DJ: Can I just bring us back to the riots and their connection with this condescending anti-elitist elite, whatever causes we may attribute to the riots, whether it's the financial situation or whatever. How do we get from this dumbing-down and mass condescension to mass violence on the streets of London? This is something we haven't seen before, at least not for a long time.
NC: A lot of it is just herd mentality. The police are screaming at David Cameron for saying so but the police appeared to back off. If the police give the impression that you can go out on to the streets and loot, then people will do it, I'm afraid.
DJ: So it's a simple law-and-order point, then?
NC: To an extent I think it is. I'm a bit wary of the "O tempora, O mores" stuff.
DJ: So none of this broken society stuff?
NC: Let's go through a few things that are being said. If you read Conservative newspapers you hear that we have a weak criminal justice system. In the 1980s, when George was in parliament, about 50,000 people were in prison. Now it's well over 80,000. Crime has been falling in Britain since Blair in the mid-Nineties. We are actually quite tough on crime in Britain. So there's that. Then people say, well it's the blacks, its black culture. I went to a magistrates' court and none of the defendants were black. What really gets me about it is that no one is ever shocked any more. No one ever says, "I used to think this but..." To go back to my example of the banks, I used to think free markets worked, but look what's happened to the banking system. They're like British Leyland or the miners in the Seventies. "I'm a Conservative so I'm against that"-no one ever says that. People just keep going down the same tracklines. Whatever happens, they just fit it in.
DJ: Is that a kind of moral relativism, do you think?
NC: No, it's dogmatism, for instance on the riots. Certainly the riot in Tottenham was started by black gangsters but then you look across London. Who are the people being arrested? Are they from broken families? Were they unemployed or were they not? These are empirical questions, yet people don't wait, don't go and sit in the back of a magistrates' court, they just say whatever they would have said anyway. It's like pressing a button on a machine and generating the same answer whatever the conditions you apply to it.
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