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MPs must do more than unite in anger tomorrow. They have to say what they really think

Posted on 10 August 2011 | 9:08am

One of the complaints often heard about politicians is that they don’t really say what they think. Yet there is also a rush to condemn when MPs do say what they think, unless it fits the current conventional wisdom. So anyone suggesting the riots present anything other than a law and order issue, and that there are deeper issues which need to be debated and addressed, stands accused of excusing violence and criminality.

Tomorrow Parliament has to show that it is capable of speaking to, for and about the country in a way that commands real respect and authority. Clearly much of the focus will be on the leaders, and in particular the Prime Minister. But it will also be a day when backbenchers can and should get noticed, and they should say what they think.

Those who want to stand and blast the rioters and the looters, blame parents, blame welfare handouts, blame Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and-or Cameron should be allowed to do so. And those who believe that there are serious underlying social issues should be able to raise them without being accused of condoning violence.

Parliament has to be the place where free speech is valued and respected and the free flow of ideas is encouraged. If MPs feel their constituents feel anger and resentment that those who caused the global financial crisis are still running their banks and raking in their bonuses, while others lose benefits and public services, they should say so. If they feel that a young person who feels valued in and by the community is less likely to riot than one who does not, they should say so. If they feel cuts in youth services are a factor, they should say so. If they feel there is a growing gulf between a political, financial and media elite, and people really struggling to find work and pay their way in the world, they should say so. If they feel, as Boris Johnson does, that now is the worst possible time to be cutting police numbers, they should say so. If they feel local government has been strangled of real power and leadership, they should say so.

There has been something of a polarisation on the riots already, well summed up in a tweet last night which said the Right say lock them up, the Left ask why? There will be plenty of words of condemation of the violence and lawlessness, many words of support for the emergency services. But if that is all there is, it will be a wasted opportunity.

There is not a single MP who does not condemn the violence, who does not want to see order returning to the streets, criminals punished, and communities restored. On that there is universal agreement. But there also has to be disagreement tomorrow. The riots have not taken place in a vacuum. They have taken place in a society in which most of us, even a week ago, would never have predicted what has come to pass. If Parliament is to command the respect it should, it must tomorrow be the place that starts a serious debate as to why this has happened, what it says about what Britain has become, and what if any policy and cultural changes need to be advanced.

  • Lynda Clark

    And even Gove should be allowed to go bog eyed and let out his true thoughts, We need to see the type of people who are leading us and where they are leading us.

  • Andy Walker

    At last some sense. There are obviously bigger isssues in play here that do need to be examined and discussed.  I hope that we do get some light and not too much heat from the House tomorrow, but I am not holding my breath.

  • ZintinW4

    I think the Party needs a clear position. We are for the deprived not the depraved, for the removal of want not for the wanton.

  • Lisa

    It’s time to look at the causes not just condemn the symptoms, which anyone in their right mind has done – we don’t need government ministers to do that, how condescending! This is a cross-party problem, the blues are making severe cuts, the reds have bred a dependency on the welfare state, laziness and taken away too much responsibility from parents, teachers – you name it. Kids need guidance from people they connect with – no matter how many aged, upper class MPs talk about connecting to the youth of today…. it doesn’t happen. I’ve been on the inside of a major political party and in my opinion at times I felt a wall of fear – afraid to truly, deeply connect and have real voices come through.

  • Chris lancashire

    Serious debate is needed – party political pieces like this masqerading as informed comment aren’t.

    • tykejim

      The words ‘pot’ and ‘kettle’ come to mind.

  • Anne McGowan

     What I would say if I was representing my Westminster Constituency (Glasgow East) in Parliament tomorrow?
    -that the problems that caused the rioting are by no means confined to the areas that saw violence and looting.
    -that the escalation in violence and looting, perpetrated by so many young people can be linked in no small way to the confusing world our young people live. They have been raised on a diet of media which force feeds the belief that they should expect to have a version of the lifestyle of David & Victoria Beckham and Cheryl Cole and if it is not forthcoming they should go out and seize it whatever the cost to themselves or anyone else.
    Blame tabloids, TV and parents for doing little to teach them that such lifestyles are NOT a birthright.
    Blame successive governments that have made it impossible to help parents to parent their children. Starting with Thatcher’s sell off of council housing, the pressure on families to buy their own home has become the norm. If living in a decent area is to remain a basic aspiration, even the smallest mortgage requires both parents to work. How many parents would choose reduced hours or one parent working in order to spend a decent amount of time with their children and being a genuine part of their lives?
    The notion of children be raised rather than reared has become a moving target for many more families with the abolition of Child Benefit for those earning over £40k (I genuinely sympathise with such families even though my husband earns half of this, only tax credits keep our necks above water)
    -that parents feel such guilt, constant sense of failure and 24 hour exhaustion, they’ve forgotten or never considered saying no. What’s happened that children of primary school age upwards genuinely consider the child in their class without a touchscreen mobile phone, Xbox, Play Station, laptop or television in their bedroom to be poor?
    -that for a young teenager, simply fitting in with your peers requires your parents to hand over £20/30/40/50 to spend on an afternoon at a local shopping mall. Parents who believe that children should wait until they can afford to pay for such a lifestyle are making an example of their children because they believe delayed gratification an important life lesson.
    The world’s become a crazy place. Even families without many of the barriers facing families in Tottenham etc find it soul destroying trying to explain over and over why it’s unreasonable to expect access to such material possessions before you’re out earning to pay for them yourself.
    So many people interviewed by the BBC and SkyNews have commented that it’s not food that’s being stolen, but for so many young people, a 42” HD ready TV is their generation’s food. High ticket items might not be a basic human right but our kids are being brought up in a world where they’ve been lead to believe by that it is.

