Tory leader to make 'hoodie' plea

Sunday, July 9, 2006

In a speech regarding social justice tomorrow, Conservative leader David Cameron is expected to call for better understanding of teenagers who wear "hoodies".

Mr Cameron will say that teenagers who wear hooded tops are trying to "blend in" rather than appear intimidating.

"The hoodie is a response to a problem, not a problem itself. We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters," the 40 year-old is expected to state.

"But hoodies are more defensive than offensive. They're a way to stay invisible in the street. In a dangerous environment, the best thing to do is keep your head down; blend in.

"For some people, the hoodie represents all that's wrong about youth culture in Britain today. For me, adult society's response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right," Mr Cameron will also say.

His comments resemble those shared by the Archbishop of York earlier this year.

"Ninety-nine per cent of those who wear hoodies are law-abiding citizens," Dr John Sentamu said while wearing a hooded top during a discussion on youth work in the Church.

Hooded tops are viewed by some as characterising anarchy and social disorder.

In 2005, the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent banned hoodies after claiming youngsters were using them to hide their faces from CCTV cameras while committing offences.

Mr Cameron is also expected to use the controversial film Kidulthood to illustrate the problems which young people face on a daily basis. The film, set in Notting Hill, was condemned for its harrowing representation of West London teenagers as criminals with no principles.

He will also praise charities that work with teenagers who live in inner cities, saying that the voluntary sector can succeed where New Labour's state has failed.

Change in direction

As well as attracting the attention of younger voters, Mr Cameron's speech highlights the compassionate direction in which he wants to steer the Conservative Party.

But according to Michael Brown, a former Conservative MP and newspaper columnist, traditional Tory voters may not share Mr Cameron's empathetic beliefs.

"David Cameron is pushing at the envelope with regard to his backbench support and the support in the grassroots constituencies," he told BBC Breakfast.

"I suspect this isn't going to go down well in the Bromleys and the Chislehursts"

"I suspect he's going to have to watch his back, and as he seeks new friends, as he seeks the new liberal constituency, he's got to make sure he doesn't lose his conservative constituency."

Mr Cameron's immigration spokesman, Damian Green, said the Conservatives are addressing the problems of both youth crime and alienated young people - issues which Prime Minister Tony Blair has failed to deliver on despite saying his party would be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" in 1997.

Referring to that stance, Mr Green said: "That's indeed what we should aspire to as a policy; that's what he's failed to do in government.

"We've seen that youth crime is growing, and that violent crime is growing, so while Tony Blair's soundbites were good, Tony Blair's actions in government have been less good."