for the consequences were doing this because they were worried about future debts they might incur? Do you really think they were agonising about planned Government savings and sought an outlet in arson? Don’t be ridiculous.

    • Emily

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – it’s actually quite refreshing to get comments on here from someone with different political views!

      I definitely don’t think we should throw money at people who don’t want to work. I use that term carefully as there are many people out of work who’d love a job. Unfortunately, there are people who choose not to work. Many of them have children. Some of them are single, some of them are in relationships or marriages.

      In order to change that mindset for their children and future generations, we need to show young people their potential and give them the confidence and skills to break out of a cycle many of them are sadly stuck in. We mustn’t write them off as stereotypes, but teach them to break those stereotypes and prove that they can be different.

      • 24601

        Emily I agree completely with your reply. We must not stereotype people and write them off as beyond repair. If we did that then what sort of society would this be? It is clear from your blog that your son is being brought up with values, and they come from how you live your life. The question is not easy to answer. How do we, as a society, and its representative, the Prime Minister, tackle this? I think we agree that the children from families (single parent mums, dads and also couples, married or not) who are not as lucky as your son need help. I, you and your nemesis, Mr Cameron all want too achieve the same goals here. Every child must know, that regardless of their current circumstances, they can better themselves. There is no easy way around this. The answer is, as it was for you and me, hard work. A long hard slog. Sometimes alone. Sometimes bitterly alone, shunning the seemingly easy way out when the easy way out seems so much more palatable.This is not about money, or cuts, or the current state of the British finances and who caused it . It is about a mindset. A determination. A knowledge that wanting a 32 inch plasma TV or an I-Pad is fine. But knowing that to get these you must earn it. And if that is currently beyond your means then you must better yourself to achieve this regardless of whether your mum, dad, etc. have gained by more unorthodox routes.

        Thank you for your heartfelt reply. And good luck to you.

  11. Well said. The riots should have been a wake-up call, an opportunity to ask some questions about what has been going on and then listening to the answers, not the knee-jerking ‘the-poor-are-scum-it’s-all-single-mum’s-fault’ typical Tory guff that Cameron’s been coming out with. Thanks to him I’m sure we’ll be doing this all over again in 5 years time.

    • 24601

      Neil80. However much you repeat it or want to believe it, the Prime Minister did not say or imply: “the-poor-are-scum-it’s-all-single-mum’s-fault” as you so eloquently put it. What he has said is that he thinks that it is wrong that single parents (mums or dads) should have to shoulder all the responsibilities with no support, financial or otherwise, from the absent parent. He has also suggested that families with no responsible influence might breed children with no sense of responsibility.

      I do not think that his reaction to the riots was “knee-jerk”. The first and vital course of action was to ensure that these criminals were brought before the Courts and made to pay for their actions.

      Only when this has been dealt with can we ask questions.

      And the questions we must ask have to be asked in the context of post-13 years of a government that poured billions of our hard-earned cash propping up people who would not pay their way, would not go out to work for the luxuries they demanded as their right. A generation that was given cheap credit they could not afford to repay by the banks – but that is another story.

      After these 13 years we have estates full of people who would rather sit at home on benefits, paid for by you and me, and, because the country cannot afford it and had to borrow, our children and grandchildren.

      Our education system (post education, education, education) still churns out 33% who do not achieve basic skills in maths and English at age 11.

      Who do you think should take responsibility for the people who smashed shop windows, nicked TVs and I-Pads? The tax payers, the criminals or their parents?

      Or maybe its the evil Tories?

  12. Right on Mama!
    I thought of you when I read this ridiculous article..http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2024690/UK-riots-2011-Britains-liberal-intelligentsia-smashed-virtually-social-value.html
    Of all the things I got heated about last week this was not worth the bother, but I did all the same.
    An interesting time for our children to be growing up in.
    All the best to you and your sweet boy
    x

    • Emily

      Thanks. I steered clear of the Daily Mail last week!

    • 24601

      rumijune. Which bit of this did you disagree with: “The idea that they should not steal other people’s property, or beat up and rob passers-by, appears to be as weird and outlandish to them as the suggestion that they should fly to the moon.
      These youths feel absolutely entitled to go ‘on the rob’ and steal whatever they want. Indeed, they are incredulous that anyone should suggest they might pass up such an opportunity.”

      What was your point, other that this was written in the Daily Mail and not the Guardian?

