In the wake of the London Riots, my Local MP; Nick de Bois, sent letters to everyone in my area giving out his party’s narrative of why these riots happened, which went thus.
Thursday August 11th 2011
A Number of people in your road have contacted me regarding the dreadful scenes that occurred in Enfield Town on Sunday night, and the riots and looiting across London since.
I was in Enfield Town from about 6pm on Sunday evening. The scenes that residents and I witnessed of people with their faces covered intent on attacking the police and local shops were as shocking as they were surprising.
The vast majority of these people were not from Enfield. This was organised criminal activity. People had come from other parts of London and elsewhere after being co-ordinated via social media and mobile phone. It was telling that vandals fleeing from the police would run back though side streets to get into their suped-up cars and leave to meet up elsewhere. it is difficult to see how anyone could argue this was some kind of uprising for a frustrated, deprived underclass. That fact that people have gone out to commit organised criminal acts to capitalise on the awful events in Tottenham at the weekend is deplorable.
I want to pay tribute to the bravery and professionalism of the police, who did and will no doubt continue to do a superb job in in minimising the damage to our neighbourhoods. There have so far been over 750 arrests in London and I am adamant that anyone convicet of the crimes commited in the past ew days must be sent to prison. I have called publicly for the Government to bring in the millitary to protect our fire services so they can deal with burning buildings without fear of attack, and for water cammon to be made available.
Parliament has been called for an emergency session today. I hope to have the opportunity to speak to convey the frustration and anger of residents at the awful events of the past few days. The police have launched Operation Withern to investigate the disorder and violence across London and anyone with information should call the major investigation team on 020 8345 4142. The long arm of the law must reach those responsible for these appalling acts.
Nick de bois MP.
This Annoyed me for several reasons, one which I didn’t mention in my reply to this letter was the statement that Nick is all for the police driving what amount to tanks with highly pressurised water cannons, driving around our streets with the ability to do this to people as though they are an occupying army, without any justification or explanation. Apparently we all want police to fire at people behind bulletproof glass.
But anyway, I was not particularly moved to act, this was Just another Tory stating opinions as facts just in case you had any pesky opinions of your own. The impetus for me writing this particular post was when David Cameron decided he would go insane and call for ridiculous draconian measures, well in excess of what you could possibly need to put down a riot. I then saw the grotesque story of Ursula Nevin, a woman who was given six months for wearing a pair of looted shorts, as well as other ludicrous overreactions on the part of the Judiciary, goaded by the political classes and the media. So I decided, in the tradition of Rick from the young ones, too write to my local MP.
Tuesday 16th August 2011
Dear Mr De Bois,
As a local resident I appreciated that you took the time to assure us regarding the disturbances last week in your letter of August 11th. No one can deny that these events have been a catastrophe for both Enfield and other areas of London.
However, I find the opportunistic, politicised nature of your correspondence distasteful and unhelpful in this time of delicate social tension and obvious social division. I am further concerned regarding your leaders statement on the shutting down of social networks during “social unrest”, a move that would put us in a group solely consisting of despotic regimes under siege; a move I can only hope you detest and fear as much as anyone who believes in democracy has to.
Your contemptuous dismissal of the very idea that there could be any social problems behind the otherwise random events troubles me greatly as in doing so you have given the impression that you lack an inquiring mind or the courage to face up to the social problems that clearly lead to the framing of the criminality that took place close to my home. I hope this is not true and that you support the setting up of a full independent inquiry, into the social, economic and any other causes that might of contributed to the events of last week.
On another tangent I would wish to bring to your attention the unpleasant case of Ursula Nevin; a woman who has been disproportionately punished with five months in jail for wearing shorts costing no more than £10.00. Considering the mechanised nature of the courts in both Manchester and London, I cannot– and seriously doubt you can – believe that this woman was granted fair trial. In the climate of random anger I would request that you do the brave thing and speak out for this woman, who has clearly been the victim of hysteria and vengeance; something I hope never to see so blatantly displayed in British judicial system.
