September 18, 2017

A kid on a bike throws a brick through your car window – you could phone the police but they won’t come.

But the police would appear if you tried to punish the kid yourself in any way – you mustn’t ‘touch’ kids.

You could go to see the parents but they might well be on drugs or drunk.

And if you do react in some way, you can expect a gang of kids to come after you – and, this time, the bricks will be aimed at you and your house.

Your car has had a brick through its window and what do you do? You do nothing.

I paraphrase (and do so below, too) but that was “Greg” talking about the breakdown of law and order in his neighbourhood in Manchester Wythenshawe.

And then there was “Chris” – a “land pirate”, who with other homeless folk had become squatters in a disused cinema in Manchester’s city centre:

What’s not to like compared to living in a door way?

Here, I’ve got four walls. The front door closes. The door locks. The duvet doesn’t get pissed on by passers-by. You’re safe from the rain. The running water in the squat is hot. There’s light. There’s electricity.

Wouldn’t you? Or would you wait, in your cold, wet, windswept doorway, for the government to finally realise that the tens of billions of taxpayers’ money it gives to private landlords would be much better spent – upstream – building affordable houses? And wait, too, for Theresa May to deliver on immigration control? Currently 7 years late (which is a lot of nights of rough-sleeping).

And what’s your message to the gang in the subway who voted for Brexit?

We thought things would change.

F**k all has changed.

We thought the Polish who work cheap and take our jobs would be kicked out because this is our estate – not theirs.

[Laughing] Get here now Trump!

These stories from the frontline are featured in “Britain’s Forgotten Men” – four short films made for BBC3 by independent film-maker Dan Murdoch. If you have access to the iPlayer, do please watch them. They’re barely an hour long in total. Some will see the documentary as left-wing – and it does constantly mention/blame public spending and welfare cuts. But this four-parter could also reinforce a conservative’s worldview – because it reminds us that government isn’t good at much. Not good at neighbourhood policing, controlling immigration, building affordable homes, looking after children. The political conclusions are not really the point, however. “BFM’ is a portrait of people who – they complain – are worse off than other social groups with recognised status. Their lives are very tough and they see little evidence that they matter to anyone with economic or political power.

Look above you…

– says “Greg” near the end of film four –

There’s a crack in the ceiling. It’s getting bigger. It’s only going to get much worse until someone does something.

That’s Greg’s way of saying what Matthew Parris has written (within a different context):  “the political undergrowth is tinder-dry”.

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