Hug A Hoody

Hug it or hate it, hoody remains a potent and divisive symbol 

In 2007, David Cameron, then the opposition leader, was visiting one of the most deprived estates in Manchester when a teenager ran up behind him and made a hand gesture to shoot him to impress his friends (more on that story). The photo of 17-year old Ryan Florence in a hoodie was reprinted on many frontpages — all the more ironic because only a year before, Cameron had made his famous speeches arguing that hoodies were “more defensive than offensive”.  “Hug A Hoody” — to use Labour’s then dismissive view — was a defining moment of his journey towards a softer liberalism.

But in the last few days, we have come very far from those heady days; we need to reexamine hoodies and their status in the ganglands. When the history of the last few days is debated, written, and analysed, understanding gangland culture will be more important than prejudicial fingering the usual suspects of unemployment, disenfranchisement, poverty, materialism, and racial tensions.

Of over a thousand people arrested, many were in their early teens and the youngest was 11. They stood for nothing; like Florence, they view hooliganism as a rite of passage, a youthful act of rebellion, a snub towards authorities. Sooner or later, most of them grow out of this phase. A handful, however, fails to reform. They becomes hardened gangmembers and anarchists who in turn recruit another generation of impressionable teens as their foot soldiers. Through promises of drugs, social acceptance and protection, they manipulate others, and this weekend, they have shown their power once again by outmanoeuvring police with their urban guerrilla tactics. Their symbol? Hoodies.

Yesterday, in a speech that echoed the sentiments towards kilts after the Jacobin Rebellion, the former Deputy PM John Prescott entertained a hoodie ban. Defensive, offensive or not, hoodies are oppressive. In Hood Rat, a haunting expose of London’s gang culture by Gavin Knight wrote, “Not everyone in a hoody is a gang member, some are just teenagers wearing hoodies, but the line is deliberately kept blurred”. In many inner-cities, teenagers feel they have to wear one for their own survival. They are terrified, trapped, intimidated by older gang members. Hoodies have such cultural power that they become their own unique kind of weapon.

 And for this reason alone, this house believes that they should be banned.

Climate v. Politicians

(Clockwise from left to right: Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of European Commission; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, American President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown).

Minutes before this picture was taken, Obama was meeting with China, India, South Africa and Brazil, when the main elements of his accord were stamped out in a humiliating slap in face for US and Europe. The above meeting during the final hours of the Copenhagen Summit on 18th December 2009 was not behind the closed doors. As the Daily Mail mused, Gordon Brown served the appointed note-taker for the group, scribbling away furiously, seemingly struggling to keep up with Merkel. Nick Clegg pointed out the above photo in this evening’s debate, saying Brown sat on the sidelines at Copenhagen. He is only partly right: Europe and Brown were pushed out to the side by Obama and China. But I thought I might begin with that photo before seguing into a political rant on an issue (I think) I am qualified for:

I agree with Clegg (and to lesser extent Cameron) on renewable portfolio standards. I was privileged to have been part of three commissions that complied the cost-benefits analyses of nuclear and wind power. As Clegg said, nuclear just doesn’t pay off, and government subsidies are just wasteful. Europe is trying to build third generation plus reactors in trial-and-error method, which is even less cost efficient. (In Finland, their reactor’s concrete shell had to be torn down after it didn’t meet standards and the reactors is already 37 months behind schedule 45 months into building).

Don’t let scientists and politicians fool you by saying nuclear costs comparatively the same as wind and solar. It is true ONLY if the construction finishes ontime (the industry has the history of 250% delays and bond defaults), and if all special material costs remain uninflated (which they don’t) throughout the construction. In addition, there is no waste fuel processing facility in planning, and nuclear plants have security precautions that force them to stop operating in hot days (24 C and above). They are harder to get back on the grid once shut down, and need entire restructuring of the electricity grid because their output doesn’t vary (though demand does). The world produces only a third of nuclear scientists needed every year and with big plans in China, the gap will become even greater. Yes, we can overcome all of this but it will make nuclear far more costlier than say a national initiative for carbon use efficiency, which I totally support.

On windpower, onshore windpower is be a political disaster–Natural Parks and marginal constituencies won’t wear it. Noise. Vast expenses of land wasted. Agricultural aircrafts redirected. High transmission costs (from Norther Scotland, where current onshore windplants are). It too need restructuring the grid to account for intermittency of wind. Offshore wind (the proposed London array) near quickly-developing Southeast is looking good, but all three parties have their own reservations and supporters for the project (foreign investments, diversion of resources from marginals in the North) and it is going very slowly if at all.