    • SophieJo

      I’m 17 and I’ve never had a TV in my bedroom or a touch-screen phone and most my clothes are 2 years old, but I’m not considered ‘poor’ by my peers, and I’d never dream of asking my parents for money. I’ve also had a Saturday job since I was 14, that coupled with my EMA pays my way. There are people in my year who get £60 a week ‘pocket money’ and go around in little cliques decked from head to foot in Jack Wills and have brand new cars. But they are they are generally viewed by most people in my year as dumb and shallow, they’re seen as amusing rather than impressive. I hate these generalisations about teenagers most adults put about. Where are they coming from?! If your kids are shallow then I am sorry for you, but they are the minority rather than the majority.

  • Yonks

    Alastair it’s pretty obvious you’ve already decided it’s the fault of the ‘horrible’ coalition. Condemnation of the violence has already been voiced by the likes of Harriet Harmen but with the proviso it is all the fault of the coalition removing the EMA and not listening enough to the youth.
    This is all a load of bull, simply carrying on with your excuses for a section of society that has no respect for society as a whole.
    We should stop this namby pamby state of ‘looking after everyone’ and make people stand on their own 2 feet, maybe even grow up and take on responsibilities like the rest of the taxpayers.
    Give the police and the law the power to deal with this type of behavior seriously and cut out the ASBOs and community orders which are a complete waste of money and time.

    • MicheleB

      ASBOs enable a person to be jailed for infringement of its terms (when the activity that ‘earned’ it did not).

      I’ve read of habitual petty criminals that escaped conviction for years, received ASBOs and were imprisoned for relatively minor infringements pdq afterwards (no ifs/buts/maybes) and their ill-gotten gains seized in their absence.

      Despite all the hype from the right wingers claiming that kids see them as status symbols they have been very effective and brought some idiots up very short.

      On IoW a couple of years ago the local shops even displayed A4-size pics of ASBO holders advising they were not allowed to be within a square mile and if seen ….. witnesses should phone xyzabc immediately!

    • Mr O’Connor

      i would hardly call the coalition a coalition! the good prime minister says something and emphasises it with a flick of his wrist then the good deputy prime minister bends over nods his head and whats done his done! its more like a dysfunctional marriage than a parliamentary coalition!

      would you say that this dysfunctional marriage does indeed listen to the ‘people’ or its supporters’ theres a very distinct difference?

      it seems to me that politicians dont really listen to anyone other than their own supporters thus alienating the remaining electorate!

      yonks you have a very narrow minded view that needs to be widened by empathy and experience!

  • Phil Batchelor

    Good points well made. In the same vein, I hope that MPs who are genuinely worried about the relative absence of male parental role modelsin the Black community feels able to say this without being accused of racism / conservatism.

    • Dave Simons

      Just as a possible point of information, ‘absence of male parental role models’ was being put forward as an explanation for the anti-social behaviour of young white people in the 1920s. Apparently, so it was claimed, when all ‘the men’ were abroad in the trenches ‘the women’ had sole responsibility for the upbringing of their children and this led to the children becoming a post-war generation of spoiled brats, with no respect for adults or authority and no feelings of social responsibilty. I could quote the line not from a Tory but from a prominent member of the early Labour Party who was influenced by John Ruskin, Edward Carpenter and William Morris.

  • ambrosian

    In his statement today Cameron couldn’t resist playing to the anti-human rights agenda of the Mail, Express and Sun by saying the authorities would not let phoney concerns about human rights stop them publishing the photographs of rioters.
    Human rights legislation has never prevented the police issuing photos of suspects they would like to interview. Indeed the Crimewatch programme has been showing photos and videos of suspects every month for the past 30 years.
    However, the line now being taken by the tabloids of publishing galleries of photos and inciting vigilante action against the “scum on our streets” makes me very uneasy. All of those photographed are innocent until convicted and it would be surprising if some of them were not in fact innocent bystanders.

    Remember those innocent people who got caught up in the News of the World campaign against paedophiles and the vigilante action that provoked. Those responsible for that campaign, notably Rebekah Brooks and Stuart Kuttner, are themselves now under arrest for possible corruption and phone hacking and they will rightly expect that their own human rights are respected along with the principle that they are innocent until proven guilty. I fear that some of those caught up in the present events, subjected to a mood of hysteria and fast track judicial process and unable to afford expensive lawyers may not be so lucky.

    • ambrosian

      Since posting this comment it has been revealed that a jewellery shop employee who was defending the premises appeared as one of the ‘most wanted’ on the front page of a tabloid today, the photo being supplied by the police. Interviewed on Sky, he seemed to find it very amusing but I think my own sense of humour would have failed me in such a situation.

      • KDouglas

        I don’t think responding to lawlessness with… lawlessness is a great idea.    Also, what did Cameron say when he returned from Tuscany sporting a tan of which T Blair would be proud – ‘If you’re old enough to commit a crime you’re old enough to be punished,’ or some such thing.  Well, I think we all knew that – and young offenders will be dealt with by whichever bit of the law applies.  It has to be the most fatuous statement of the week.  That and Boris Johnson’s ‘I’ve forgotten what the question was,’ in response to John Humphrys this morning.

  • MicheleB

    Maybe when Blackberry publish the organisational conversations from their encrypted closed network/s we will know just what the rioters were discussing.

    I’ve been on protest marches and seen them be latched on to by troublemakers with no interest in the issue that had enabled Police permission for a peaceful march to take place … then turned it in to something else .

    No matter how squalid the motives of those leeches, none of them turned up with petrol bombs.  Having said that I daresay some of them were made shortly before use, at the nearest garage. 

    There were people full of hate and there were silly kids who imagine that their thefts will be covered by insurance anyway (durrrrrr, free money innit? …. not).

