Letting the dust settle

Now, in London, is not good moment to be a thinking liberal.  The recent riots consume everybody’s attention, but there is too much anger and panic around to say anything sensible.  But nobody will listen if you want to talk about something else.

The anger is not in itself unhealthy, or bad – indifference would be much worse.  It may well have helped to stop the violence, which has thankfully calmed very rapidly.  But little of lasting value comes from it.  Mostly we get calls for extra punishment, police powers and so on.  There is a lot of harking back to mythical earlier times when people had stronger moral values beaten into them, and so on.  And we get the usual tripe about too much human rights favouring criminals rather than victims.  Unfortunately our Prime Minister seems to share many of these beliefs.

But as the anger settles we will be left to confront a number of questions, which do not have ready answers.  Why did so many people think it was OK to go rampaging like this?  How could they be so heedless of the consequences of their actions?  Is this new?  Is it getting better or worse?  How do we promote responsibility?  More facts will help us answer these questions – and we have little more than an accumulation of anecdotes at the moment.

The most rational debate for now is about policing.  The police weren’t ready for the trouble and did not handle it well.  And they are facing significant cuts in funding.  Personally I suspect the problem is weak police management, especially in the Met.  I think this has been evident for a long time.  They adopt inflexible tactical methods which they seem unable to adapt to the needs of the moment; common sense gets lost.  Their solution is always more men, more money and more powers.  Unfortunately they will be unable to deliver cuts without reducing operational effectiveness, even if there are opportunities to make them much more efficient – and it would be very surprising if such opportunities did not exist.

Another aspect of this episode has been a massive closing of ranks by the majority of society.  Here in Battersea (scene of the Clapham Junction riots, not, incidentally in Clapham itself, as almost universally mis-reported) masses of people turned up to help the clean-up – and the hoardings on the shops are covered in supportive graffiti (where these are bare wood; where painted they are left properly pristine!).

Supportive graffiti at TK Maxx in Clapham Junction, Battersea

This reaction seems to bridge class, race and age group.

Who can say where all this will lead?

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2 thoughts on “Letting the dust settle”

  1. Just a few thoughts.If you want to remove these peoples benefits as punishment,or are they non people now,or outlaws.
    It seems to me that as a result of their actions,unemployment is high anyway,these people will be virtually unemployable.
    So will removing their benefits not ensure they will be stuck in a cycle of crime.No money,high crime,more Police,more Jailers or Warders,more Court officials,Higher Taxes.
    While it could be said to be job creation for Policemen etc,will this be a better society.
    Giving Police more powers,I think they have enough powers,its the paperwork and that Weekend,Lack of manpower at that point in time.Unless you want to pay for 16,000 Police Officers in London everyday to stop riots looking for solutions not knee jerk reactions would be better.
    Kick them out of their homes.Wont the Local Housing Authority have to rehouse them anyway.Or is the plan to ship them out of London and let some other deprived area have them.
    For months in the Papers all we have seen is those on benefits are scum.We don’t want to pay our taxes for idle beggars sat at home.Does not matter if there is only 1 job for every 7 unemployed by Government official statistics.Which is probably worse in reality.People not signing on for many reasons,least of all being harassed.Is it any wonder people are disenfranchised from society.
    And no I am not saying they should not be punished.Punish them by the rule of law as it stands.You do not remove Rapists,Pedophiles or Murderers benefits when they are released from Jail.Or is joe public saying these are even worse than that.Lets get things into perspective shall we.

  2. Matthew, its good to find your blog. I shall visit regularly from now on and hopefully offer some constructive thoughts! Also, I’m delighted to read you pointing out that the riots were not in Clapham, but Clapham Junction. I was clucking irrelevantly throughout the reports. Best wishes

    Andy Crick

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