Hospitality has the potential to provide the purpose so missing from the lives of many rampaging youths, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock
We have already heard countless opinions on the causes and effects of the mindless riots that have blighted our city centres. Tributes have, quite rightly, been paid to the police and to those stalwarts of the community who pitched in to help clear up the mess.
Along with all sensible observers, I deplore the behaviour of youths who think it's fun to damage other people's property and have great sympathy for the individuals and businesses affected, especially those in the hospitality industry who could well do without this latest setback.
It may be some time, if ever, before we are able to calculate the impact riots have had on inbound tourism, since they are inseparable from all the highly positive factors - such as the Royal Wedding - that have placed our country in the minds of potential visitors this summer. Let us hope this story gets out of the news quickly and its poison begins to evaporate.
So what about the hooligans in their hoodies? Should we hug them or round them up and shoot them? I have a vested interest here because my youngest daughter, a charming and hard-working observer of the law, occasionally dons a sweater with a hood herself. She also communicates incessantly by Blackberry and is an active user of Facebook. For all I know, she may also find it difficult to pass a jewellery shop window without coveting its contents. But I could not imagine her for one second contemplating an act of wanton destruction, even if egged on by her contemporaries.
My personal theory is that the tiny minority of antisocial young people out on the streets at night with their petrol and bricks are just following the herd. They have time on their hands, no sense of pride in their community, no work to do, little disposable income and a pent-up anger towards anyone who enjoys the status and possessions they lack.
Is there a cure? Cast your mind back to Michel Roux's outstanding TV series, Service, in which a former young offender called Ashley won us over with his infectious charm. A chance introduction to the catering trade has transformed him from idle ne'er do well into a professional with a future.
We don't need criminals in our midst. But I'm prepared to bet that quite a few of those youths on the rampage could be similarly transformed if, instead of a brick, they had a paring knife or a corkscrew in their hand and the sense of purpose that comes with doing paid work.
Message to politicians: help us to create more jobs - by slicing through red tape and trimming the VAT on accommodation - and let us help you by cutting the dole queue.
By Peter Hancock
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