  • Nicktoms

    No-one can support or condone the violence we have seen in the past few days including in Brixton where I live.  However, it is not enough simply to dismiss the rioters as macho criminals.   We need to understand why it is that so many of our young people are suddenly behaving in this way. 
    The reasons are complex but at their root is the grossly unequal society we have created, particularly since 1979 with its underlying philosophy of self interest and naked greed.  All that matters is material wealth with the main purpose in life being to grab as much as you can.   At the same time a society where many have no prospect whatsoever of joining in the jamboree but who, at best, can watch from the sidelines at the fantasy world of the celebrities who dominate much of our media.
    Add to this:
    – the demise of any effective representation for the poor and dispossessed.  The trade unions are largely neutered and New Labour is now part of the establishment or craves to be seen in that way.  Many young people feel alienated from the political process.  No-one listens to them or seems to care what happens to them
    – the fragmentation of the education system, particularly in inner city areas, where the poor are increasingly left in ghetto schools.   Over 90% of the children in my local primary school are black – whereas the local population is 70% white;
    – the economic crisis which means the career prospects of many young people are limited at best to dead end jobs and at worst a lifetime of unemployment and benefits
    – huge cuts in public expenditure with the poor and young people being asked to shoulder the lion’s share of the burden for an economic crisis which is not of their making whilst the priviliged elite who are responsible carry on as before with their bonuses and opulent life styles.   Sadly Clegg and the LibDems failed to heed their own warnings as to what might occur if the Tories were elected and carried through their cuts programme
    – insensitive and racist policing.  Some things have improved but all too often you still see young black males being stopped and harassed on the street.  It is almost as if the police see it as an affront that young black men should have a nice car
    – a political class who collectively have lost respect through the expenses scandal, the relationship with Murdoch etc
    and you get a highly volatile situation which can all too easliy result in mindless violence in the absence of any constructive alternative. 
    That is not to say that any of the rioters will necessarily have thought through their actions or attempted to rationalise them.   Instead, the riots were a reflex lashing out against an unfair and unjust world.
    No doubt there will be many calls in the days that follow for those directly responsible for these riots to be given the severest penalties.   Harsh sentences will be handed down by the courts.  Ultimately, this is not the answer.   Unless we understand and attempt to tackle the root causes of these riots they will happen again.

  • MicheleB

    I don’t think this should be turned in to a race divide.

    The animal that first opened the backpack of the injured young man was white, as were some of the others that joined in.

    The wheeling out of Darcus Howe yesterday was nonsensical (even moreso than his comments were anyway).

  • SophieJo

    You are one of many right-winged thinkers saying that all the rioters should be locked up for minimum five years, at
    the same time a news story has been published saying that at Wandsworth prison
    there are 32 cases of self-harm each month and 11 deaths a year, 4 of which are suicides!! But nobody
    cares about that- certainly not you anyway- they’re just prisoners.

    Of course it’s because they’re poor- the poorest people in society have a bad reputation and are
    treated like shit by the I’m-Alright-Jack classes who moan about having to give
    them money, there’s always a negative news story about benefits and welfare. And these people aren’t  stupid, they can tell they’re hated, that nobody respects them, and this filters
    down to the bottom until there is hatred on both sides and we get a them-versus-us
    situation where neither side can empathise with the other. That’s what’s going on. 



    • MicheleB

      Hi SophieJo, I’m liking and Liking your posts but I do think you need to widen your outlook and calm down just a little (as might I too, but for different reasons).

      There are some people that have been misled by sections of the Press winding them up that they will be paying older people’s pensions throughout their own adulthoods.  There are those that are losing their EMA and having higher tuition fees, I seriously doubt that many of the so-informed are the among the looters.

      There are some who are plain thick and think they are behaving legitimately, viz :
      I doubt that that numbskull speaker has read much Press but can feel certain she’s been wound up by others that have.

      There are some that will be working a 12hr shift (more if they make arrests) tonight when they have already done six in a row and for whom it’s not just leave that has been cancelled but also rest days.  These are the conditions in which people lose their rag and if they do will also lose those jobs.

      Croydon Met has put some of its CCTV photos on live stream, I hope they will follow that up with printed copies to be circulated by RM to every address in their area.

      I also hope that if they describe black males as black males they will describe whites as white males (not just ‘male’).  Semantics matter a lot at times like this.

  • MicheleB

    Isn’t the request for serious debate totally what the OP is about?

    What a kneejerk plonker you expose yourself to be, again and again and so on.

    • Chris lancashire

      Speaking of kneejerk reactions MicheleB ……..
      And I always think it’s best to avoid personal insults in informed political discussion. Don’t you?

      • MicheleB

        I usually try to avoid personal insults unless (quiver) doing so in return chris (and yes I know that that’s pathetic) but imhoo your posts are quite often personal … albeit not to me.

        Isn’t your post at the top of this ‘dialogue stream’ personal by being so subjective?

  • Janete

    Before anyone rushes in with simplistic explanations I would recommend a novel ‘What Came Before He Shot Her’ by Elizabeth George. Don’t be fooled, this is not a run of the mill crime story, but a very serious social commentary of the reality of life facing thousands of inner city children.

    I’m not seeking to excuse the appalling lawlessness of recent days, but if we are to tackle it we have to understand the context in which it took place. It is desperately depressing to know that many children grow up in areas where daily intimidation and violence from other out of control youths is the norm.

    The truth is the rest of us have just had a little taste of it.

  • SophieJo

    All politicians seem to care about nowadays is toeing the party line, it’s the only way they can gain power. I have to admit to being suprised by BoJo’s maverick-ish behaviour, but I doubt any others will follow suit. 

    • KDouglas

      Boris Johnson has his own election to fight next year – absolutely no surprise that he would position himself against the government on police cuts.  He did it before on housing benefit when he feared the consequences of increased homelessness for his re-election campaign.

  • Robert

    So Mr Cameron asked the Acting Police Commissioner “have you got enough resources to cope?”
    After cancelling all leave, asking retired coppers to come back, gathering police from all over the country he answers “yes”.
    So that’s alright then.

  • Gilliebc

    “If they feel, as Boris Johnson does, that now is the worst possible time to be cutting police numbers, they should say so.”  Quite so, AC.

    This is the worst possible time to be inflicted cuts on the Police, Fire Brigades and other front line emergency services.  This is exactly what I and many others were saying last year, when this Tory led government announced the cuts.  A person doesn’t need to be a genius to have foreseen what was going to happen!  Though tbh, I for one wasn’t expecting anything on the scale of the past few days!

