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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 July 2006, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Cameron to make 'hoodie' appeal
David Cameron
David Cameron wants to broaden the Tory party's appeal
Conservative leader David Cameron is expected to call for greater understanding of teenage "hoodies" in a forthcoming speech on social justice.

Mr Cameron will say teenagers who hide under hooded tops are trying to "blend in" rather than appear threatening.

In a speech on Monday he will describe them as "a response to a problem, not a problem itself".

And he will argue that while teenage criminals must be punished, they should also be shown "a lot more love".

Hooded tops have come to be viewed by some as a symbol of social disorder.

In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, blend in
David Cameron

Last year the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent banned people wearing hooded tops, and said youths were using the hoods to shield their faces from CCTV cameras while committing crimes.

"We - the people in suits - often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters," the Tory leader is expected to say.

"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."

Mr Cameron will say that, for some people, "the hoodie represents all that's wrong about youth culture in Britain today".

However, he will go on: "For me, adult society's response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right."

'Softer tone'

Mr Cameron's speech on Monday is also expected to draw on the film Kidulthood to illustrate the dilemmas that many young people face on a regular basis.

The British film attracted controversy for its violent portrayal of teenage life in west London.

BBC political correspondent Jo Coburn said: "David Cameron's new softer tone on crime and yobbish behaviour is the latest in a series of speeches designed to broaden the party's appeal.

Just because you wear a hooded top doesn't mean that you are automatically a criminal
Ben Olive-Jones, Chichester, UK

"He's already talked about the importance of the family and called for fathers to be present at the birth of their children; now he says it's time to look to be more sympathetic to so-called bad kids."

The party leader's comments echo sentiments expressed by the Archbishop of York earlier this year.

Dr John Sentamu wore a hooded top during a conference on youth work in the Church as he urged people not to judge teenagers by their choice of fashion.

Mr Cameron's immigration spokesman, Damian Green, said his party was addressing the twin problems of youth crime and alienated young people - issues which the prime minister had failed to deliver on despite his stance of being "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

'Watch his back'

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.

Dr John Sentamu
Archbishop of York John Sentamu backed hoodies in May
"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."

Mr Cameron's approach is being seen as part of an attempt to broaden his party's appeal and reach out to younger voters.

However, former Tory MP and newspaper columnist Michael Brown said traditional Tory voters may not agree with Mr Cameron's stance.

"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 too 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."

More about David Cameron's plans to reach young people

Archbishop woos hoodie generation
02 May 06 |  Bradford
Hoodie goodie for first minister
26 Nov 05 |  Scotland
Prescott backing hooded tops ban
12 May 05 |  UK Politics
Are the hoodies the goodies?
01 Jul 05 |  Magazine

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