Riots: The result of thirteen years of Labour misrule

One of the things that struck me while listening to a reporter on the radio conducting interviews after the latest night of rioting was how eloquent the people were who had been trying to protect their communities and their property. The Turkish shopkeepers spoke perfect English and had no trouble expressing themselves, as did the Bengali Moslems who had been in their mosque that evening after the end of their Ramadan fast. Then the reporter interviewed a couple of the rioters and they had the greatest difficulty stringing a sentence together. Words and part sentences were repeated while the speaker was evidently struggling to finish the thought, and often failing. They spoke a kind of “gangsta” language but not very well, even they had trouble with it. Clearly there’s a whole sub-culture here that is completely isolated from mainstream society.

However, the photos of the looting show another aspect. Along with the young disaffected people just out to make mischief are a surprising number of other people out for some astonishingly petty thievery. A young woman with a scarf across her mouth that barely conceals her identity is seen chatting to a friend while holding two bottles of wine, one red one white, a bottle of sauce and a small packet of something. Obviously she’s expecting guests for dinner later. As well as the more obvious targets such as mobile phone shops (where everything on display is a non-working replica) the rioters are also looting charity shops (where donated items are sold cheaply to raise funds for charity) and Poundland stores (where everything is on sale for a pound or less). You can almost imagine the cry going up, “They’re looting Tesco!” and someone thinking, “Great, I’ve just run out of washing up liquid”.

Meanwhile, what are our leaders doing about it? They’re planning to talk about it. But not until tomorrow – five days after the riots broke out. Labour are meanwhile starting to put their argument together, which is that while properly condemning the violence in no uncertain terms, they put the blame squarely on the government’s cuts. For that argument to work we have to believe that on the day the Labour government left office there was no underclass, there were no disaffected youth, there was no economic crisis. We have to believe all that sprang up in the last year or so. We have to believe that a generation that left school educated and articulate suddenly became the mindless rabble we’ve seen rampaging in our city centres. No, the problem we’re seeing isn’t caused by this government, it was caused by thirteen years of a lying, deceitful, morally corrupt government that practically bankrupted this country.

This government, the coalition, has to pick up the pieces. The first thing they have to do is reverse the police cuts and re-employ all those experienced officers who have already been sacked. The second thing they have to do is issue new guidelines to the police for more aggressive action – it is okay to hit a rioter with your baton, that’s what it’s for. The third thing they have to do is get emergency legislation rushed through to protect the police from malicious prosecution as a result of doing their job. The fourth thing they have to do, and this will bring maximum squealing from Labour, is to reintroduce corporal punishment in schools. We’re not going to re-educate or discipline the current underclass but we can at least try to ensure they are the last of their generation because we can be pretty sure they will not raise their own kids to be decent and respectable members of society.

All this is necessary because over thirteen years the last Labour government abdicated all responsibility for governing. They passed ridiculous laws that favoured the criminal over the victim, even foreign murderers cannot be deported back to their own countries; they conspired to allow city high-flyers and bankers to legally loot their companies with unearned and undeserved bonuses; they presided over a culture of rewarding failure where in some high-profile cases senior council officials walk away with massive pay-offs after spectacular failures. The list is long. What example does any of this give to the rioters on the streets over the last few nights? What is amazing is how many decent people there are out there, such as those Turkish shopkeepers or the Bengali Moslems, and everyone else who is standing up for their communities and for law and order.

Labour haven’t completely ruined us after all.

Oh what a lovely riot

Who are the rioters? Bored youths.
Why are they rioting? Because they can.
What are they rioting about? Nothing in particular.

Let me take you back a few years, back to the 1980’s and Thatcher’s Britain. Massed pickets had become an industrial weapon used to close factories and impose the will of union leaders on employers during the 1970’s, but Thatcher resolved to bring back the rule of law. The police were given new equipment and training in dealing with large numbers of people to clear safe passage for employees who wanted to work and for delivery trucks to get in an out. Rioting as such wasn’t an issue although it became one as frustrations and tempers rose on both sides once they were in close physical contact.

One thing stands out in my memory from that era. The police took to drumming their truncheons in unison on their riot shields, like scenes from “Zulu” where long lines of warriors would pound their shields with assagais to intimidate Michael Caine and his few red coats. Amazingly, it wasn’t throwing bricks or bashing someone over the head with a truncheon that aroused public ire, it was that. The drumming. As tough as the striking miners were, and they did have hard physically demanding jobs, it was absolutely beastly to make them hear the drumming and after many complaints it was banned.

And it’s gone downhill since. The police are hamstrung because anything that is effective in managing large numbers of angry protesters is ruled out because innocent people often get caught up during the event, and rioters know how to exploit human rights legislation after the event. Anarchists have learned how to use peaceful demonstrations either to assemble under their cover and break away to riot, or use them as human shields. And we come down hard on the police. Certainly there are some bad apples for whom the full process of the law must apply, but we shouldn’t demonise them all.

These are not genuine protests and these are not innocent people exercising their democratic rights. This is sheer lawlessness by a violent minority that deprives the majority of honest law-abiding citizens of their own rights and opportunities. And we’ve gone soft on them. We try to police a riot with tenderness and it is the police themselves now who are usually intimidated. The slightest misbehaviour on their part and they feel the full force of the law while we provide the rioters with lawyers at public expense to get them off any charges and win compensation. The system has turned topsy-turvy.

I have a vested interest: it’s not inconceivable that I might be a peaceful protester one day. We’ve all got something to be angry and protest about. For example, I’m angry about the way the banks rip us off, and when they run into financial trouble themselves we have to bail them out with public money, and then despite having run their banks practically into the ground the top directors still pay themselves colossal bonuses, only now in order to make the balance sheet still balance they sack thousands of employees and increase bank charges. But it doesn’t make me angry enough to go out and riot.

Another thing I’m angry about is what has become of our police. The Bobby on the Beat was an enduring icon of British civilisation, but a generation of jobsworths with little front-line experience and plenty of office politics skills have risen to the top and ruined all that. They’ve built empires of pen-pushers with layers of management and turned the police service into a quagmire of red tape, driven by targets and quotas. And with the economic crisis brought about by New Labour and the need to make serious cut-backs, who gets the chop? The Bobby on the Beat. Thousands are to be made redundant.

We need new leadership for the police service and a renewed sense of purpose. And we need to keep every copper we’ve got.

We also need to remind ourselves what is important. These are difficult times and there are millions of ordinary people who have genuine grounds for grievance. Their right to complain and their right to peacefully protest is important, and that right is being put at risk by these rioters. People are being put out of work, small business owners are being put out of business, and communities are suffering. Our rights far outweigh those of the rioters and we have to give the police our complete support in dealing with them.