    As Boris suggested yesterday, this gov. need to look again at their ill-conceived plans for our police asap.  Unless they are seeking to cause a complete break-down in law and order in this country?

  • Yonks

    Thank you Sophie for your opinion but you should refrain from assuming that you know my political leaning.
     Many of these prisoners have chosen a path that is not acceptable to society and consequently society has decided through the use of the law to incarcerate them. What would you have society do for them as the majority of them have had chance after chance to avoid prison? If you’re poor it doesn’t mean you have to wreck a community or town centre, you could gain a better education and become a productive member of society rather than expecting everybody else to provide for you. Poverty is simply an excuse, I know plenty of ‘poor’ immigrants who are happy to live in the UK with all of its benefits. It’s more likely envy than poverty and simply the fact that they can perpetrate these acts and probably get away with them.

    I take it you haven’t seen any of the news today of the vigilantes now taking control of their streets, many of these people are relatively poor and yet they feel the need to resist the damage caused by this minority.

    You need to re-think your explanation, just like Harriet needs to re-think hers.

    • SophieJo

      I’m sorry for making my reply come across so personal. I think you are misinformed though, immigrants are not entitled to any benefits unless they have taken a very difficult citizenship test which frankly I doubt most British nationals could pass. There is an unofficial BBC one here, based on the manual: 
      (I only got 5/14) I have worked alongside many immigrants from Europe and Asia and they have always been amongst the most dedicated and hard-working.  
      And trust me, both my parents have taught in South London state schools, and they are often run appallingly, the pupils barely have a chance compared to those at schools in Surrey, Kent, Sussex, etc. More food for thought, if you are already treated like a criminal (I’m talking about stop and search laws here) might you not as well become one? If that’s all society expects of you, then why not? I’m not a psycologist but that’s my theory. I heard a doctor of psycology on the radio saying that in large groups people lose their sense of morality, and I think that is true, like a Lord of the Flies syndrome. It’s clearly a very complex situation but one that won’t be sorted out by further alienating them from society by locking them up. We need a bottom-up approach.      

  • Ehtch

    It has to be said, the world, islamic, catholic or any other persuasion is looking at us like this – O-O – in total bemusement. We have really got to sort our shit out, we really do.

  • Ehtch

    My simple view on the matter is this – How did we get here?

    • Ehtch

      I am getting to like this habit of being bottom of the pile. Do I like it? Yes I do. Just call me random man. Suit’s me perfecttly. Home from home for me


  • Yonks

    Michele, I hear what you’re saying but would question the efficacy of them just like Ed Balls who told the Daily Mirror: “I want to live in the kind of society that puts Asbos behind us. It is about parents taking their responsibilities seriously.”
    They have worked only to a limited extent, there has to be an alternative but I have no idea how you make feckless parents ‘take their responsibilities seriously’.

  • tess

    Lets hope during tomorrow’s debate, politicians of all parties feel able to speak freely and from the heart whatever their political persuasion. Anyone with an ounce of commonsense can see that looting and arson are nothing but acts of criminality and should rightly be condemned by all and those responsible caught and punished.
     However, riots do not just spring from nowhere and the underlying issues, of which there are many, need to be fully investigated and tackled. It was disgraceful to see Michael Gove on Newsnight last night repeatedly trying to twist Harriet Harman’s words and imply that as well as the deficit, the cuts and now the riots are also the fault of Labour – ridiculous. I am glad HH held her own, she condemned outright the criminal acts of the past few days and called for law and order to be restored more than once but Mr Gove must have been deafened by his own voice because he didn’t seem to (or chose not to) hear. Instead, he desperately tried to paint the picture that because HH had dared to suggest that the Government’s austerity measures and cuts affecting the poorest in society weren’t helping matters, that she somehow condoned recent events. Well he failed in his ridiculous attempt.
    Of course the looters, robbers, and criminals should be caught and punished, Everyone is in agreement about that but once that is done, what then? The simmering tensions will remain and grow again unless dealt with.
    Tomorrow is a good place to start. MPs should look beyond the blatant criminality of recent days and begin to address why these things happened in the first place, only then will we be able to unite our divided society again.  

  • Ehtch

    Posted this track on Alastair’s blog last week, and blimey, it is so predictably succinct with the bollocks that is going on now! I must be a mystic, but I am welsh after all, Merlin-like, but hey-ho, I can cope with myself, sort of…

  • And if Parliament wishes to command the respect of the constituents, let it be the place – just for tomorrow – where we hear accord not deafening dissent.

    Your first paragraph sums up the way I’ve been feeling/thinking today – “anyone suggesting the riots present anything other than a law and order issue, and that there are deeper issues which need to be debated and addressed, stands accused of excusing violence and criminality.”

    This is my fear – all that wasted point scoring – STOP. All that pointless fluff – STOP.

    MPs – get back to basics. Show the country – the world – that you CARE. Be brave, be human, be statesmen & women.

    Please. Just for once.

    A dream? Maybe – I am prone to wishful thinking, to believing there is good in everyone, that the worst can be a turning point to the best. It’s the old Good over Evil thing, the fairy story.

    But what is the alternative – more horror stories, more Brothers United – yes, Sisters too, listening to the voices in their heads and on their phones, telling them what to do, where to go.

    No, MPs have to look at the root of the problem – Alastair has hit that raw nerve. Just like dentistry, root canal work is never pretty, only pain free if you have the right jabs and they hurt too, but always worth having to save the tooth.

    • And, by and large, they are debating BUT the main issue won’t go away – resources and who is paying for them, for how long and how much.

      And, eventually, we heard it said – it is the fault of previous administration that we are where we are today, fiscally speaking.

      Knew that would be aired.

  • Hello SophieJo – as I was typing my piece here today, I was thinking about all the young people that work hard in families where it is not always easy for everyone – where jobs are hard to come by or where illness is present.

    There are many young people who are not spoiled or fortunate but they will not have been on the streets committing crime because they have no need to be noticed like that and because the adults in their lives would never allow it.

    When we talk about looking at the social illnesses in this land, you are right – often the most privileged young people are poor in spirit. Not to be envied and thank you for reminding me of that.

