We let down the looters: Clegg to announce £50m summer schools for disadvantaged children as Lib Dem response to riots
By James Chapman
Last updated at 9:25 AM on 21st September 2011
The social tensions behind this summer’s rioting must not be ignored, Nick Clegg will warn today.
The Deputy Prime Minister will use his flagship conference speech to insist many of the looters had ‘lost touch with their own future’ because they had been let down by society.
Mr Clegg will also announce a £50million scheme to offer 100,000 disadvantaged children two weeks of summer school at the age of 11 to help them to ‘catch up and get ready for the challenges ahead’.
But it is the Lib Dem leader’s language on the riots that will cause most controversy.
He will try to rally traditional supporters by distancing himself from the Conservatives over law and order.
‘You know what really struck me? How so many of the rioters seemed to have nothing to lose,’ Mr Clegg will say.
‘It was about what they could get, here and now, not what lies in front of them, tomorrow and in the years ahead. As if their own future had little value.
‘Too many of these young people had simply fallen through the cracks, not just this summer but many summers ago when they lost touch with their own future.
‘So often the people who have gone off the rails are the ones who were struggling years earlier.’
In a sign of growing coalition tensions on law and order, Lib Dem justice minister Lord McNally revealed last night that he is attempting to resist proposals from Downing Street to toughen up sentencing powers in the wake of the riots.
He told a fringe meeting that ‘the little elves that work in Number Ten helping the Prime Minister’ were attempting to insert new offences and tougher sentences into a Bill going through Parliament.
‘If a policy has too many changes between the Commons and the Lords, the Lords is entitled to send it back to the Commons for further study,’ he said.
This will be seen as a warning of a rebellion against measures such as tougher punishments for knife crime, docking benefits of convicted rioters and evicting their families from council housing.
Lord McNally suggested the Ministry of Justice was ‘having to fend off’ Number Ten, complaining: ‘We are not fighting only on one front.’
The minister claimed some proposed offences might prove too costly and result in too many offenders being jailed. Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Tom Brake suggested Downing Street had tried to rename the legislation the ‘legal aid, sentencing and punishment Bill’.
Their interventions brought a response from Number Ten, which insisted Mr Cameron would prevail.
A senior source said: ‘Every single measure that the Prime Minister announced will stay in the Bill. Lord McNally is simply trying to trouble-make.’
In today’s speech, Mr Clegg will insist he cares most about ‘ensuring a fair start for every child’. In what will be seen as a swipe at his Tory coalition colleagues, he will suggest measures to improve social mobility are being blocked by ‘those who do so well out of the status quo’.
The Deputy Prime Minister will restate his determination to ‘break open’ internships – a pledge which caused a spat with Mr Cameron, who defended the right of people to offer placements to the children of friends and colleagues.
Mr Clegg will say he believes every child can do good things, great things, if only we give them the opportunities they deserve’.