      • My point 24601 was very simply Yes, I shouldn’t expect any less from a Daily Mail columnist for single handedly trying to pin the blame on the Labour Government, it’s supporters and single mothers doing a bad job everywhere. For asking what happened to a once Great Britain, “the most civilised, the most gentle and law-abiding”. Lets just conveniently forget that the Great British Empire itself was founded on looting most of the rest of the World of its natural resources and worse..but thats old news right? Lets stick to the point in hand.
        The most pompous piece of ‘journalism i’ve ever read. I can’t help the way I am riled. So what if I read The Guardian, find sense in the majority of what I read and I am of a liberal persuasion? The fact remains those committing vandalism on a grand scale are disassociated from general society or compassion for others livelihoods and only care for a pair of trainers and a big TV. I am no social psychologist but that speaks volumes to me not just about how the individual has or hasn’t been raised but what kind of society has left these people to become so selfish, violent and feral. I suspect it’s one laden with celebrity and sportsperson endorsed crap being shoved in our faces everywhere we turn, aspirational idols and reality stars being celebrated for the bad behaviour in magazines and on TV, making it all about Me! Me! Me! Buy! Buy! Buy!. Twin this with economic depression, a huge rise in the cost of living and unemployment, an Eton educated led government taking more from the poor to cover their banker friends and multi millionaire media moguls fat arses and I think you have one recipe for chaos and I don’t believe we’ve seen the last of it.
        An interesting time in my opinion as a new mother because if I am to prevent my son from growing up in a very divided class ruled society as his father did in South Africa during Apartheid. As members of fairly equal society by World standards I think the first place we need to look is at ourselves and the lifestyle we prescribe to, the lifestyle that has led us to an economic downfall and social unrest, not putting ourselves or our political beliefs up on a pedestal to point fingers down at everyone but, as Melanie Phillips is so hungry to do.

  13. 24601

    Some commentators of both Left and Right have said that the rioters were somehow impelled by a sense of moral equivalence with expense-diddling MPs and bonus-toting bankers. I am not sure that will quite do, either. Yes, it was wrong of MPs to cheat the spirit (if usually not the letter) of the system, and yes, bankers’ bonuses are often nauseating. But I simply cannot agree that Gerald Kaufman’s expense-claim for a Bang and Olufsen television has somehow triggered or legitimated the torching of property in outer London. I am afraid the explanations will turn out to be more complex and more various. Some — quite a few – were acting out of greed. Some seem to have been actuated by a feeling of power, a desire to be “noticed”. Some, especially members of gangs, were perhaps doing it because other people were doing it in other parts of London, and they did not want to be left out. Some of them were doing it for “fun”, or excitement, or because they wanted to get one over on the “feds”. Some of them were certainly relatively affluent, and the media have rightly lingered on the millionaire’s daughter and the schoolteachers who have been accused of looting.
    The overwhelming majority, of course, came from the lower socio-economic groups, from the ranks of those who have been left the furthest behind; and the most recent figures I have seen suggest that 69 per cent of those charged have previous convictions. It has been said of these young people — and they say it themselves — that the world holds nothing for them, that they have no jobs, no hope and no future. In so far as that is true, it is something we can try to tackle. We can invest, we can “create” jobs, we can boost our apprenticeship programme, already standing at 30,000. But it is just not true to say that there are no jobs available. The London service economy is substantially dependent on migrant labour, much of it from eastern Europe, and employers confirm that these migrants have skillsets and a work ethic they cannot find in many native- born Londoners. Yes, these young people have been betrayed; but they have been betrayed by an educational system and family background that failed to give them discipline, or hope, or ambition, or a simple ability to tell right from wrong. We still have one in four London 11-year-olds functionally illiterate. No wonder they are angry and alienated. They need more tough love; they need mentors; they need to be taught to read, and to see the point of it; they need their gangs broken up and replaced with better alternatives — and we in City Hall will back the next Met Commissioner to help us achieve just that; and if they so much as dream of doing this again, they need to know that they will be caught and punished.
    Of all the explanations for the riots, the simplest is that the police lost control in the first few hours. I am sure that with 20-20 hindsight Tim Godwin, the acting commissioner, and his colleagues would agree that some things might have been done differently. But at the moment we politicians speak with forked tongue to the police. They are servants of the law, and the law provides very little protection for any police officer who may — in the heat of the moment — cause injury to a member of the public. Take the officer who allegedly pushed poor Ian Tomlinson during the G20 riots, a motion which may have been far less violent than some that have been recommended to the police over the past few days. He is facing a charge of manslaughter. That could mean life imprisonment. We need to decide at which end of the chain of events we want to be less squeamish.
    We can give the police water cannon, or else we can reassure parents that they indeed have the right to discipline their children, and we can declare that teachers are to be unambiguous figures of authority in the classroom. We can issue the police with baton rounds, or we can insist that young people will be prosecuted for swearing at an officer. We can change the law to allow the police to administer sjambok drubbings, or we adults can collectively take charge and recognise that it is up to us to give young people hope, boundaries and a moral framework. We can be less squeamish about police violence, or we can be less squeamish about the realities of young people’s needs. Of course, we could do both — and I certainly believe that robust policing is essential — but I know which is the best long-term answer. – Not my words, but very wise.

  14. liked this blog, there is a lot of prejudice about many ppl, not just single mums, and all of it is unecessary, i think we (as a nation) have become more intelligent and accepting. one day no one will feel the need to blame others or look down on them.

  15. 24601

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14745469

    3.88million families still have no wage earner.

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