    Sometimes the only thing a youngster needs is Time spent with them, and a pair of listening ears. I suspect that is what your family give you.

  • Anne McGowan

    SophiJo, I’m unsure what in my post leads you to believe that my children are shallow or that I was condeming all teenagers. The opinion I expressed was about the challenges all young people face, not what they are. My own children, younger than you, accept and agree largely with the values and standards we try to teach, but the world in which they live, even with some other great kids and families around them is still at odds with their own lives. I’m delighted that you are engaged in this debate and proving that young people can easily and eloquently express an opinion, but the past few nights demonstrate that not all young people have adults in their lives who have been able to successfully convince them that the latest designer brand is not worth thieving for. I did not state that all children/young people consider those without the latest gadget to be poor, but it is a fact that some young people believe this to be so and it cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, not all children, young people or even adults have the strength of character to refuse to buy into the material dream pedaled by a 24 media, often putting themselves into extreme debt they can ill afford. I do not believe that young people with your standards are by any means in the minority but you are quite literally the silent majority. More airtime, column inches and magazine covers are devoted to the lifestyle described in my original comment than the ordinary valuable lives many young people lead. I think it’s also worth mentioning that only one of children has a phone which is more to do with my piece of mind than their own desires and that I’m typing this on our household’s only pc which will soon be appearing on the next series of the Antiques Roadshow.

    • SophieJo

      I’m sorry to have passed judgement on you an your family, it was very narrow-minded of me. I was still seething from reading people’s comments on the Daily Mail website, never a good idea.  

  • Type your commentIn his statement today Cameron couldn’t resist playing to the anti-human
    rights agenda of the Mail, Express and Sun by saying the
    authorities would not let phoney concerns about human rights stop them
    publishing the photographs of rioters.
    Human rights legislation has
    never prevented the police issuing photos of suspects they would like to
    interview. Indeed the Crimewatch programme has been showing photos and
    videos of suspects every month for the past 30 years.
    However, the
    line now being taken by the tabloids of publishing galleries of photos
    and inciting vigilante action against the “scum on our streets” makes me
    very uneasy. All of those photographed are innocent until convicted and
    it would be surprising if some of them were not in fact innocent
    bystanders. here.

  • Ehtch

    Since Alastair, in his no doubt infinite wisdom, didn’t post my previous Malcolm X video, maybe he will post this. Malcolm X on his visit to gay Paris, saying it as it is,

  • MicheleB

    I think I’d have been amused and am glad the employee did so and will.suffer no repurcussions.

    Perhaps a front page explanation will happen?

  • Andrewls

     I’m reminded of the right-wing belief that they don’t mention now, the ‘no such thing as society’ dogma wherein, “Community is dissolved in the acid bath of competition” (Beck, 1992, p. 94. ‘Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity’)! Tories don’t believe in community or anything near to a community spirit!   To label communities as ‘sick’ for the actions of a tiny minority however is just more ideological dogma that diverts attention away from the real causes and issues (policing methods in deprived communities, racialism, real corruption in social elites) and gives government the excuse to abandon these communities even more! Ed Miliband has to speak for Britain now more than ever.

  • Noelle

    Alastair, you write about what ‘Britain’ has become – but so far, d.v., Scotland and Wales seem not to have joined in the English mayhem. Is this evidence for the argument that Osborne’s cuts have contributed to the problem or is there other factors playing a part?

    • Janete

      Perhaps it is interesting that Scots and Welsh seem not to be involved. However the last people to trash Manchester were visiting Scots (Rangers fans).

  • Yonks

    Mr. O’Connor, you were doing quite well until you descended to presuming that you had even an inkling of my views and experience. It seems that you would prefer for us to empathize with the rioters rather than arrest and punish the guilty ones. Empathy and experience of these rioters will do very little to enrich my life, I’ll let you wear the hair shirt and get on with it.

    If you’re right that politicians only listen to their supporters then perhaps Alastair is responsible for far more than we give him credit.

  • Anonymous

    Didn’t you love Gove on Newsnight?  If I write ‘pompous prick’, will Alastair moderate me?

    • MicheleB

      Oooooh that’s a much more apt comparison than my own elsewhere KD.

      It’s sad that Gove has gone the way he has, he used to be more honest.

      There’s something squalid about all these soft boys acting tough.

  • Gilliebc


    I can’t say I’m too surprised at Boris telling it as it is.  I think he has ambitions to be the next Tory PM.  Personally, I rather like him, even
    though that goes against the grain of this site and slightly against my
    own grain also.  What with Boris being a bit of a toff!

    But if someone expresses views that I happen to like and agree with, I
    don’t much care which party they belong to.  With some obvious exceptions of course, e.g. the BNP and similar nutter parties.


     Nobody seems to be talking about fear. The mob mentality for a brief moment creates a sense of bravado, but most young people live with a sense of fear every day of their lives. They either fear the police, security guards or shopkeepers that eye them suspiciously, but most of all they live in fear of one another. Some openly embrace the ‘gansta’ lifestyle, whilst others merely stick together in groups, but the crime statistics show that if your male and under 25 you are far more likely to be a victim of violent crime.Housing,property prices, and middle class angst about school catchment areas divide the haves and the have-nots from the day they were born. The have-nots are not stupid, they see corrupt elites getting away with crime, and they have shown that they can do the same.The liberals have flocked to the cause of ‘we’re all in this together’ waving their brooms, and the ignorant have flocked to the pub for some dutch courage and casual racism only to emerge four hours later behind some thugs from the EDL, and wonder when Amazon are going to deliver the aluminium baseball bat that they’ve ordered.The right have called for everything from the Army and water cannons, to tougher sentencing and the withdrawal of benefits to eviction from social housing.The one thing that unites them all is fear. Time for a leader that offers hope, not for some, but for all.

  • simon

    Have only just caught up with the Gove-Harman debate on Newsnight, via iplayer. Virtually the first point Harman made : “Clegg was booed today..Boris was booed today….’Ed’ was well received.”  Party political and bloody pathetic.

