It’s been baking hot in Yorkshire today, and I’ve had my office window open for most of the afternoon.
From there, I can hear the young people coming and going from our supported accommodation.
I smile often as I hear the sounds of laughter, and of little agreements that are so minor they’re worn out after a couple of sentences.
Just over a year ago, we tried to encourage some of them to vote. There were lots of funds available to support that, to encourage young people to play their part in our democracy and to educate each other about some of the issues that are important to them.
But they had learned, as many young people do, from their parents and grandparents.
These are the children of the children of miners who were let down by a government who had employed and supported them and then watched them fight to keep their jobs long after the decisions had been made to take them away.
And they learned that “they’re all the same”, “none of them really care”, that politics had become irrelevant and that it wasn’t really worth taking part in any kind of electoral process.
We were able to go somewhere along the way with some of them. A few even actually voted. A smaller number engaged in wider debates.
But it is, without doubt, difficult to engage young people who feel so disenfranchised.
Our young people, on the whole, are people who’ve suffered very significant real hardships in their lives. Not the hardship that comes with having a sense of entitlement that isn’t quite delivered to them, but complex and long-standing issues that are – thankfully, actually – beyond the comprehension of most people.
And I can see that, where the services and support that matter to them are being reduced, they are starting to feel less significant to society.
I can see that there’s a sense of anger when government schemes are devised by people who have little idea of what might really work.
But there is no excuse – none whatsoever – for the riots that we’re seeing in some of our cities this week.
There’s no political message here. No valid claim that there’s anything in particular to be listened to.
Some of the issues on Saturday may well have started from a few friends of Mark Duggan expressing their anger at the police who shot him.
But I refuse to believe that there’s now anything at the heart of this other than mindless thuggery.
I’m appalled at the excuses that I’m hearing about the whole thing; I’m quite sure that very few of the young people rioting were at all bothered when their local youth club had its funding cut.
But I’m also encouraged that most of the voices that I hear are clear in their condemnation of the riots and strong in expressing the need for order.
How we achieve that order is something that concerns me.
What we absolutely must not do is allow these people to take control of our country and force us towards a society where a whole band of people operate beyond the law.
I’m buoyed by the people who are contributing their efforts – and their brooms – to clearing up. I’m encouraged by the community leaders who are speaking out against the riots and pleading for calm. And I hope that all of those requests of parents to know where their children are and to call them home are being heeded.
This isn’t something that the police, or the army, or the government can achieve alone. It’s something that I expect all of us to be called upon to play a part, however small, in as we move together through the coming days.