The Blog

Let's End This Cycle of Violence

As I write, a man is seriously ill in hospital after being attacked with a machete at Leytonstone Tube Station. As the suspect attacked, it was reported he shouted, "This is for Syria!" Police are apparently treating the incident as terrorism related.

However, I think it more likely that the man had mental health issues but clearly there are questions that need to be answered. Was the man operating alone, or was he a pawn in a wider plan? Was he put up to the attack? Here's the thing, ISIS is operating under a perfect storm of conditions - rising poverty, growing political unrest, and swinging cuts to health services and education.

If the present government is really serious about combatting terrorism, the solution isn't bombing, but addressing these areas in this country and abroad. Violence should not be countered with more violence but with intelligence and thought. Here's my action plan for the Conservatives. None of what I propose is rocket science; it's simply what a truly engaged government that is genuinely concerned about the populace should do.

1. Protect and invest in mental health services. Patently Care in the Community is not working. ISIS have demonstrated time and time again that they have no principles and that they are willing to use people with learning disabilities and mental health issues as their "soldiers". This should not be allowed to happen. Vulnerable young people and adults should be protected - and this means dedicated centres and properly trained staff. David Cameron, cancel the plane and use the £10m instead to build more facilities aimed at young adults with mental health issues. At present, there are just two in the UK - and one is in Scotland. With a population with more than 64 million, clearly this is unacceptable. It may seem controversial to say so, but I honestly believe that if we had better support for young adults, soldier Lee Rigby, who was killed in Woolwich in 2013, would still be alive.

2. Proper investment in education. That means stop trying to turn the clock back to the 1950s when the "lower orders knew their place". Dave, the genie is out of the bottle; that ship has sailed. We live in an aspirational society, one where people want their children to do better than they have, yet the Conservatives seem intent on making sure that the children of the working classes are disenfranchised. In short, Cameron is doing his best to ensure a generation of idiots. Here's the thing: stupid people do stupid things - such as run off to Syria and get involved in terrorist organisations. Just a few days ago outside Stratford Shopping Centre, I heard a man who purported to call himself a Muslim spouting ill-informed rubbish - and there was a young man listening to him. It only takes one person to cause devastation - as recent events in Paris demonstrate. If you don't have the skills to question and challenge - and argue - you are more likely to accept rigid dogma.

3. Work hard to eradicate poverty. At present, some 39 per cent of children in London live in poverty. Again, this is unacceptable. Poverty and alienation make dangerous bedfellows - again as the Paris attacks show.

4. Bring back the infomercial. This is going to sound bizarre but bear with me. It's amazing how many of the terrorists come from similar backgrounds - and are single. As a former court reporter, I saw case after case involving men who did not have the emotional equipment to handle rejection and reacted badly (to put it mildly). I see this pretty much every day - men who are desperate to be in a relationship but have no idea how to approach women. What's needed is a series of infomercials that address modern relationships. Here's an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone - if you'll forgive the pun. We can allow men to feel comfortable discussing relationship matters - and we can kick-start the British film industry at the same time. Yeah, I said it.