    • Gillian C.

      I don’t dislike Harriet Harman, but she can be embarrassingly childish
      at times with her schoolgirl point-scoring and silly insults.  All too frequently she does herself and the Labour Party no favours whatsoever.

    • MicheleB

      If Clegg was booed because he is fatuous and Boris was booed because he pretends to be clueless but Miliband speaks objectively and is cheered, what the hell is party political in pointing that out 4X’ssake?

  • Anna

    The riots are disturbing but let’s look at them in historical context. ‘The mob’ has always been an occasional thread in British history (and in the history of many other countries too) and the causes of the explosions in every case are many and complex.

    What is different about the current rioting is that it spread far beyond the initial spark into areas of London and cities beyond by means of modern communication systems that enabled miscreants to coordinate criminality speedily before the forces of law and order could engage. There may be legitimate reasons for anger and disillusion among many social groups; but there is no doubt that many people were looting and stealing for no other reason than they could get away with it. The veneer of civilisation is very thin. It is created by civil structures and institutions, parental guidance and the development of conscience and responsibility. If any or all of these are weak, chaos threatens. And chaos, initially, can be very exhilarating. Think back to your schooldays when you encountered a teacher who couldn’t keep control – even well-behaved pupils would rejoice for a while in the buzz of disobedience. In fact, it has been reported that some of the rioters have respectable jobs so deprivation can’t be blamed in such cases. But the mentality that is engendered when mobs exercise unrestrained power is quite separate from the individual mind, and it can overwhelm all personal responsibility. It would not surprise me if many of the participants, in the cool light of day, are ashamed and frightened by what they have done.

    As for disaffected youth: their grievances must be addressed. But it must also be recognised that money and effort on a huge scale has been already expended on many areas of deprivation, as the MP David Lammey  made clear. Years of community building and trust building has been undermined. I’ve always tended to support restorative justice but I also believe that people must be taught that actions bring consequences; and if wantonly and brutally destroying the livelihoods of your neighbours, who may also be struggling with problems of their own, results in severe punishment then so be it.

  • Patricia Shepherd

    I don’t know why Cameron,boris and gove are getting all high and mighty for,after all Cameron,Boris and friends were all partial to a bit of vandalism when they were at Eton and members of the Bullingdon club,but thats ok because they paid for the damages,or Daddy did,so that’s it,done and dusted!
       Then there’s the expenses malarkey,they were all at it,including Gove and Cameron,but again,they repaid it and it wasn’t mentioned again.
       there’s also the police taking bribes,newspapers hacking away like mad,so the kids have all had wonderful examples right there on their tv’s every night!

  • Sandra_ayres

    You’re right about a lot of things Alistair but I will be very surprised if we get anything other than the usual fatuous dross. 
    Regarding your point in the final paragraph – most of us, even a week ago, would never have predicted what has come to pass. –
    I have been dreading this since about February – the writing was on the wall and it was obvious that widespread unrest was on the cards. Why didn’t the powers that be see this coming? The causes are myriad and complex – there are no easy answers or pragmatic solutions as the rot in this country runs very deep. We are in big trouble, of that I am in no doubt about. Ordinary people in this country are being screwed into the ground. We all know how and why so there is no point in going over old ground. What the arrogant bunch of idiots running this country need to think about is the angry running through or society. Only a minority will resort to the streets to express it, others rant on the Guardian website, or twitter, facebook etc. But I believe a lot of people are angry and the manifestion of this on the streets of our cities is just the tip of the iceberg. Personally, I am furious. Am I alone? I don’t think so.

  • MicheleB

    On the ‘Today/8.10’ slot this morning Nick Clegg said that of course the Police cuts can still go ahead; words to the effect of ‘when more officers are needed in one area they can be lent from others’.

    I darsay he still hadn’t bothered himself to catch up with reports of what happened to Clapham Jtn because some of its officers were on loan to the adjacent boroughs containing Brixton and Croydon TCs.

    He quite plainly hadn’t been interested in the UK while he was away and apparently he’d also still not been made aware of how the looters were able to organise themselves and move on to unmanned districts or even speculate how a figure of 16,000 officers was achieved on Tuesday night and understand that the depleted areas were very very lucky …. so few shops had any stock left after all.

    What sort of responsibility does this person demonstrate?

  • Anna

    In a post yesterday which appears not to have been passed by the moderators yet, I predicted that many of the rioters would be feeling ashamed of their behaviour.

    There are numerous newspaper reports this morning which confirm the accuracy of my prediction. ‘Many others filling the docks expressed remorse and shame for their actions’. One, a man in a responsible job, wept in court. His lawyer said, ‘He is desperately, desperately sorry. He is absolutely disgusted with himself.’

  • clegg and varsi are backing police cuts would cameron if riots were in oxford?
    leaders presided over expenses fraudthe majority not apologising let alone receiving justice hiding behind their own rules
    police receivebungs from notw banks get bankers get bonuses for failure while benefit claimants get cutno excuse for theft arson and murder but this shows the sickness in society starts at the top with thosewho are providing very poor examples surprise surprise it’s trickled down exacerpated bygrowing poverty gap and divide and rule social policywe have a very very disunited kingdom.

  • You mean everyone is allowed to have their say?
    Let me have a say too.
    The people who are partakers of the fighting, looting, rioting, burning and so forth are overwhelmingly, I repeat, overwhelmingly, black people.
    If that brands me as a racist I must be a racist. I cannot approach this solution with my eyes closed and this is what I see.
    If the media, parliament or any other body sees this differently, they have already failed to address the cause lurking behind the real issues.
    And, I fear, we just are waiting for the next time the cities are burnt, perhaps to the ground this time.

