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By Joseph Willits
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Tory MP Nick de Bois has disputed claims that Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, blamed the X Factor, amongst other things, for causing the summer's nationwide riots. Speaking on Sky News yesterday, Enfield MP de Bois, said that Duncan Smith was not "trying to say the X-Factor is the cause of the riots" but that the country does not "pay enough recognition … to the routes that people take which are hard work".
De Bois said that "the point about X-Factor is effectively about celebrity cultures, where there's this idea that you can have a bit of luck, and instant fame, instant celebrity status". This idea, he said, had been perpetuated by the media, often at the expense of "the route most people succeed by, in improving their life circumstances, which is effectively hard work and being rewarded for that.”
In an interview with yesterday's Guardian, with the headline, "X Factor culture fuelled the UK riots, says Iain Duncan Smith", the Work and Pensions Secretary said:
"If you look at the footballers, you look at our celebrity culture, we seem to be saying, 'This is the way you want to be'. We seem to be a society that celebrates all the wrong people … Kids are meant to believe that their stepping stone to massive money is The X Factor. Luck is great, but most of life is hard work. We do not celebrate people who have made success out of serious hard work."
According to Duncan Smith "a sense of structure and authority in kids' lives had collapsed", prompting the riots across the UK last summer. However, he was careful not to draw distinction between communities, and not highlighting fatherless families as being an exclusively African-Caribbean issue, which he accused the media of suggesting. He said:
"In Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool there are white gangs that share the same backgrounds – they come from broken homes, completely dysfunctional, mums for the most part unable to cope, the fathers of these kids completely not in the scene."
An increase in male primary school teachers was vital, said Duncan Smith, because "it becomes a problem for boys in that the only male role model they do see is the deeply dysfunctional guy with spinning hubcaps that teaches them, 'All you need to succeed is guts, not qualifications'."
The prospect of determining a young person's future beginning at school, was also raised by Nick de Bois, who hailed some of the progress made in primary schools. de Bois highlighted the Dreamcatcher scheme as an example of setting out realistic ambitions for young people. The Dreamcatcher scheme shows primary school pupils, "that actually the route to fulfilling their dreams and ambitions isn’t actually to become some hopeless, overpaid footballer or have a lucky break on something like X-factor", de Bois said. It was important, he continued, that young people meet those "who are in jobs, such as the public sector, the firemen the doctors; or the private sector, graphic designers" and to encourage "an alternative from what they’re bombarded with every day from the television screens and the media."
In the interview, Duncan Smith also suggested that bankers had enhanced a sense of inequality, "a rule for one, and not for the other" among some communities, amidst hard economic times. de Bois reiterated Duncan Smith's comments, saying:
"People are quite sickened by the sight of bankers profiting from large bonuses, when actually after years of doing what they’re doing they come cap in hand to the Government expecting to be bailed out."
de Bois said it was important to "look to the private sector, including those banks" as "they can make a contribution to actually dealing with some of the structural changes that we need in our society to help those less fortunate, by putting something back into society." It was time for business "to start putting back by mentoring people, on a permanent – not a short-term – basis" said de Bois, in order to "demonstrate that there are opportunities out there, and that these opportunities can reflect the dreams of many of these younger people".
The approach towards social mobility was being achieved, said de Bois, by "not relying on a dependency culture, creating schemes, apprenticeships, involving the private sector. That is the route to social mobility, and the route to a way out of poverty – above all else, meeting the hopes and dreams of the many talented youngsters who are out there.”