Please don’t comment on this post with “climate change is a hoax” comments. What I am advocating for is a change towards responsible living (insulation, solar panels on roof, less carbon footprint, cheaper bills, energy diversification, technological investment) which I believe is a good thing to adhere to with or without climate change.

… and I saw this when I was in Copenhagen for the conference and thought it was witty.

The Bullingdon Club

I don’t usually made political predictions, but if there is one reason David Cameron might lose the General Election, it is the above photo–a picture taken in 1987 at Brasenose College, Oxford which Cameron attended. Although the Labour party accused him of being a member of a secret society,the Bullingdon Club, is far from a secret society. Immortalized as the Bollinger Club by Evelyn Waugh, the Buller usually make its presence known by throwing exclusive yet rambunctious parties.

Above,

(1) the Hon. Edward Sebastian Grigg, the heir to Baron Altrincham of Tormarton and current chairman of Credit Suisse (UK)

(2) David Cameron

(3) Ralph Perry Robinson, a former child actor, designer, furniture-maker

(4) Ewen Fergusson, son of the British ambassador to France, Sir Ewen Fergusson and now at City law firm Herbert Smith

(5) Matthew Benson, the heir to the Earldom of Wemyss and March

(6) Sebastian James, the son of Lord Northbourne, a major landowner in Kent

(7) Jonathan Ford, the-then president of the club, a banker with Morgan Grenfell

(8) Boris Johnson, the-then president of the Oxford Union, now Lord Mayor of London

9) Harry Eastwood, the investment fund consultant

In the photo taken in 1992, there are eight famous faces:

(1) George Osborne, now the Shadow Chancellor;

(2) writer Harry Mount, the heir to the Baronetcy of Wasing and Mr. Cameron’s cousin;

(3) Chris Coleridge, the descendant of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the son of Lloyds’ chairman David Coleridge, the brother of Conde Nast managing director Nicholas Coleridge

(4) German aristocrat and managing consultant Baron Lupus von Maltzahn,

(5) the late Mark Petre, the heir to the Barony of Petre;

(6) Australian millionaire Peter Holmes a Cour;

(7) Nat Rothschild, the heir to the Barons Rothschilds and co-founder of a racy student paper with Harry Mount

(8) Jason Gissing, the chairman of Ocado supermarkets.

Two figures on left of (6) and (7) were blacked out before the photo was released, causing wild allegations. Their identities are yet unknown. My top contenders (based on the influence in the City, the Athenaeum and their Oxford prominence) include:

(1) the Hon. Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, former president of the Oxford Union and “one-man think-tank”

(2) the Hon. Adam Bruce, the son of the Earl of Elgin and incumbent Unicorn Pursuivant of Arms

(3) the Hon. Edward Vaizey, the son of Lord Vaizey and the Shadow Minister for Culture

(4) the founder of Think Tank Policy Exchange, and conservative activist Nicholas Boles

(5) Steven Hilton, the director of strategy for Cameron and godfather of Cameron’s children

The pictures were withdrawn from circulation as the Oxford-based company Gillman and Soame, which own the copyright, was persuaded to withhold the further permission to show the picture. Mr. Cameron has since shown embarrassment for his association with the Bullers but these photos could easily have tipped the outcome of the close election. The Brits are still conscious about a classless society: although most of the British prime ministers hail from Eton-Harrow, Oxbridge circles, there still deep animosity towards elites. Douglas Hurd, Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, wrote: “If I had not gone to Eton I would have become Prime Minister in 1990.” During the Tory leadership contest in 2005, David Cameron was discounted because he was an Old Etonian, a name Gordon Brown throws at him usually these days. John Prescott called the conservative front-bench an “Eton mafia,” while a lot of influential journalists (outside of Murdoch circle) are dismissed of the old school ties too. [In fact Mr. Cameron is descended from an illegitimate child of William IV and his wife  from an illegitimate child of Charles II by Nell Gwynn].

It will be a pity if he loses just because of where he went to school. Cameron himself is a moderate, and has assembled the most celebral shadow cabinet since Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s.

Read more about David Cameron in Vanity Fair.