    Des Currie    

  • Mr O’Connor

    no i dont want to empathize with them at all!!! i agree with you in the fact that they need to be punished! (i’m actually quite pleased that the police have been authorised to use baton rounds), and i do realise that iam in no position to point out your experience but i got the impression that you were abit right winged and in my personal experience most right wingers are narrow minded (for that i do apologise). i think that instead of creating theories about why this has happend and wether we should be doing this and that, we should be talking to the people involved and find the real reason people are looting, we might find that it is as simple as ‘if they’re doing it why can’t i!’ or ‘i just fancied a pair of trainers’ but then again there could be some deep seated physcological problem with the general population, theres only one way to find out!
    you need to actively root out the problem and get rid of it not fanny about guessing!
    i personally dont feel like the government has any direct contact with its people! i mean im lucky if i see my local mp once a year! i cant remeber the last time i saw him!

    and i dont like the fact that the government/ media use the term ‘youth’, as a so called ‘youth’ (17) myself i find it insulting to be tarred with the same brush  as the people carrying out these riots! i have a great respect for other peoples belongings, beliefs and livelyhoods! i feel safe when i see a police officer on the streets i dont feel ‘opressed’ or ‘alienated’ i think the proposed cuts are ridiculous and they need to be rethought!

    sorry about the rant guys!!

  • Liberanos

    There certainly is gross inequality in our society.

    Between those who adamantly and consistently refuse to attend school, and those who don’t.
    Between those who want to play a positive part in whatever level of society they are, and those who don’t.
    Between those who gratefully acknowledge the free education, free heath care, free school meals, benefit system and universal suffrage of this enlightened, democratic country, and those who don’t.
    Between those who see unemployment as an essential gateway to lifelong reward, and those who don’t.
    Between those who pretend that gross tobacco,alcohol and food consumption have nothing to do with health inequalities, and those who know they are almost the only relevant factor.
    Between those who seek to define the cynical wickedness of the thug as a response to societal disconnection…instead of a major contribution to it… and those who don’t.

    There are many more, far too many to list comprehensively.

  • MicheleB

    You have a good point.  The fact that the Scots and Welsh still have administrations that prioritise society is their good luck. 

    That is not to excuse the looters and idiots (and now murderers) and nor is it to ignore the growing sectarian problems in Scotland.

    Let’s all move in with Aitch 😉

  • MicheleB

    Don’t you think that EdMil was saying he wants to live in a society without even petty crime? 

    While ever we do not have that I will defend ASBOs, I’m sure I’m reading less and less about idiots regarding them as status symbols.

  • SophieJo

    ‘the people who are partakers of the fighting, looting, rioting, burning and so forth are overwhelmingly black”. Are you saying that there has been an independant commission counting the perpetrators and producing statistics on race! Get real, you are basing this entirely on a few media pictures!    

    • I am neither blind nor colour blind. I don ‘t need an independant commission to help me to see.

      Des Currie

  • MicheleB

    You have to bear in mind that the initial kick-off was around the death of a black man, albeit a long-term gangster. 

    That has led to accusations of racism and spread fear among black communities.  Lies have been spread that he was defenceless (even after his unlicensed/loaded gun has been found).

    Did you not see the squalid white woman on TV last night, allowing her ill-bred son to mouth off on camera about ‘a black man killed for ‘nowt’?  She was pretending some political explanation, she did no such thing. 

    I’ll not mention her ill-bred child, he has little chance of growing up to be more sensible and neither have some of the otherwise-uninformed people that will have heard her being broadcast with no corollary from her interviewer.

  • MicheleB

    Your earlier post has arrived, the necessary pre-modding has taken longer than usual

  • MicheleB

    There has been a lot of enquiry about how the Govt screw numbers and I’d like to know how May crunches hers.

    What is the formula by which she has decided that Met officers spend only 11% of their time out on the streets?  Does lickspittle Varsi know what formula is used or is it only necessary to be a parrot?

    Is the claim about a single shift?  Do cops spend 89% of their time per shift off the street?

    Is it per rota?  As most Police don’t work on a 7day one is she spouting about the 6day rota or the 8day rota used in various London boroughs or about any.other that other parts of the country might use?

    Is it counting actual officers only or is it also counting in civvy CAD operators’ hours and shop-hour cop shopclerical time?

    Is it a yearly formula taking in to account holidays?

    Is it taking account of the time an arresting officer hangs around in court to be a witness (if it is this will be an interesting decision ….. given that those are usually organised to be on rest days, as is football ‘Aid’).


  • MicheleB

    .Just read that one block of a London borough’s forces that have just finished a 6day rota (10hr shifts finishing at 7am on the 7th day) have to work their rest days back on night shifts (from tonight) and then continue without break on to their next 6/7 day rota.

    All leave is also cancelled as we know and so those officers with families they were hoping to go on holiday with during the school breaks can’t ….

    I believe this is even worse than the situation pertaining in April 2009.

  • MicheleB

    As Sophie says, Des, how objective is the counting?

    Without referring back to the video of the young Malaysian man being hijacked, can you remember how many of the thieves were white and what colour was the first thief?  I can.

  • Whatifwhatif

    Oh my word, she’s writing about a topic other than the Quran for a change.  Will you be posting about her mate P. Geller next?


  • Teresa

    I love Wales, when I go there I feel like it’s home to me even though I was born in Birmingham of Irish parents, wish I was there now, my happy place.

  • Anne McGowan

    SophieJo, your apology is gratefully received and appreciated. I realised that you are an intelligent person who fears being lumped in with the a minority who unfortunately seem feature disproportionatly on the front pages and our television screens. I also avoid the Daily Mail for the very reasons you cite!

  • Mr O’Connor

    that is interesting! i’m studying Government and Politics at A level and my understanding is that the liberal way of thinking just wont work because not everyone starts from a level playing field so anything they say goes straight over my head! same with feminists!!

    but my parents split up when i was 8 (my dad lives in liverpool and me and my mum live in dorking surrey i only see my dad a few times a year) but i got a good enough upbringing from my mother to know a difference between right and wrong, and when i should stand up for myself and when to let things lie (having been bullied for being a ‘Northerner’ in a ‘Southern’ school) obviously this got me in certain ‘sticky’ situations with fellow classmates and teachers yes teachers had a little dig to! but again i didnt travel to croydon to go and grab a few pairs of trainers. obviously i understand that alot of the people commiting these crimes ARE younger people but is that not because that some older people just cant quite run fast enough…

    i dont think that ASBO’s should be banned but maybe there use should be rethought, but i totally agree with micheleB in the fact that they have caused criminals with ‘minor’ infringements to be put behind bars, much like catching al capone with tax evasion. am i right in thinking that if a person has a ASBO’s that if they commit another crime that the ASBO can and will be used against them and void a ‘first offenence plea’ please correct me if im wrong. 

  • Ehtch

    Mrs Muir and the Ghost, with the ultra-ultra-beautiful Gene Tierney, and the complete male dog, tongue hanging out, of Doctor Dollitle fame, Rex Harrison,

    May I lend you a hanky, sir?

    This is what britain is all about, not all this poncing nonsense. Leadership, true leadership, that is what we simply need. The film is based in the south coast of england, by the way. if anyone is curious.

  • Chris lancashire

    Most opinions are personal.

  • Ehtch

    Well, Cameron can’t help himself, the complete tory eton nonse that he is. He fecking pisses me off with his attitude to Britain, He needs an attitude adustment, and soon! Oops, it has already happened, hasn’t it. TIDY!

  • Ehtch

    Teresa – how you doing…. : ))))

    sorry to come all joey from friends to you, but still, how you doing : ))

  • MicheleB

    To the person whose opinion they are, yes indeed.

    The subject/topic of them should not be.

    I’m sure you understand the nuance.

  • MicheleB

    I would rather live in a society with stop and search than a society where Police are armed.

    A couple of years ago, one was being conducted on the edge of Streatham Common, the officers heard a message coming over about the shooting that had happened at the skating rink just a few minutes earlier. It happened they were searching the very killers.

    S&Ss are not always so relevant but perhaps stoppees need to be more honest about why they were stopped, a reason has to be given. 

    One of the ‘dratted paperwork’ tasks involves box-ticking re ethnic origins and another involves checks that those stats are balanced.


  • Yonks

    Read this, it’s quite interesting:

  • Yonks

    You should try ‘branching out’ Michele, it broadens the imagination.

    Try this one too:

  • Dave Simons

    ‘The violent anarchy that has taken hold of British
    cities is the all-too-predictable outcome of a three-decade liberal experiment’

    So writes Melanie Phillips in the article you quote. Three-decade? I make that 1981 to 2011. What were the 1981 riots the outcome of? Weren’t the Tory governments of 1979 to 1997 the sworn, dyed-in-the-wool enemies of ‘the liberal experiment’, as defined by Melanie Phillips (and she isn’t talking about the ‘Neo-Liberal’ religion of those same Tory governments)?
    Aren’t we in great need of such woolly, gut-reaction-driven analyses in these troubled times?

  • MicheleB

    Being someone that recommends readings from M Phillips Yonks, I reckon it’s ironic for you to suggest anyone else broadens their imagination.

    Don’t imagination and the quality of being ‘interesting’ require nourishment from more broadminded sources than M Phillips?  Given that she’s so admired by lgf (I won’t provide a link) I think you need a wake up call.

  • MicheleB

    There’s money to be made on stock markets with the dips and highs that will be the character of shares and currencies in coming weeks.  In their differing holiday venues, Osborne and Cameron shared just about 24hr cover of it all (I doubt for their job reasons or the country’s benefit).

    Funny spoof

  • Yonks

    Ah presumptions again on your part Michele, you really must pay a bit more attention. I didn’t recommend Melanie Phillips, I simply suggested that it was interesting. Am I to take it that you prefer to be fed from like minded people to yourself rather than exploring alternative views? Did you even read The Slog? And thank you for your proposition to wake me up but I’ve been up since 6 so, you’re a bit late……

  • Yonks

    I prefer to think that she’s referring to our liberal with a small ‘l’ ways Dave, she probably should have said post-WW2 period!

  • Dave Simons

    OK, so ‘six-and-a-half decade liberal experiment’ would have been more accurate? She was three and a half decades out on her history (easily verifiable) so how seriously do we take the rest of her analysis?
    To be more accurate, there has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing in what she refers to as the ‘liberal experiment’, and, all things being relative, there was a bit of a ‘liberal experiment’ during the period 1880 to 1914, a forerunner period of the ‘Long Weekend’, 1920 to 1929, and the 1960s. Each progressive period was followed by a backlash, and we certainly had our backs lashed from 1979 to 1997 by Thatcher and post-Thatcher. Melanie Phillips apparently knows nothing of this, so who is she to pass judgement? Just another twit from the Middle England chattering classes who talk as if they know what they’re talking about and actually know sod all! She’ll probably get promoted.

  • Ehtch

    no, no. no, he won’t do it.

  • Gilliebc

    I don’t think anyone with such an awful hairdo as Melanie Phillips can be taken seriously in any way at all 🙂

  • Go to And have a nice day.

    Des Currie

  • Yonks

    Has she done something to upset you Dave? Calm down……..

  • Dave Simons

    Yes – she opened her mouth and so did you.

  • Ehtch

    I have a way with words, don’t I? 19-9 is all I have to say, england. : ) TIDY!

  • Ehtch

    Makes me laugh, as like at a funeral, at this four years jail for two lads that wanted to start a riot in Nantwich in Cheshire which didn’t happen, or wherever it was from around there.

    Next they’ll be sending people to some colony overseas, transportation style, sheep stealing-like. What a wally the establishment is at times? Said the otherday things like this will be petrol on the fire, and somone should be acting calm sensible and balanced, but this not is by the authorities. It is simply a disgrace of a display from them, and it stinks to high heaven. Bringing back the birch would be better than this, smack hands like, 100 hours of communinty service. Even the village stocks even!

    Make me a JP, you idiots, and I’ll sort them and give them a good damn well telling off in their dock, and send them home in tears. But four years in clinque – madness.

  • Ehtch

    An appreciation track made in the early 1980’s on Malcolm X, using cuts of his speeches. This is what got me to learn about him, and on the very whole, a great man, and a very very brave man.