I would agree with you and your party that it was a lack of respect that for the past 6 years at least once a week someone under the age of 20 has died violently in Britain, in the past twelve years deaths in police custody has averaged out to about one a month without any action being taken against constables, Black and Asian youths are still stopped and searched at an obscenely higher level than their white counterparts. I believe these aspects of our society have to be in any honest inquiry into the riots.
I would be grateful for a reply on your current position regarding this.
Matthew Francis Taylor
I await a Reply
The Media, Politicians and the Police have spent a lot of airtime since the windows began smashing in North London explaining to a largely worried audience that there is no rhyme or reason to it. The cavalcade of chaos, destruction and theft, we are told, was purely a matter of theft borne out of a criminal tendency and lack of respect for the law bred by an entitlement culture brought about by an over generous government. Doing so in an oddly disingenuous way that suggested that if there was a coherent message uniting all the rioters they would have somehow supported them; Cameron, Clegg and Johnson all though angry bared teeth stated that it was not political or even thought though, just plain greed and pure criminality.
This overarching narrative is attractive as it provides a nice black and white, criminals do damage, and authority comes along fixes and punishes, all the happy people of the village go back to their lives. This is the root of the “Hang ‘em and Flog ‘em” Idea as because for Conservatism and liberalism to work we have to already be living in the optimum society; it might need a tax raised or lowered, or a new social program put in place but basically this is the best we’re ever going to get. Therefore people who break the apparent placid façade of that society have to be mindless, evil, mentally incapable or all three. As far as the political establishment is concerned you cannot be discontent or detached with the fundamentals of our society as well as a rational human being with real emotions in the way everyone else understands them. therefore, when the ex-editor of the sun Kelvin Mackenzie stated on the BBC’s Newsnight that there was “Nothing to understand” about why the riots took place; those participating lacked respect for authority that their parents should have taught them, he tapped into the core of the Narrative dominating the mainstream news cycle; at the heart of the problem was a lack of due respect.
That’s true, at the heart of the problem, there is a lack of respect; for the past 6 years at least once a week someone under the age of 20 has died violently in Britain, in the past twelve years deaths in police custody has averaged out to about one a month without any action being taken against constables, black and Asian youths are still stopped and searched at an obscenely higher level than their white counterparts, in many areas police forces are seen as, and play up to, the role of a cross between the most powerful gang in town and an occupying army, detaching itself from a community it claims to be the civil guardian of. Now please imagine yourself as someone who was raised in poorly maintained social housing, barely educated in a government-run school and continuously harassed by the representatives of a government who don’t want to build trust with you, who don’t stop you being burgled, who do have a problem with you taking substances to forget the crap situation you’re in yet continuously demands loyalty and gratitude from you. The N.E.Ds don’t respect authority because the authorities and society at large has systematically demonstrated time and again that we don’t respect them.
This lack of respect in both directions has widened the gulf between sections of society and has led to the odd idea indulged in by the government and reinforced by the social networks that a lack of violence on the part of the police and families was at the core of people’s motivation to riot; Standing on the basis that if only the police had cracked more sculls and parents been able to beat their children more, this would have made everything fine. In terms of physical violence, Dogs have more protection than children and members of the police have largely escaped public prosecution; those who have been brought to a public court – like Simon Harwood, where the subject of an uphill battle. Whilst the sentiment might be strong, the tabloid vision of feral children brought up by parents who legally can’t so much as raise their voice to them, confronting police who can’t touch them doesn’t hold any factual water.
The line of argument that dismisses any need to think on these riots further by pointing to the few professionals who were involved in the riots as well as the fact that it wasn’t subsistence food that was on the whole looted amazes me. Not just because it’s a craven excuse to dismiss and ignore the restrictions the structure of our society has put on people. On a very basic level, if you’re going into commit a crime in front of the world’s press, are you going to risk getting in trouble for stealing a microwave pizza when you could risk it for a HDTV? There seemed to be a weird trend amongst many on social networks begrudging people having an imagination and stealing nice things as opposed to Tesco basics, as though had they been steeling rice (which some did, though probably on principle rather than need) the smashing windows and throwing rocks and police would have been fine.
No one is making excuses or endorsing the rioting, and it’s interesting that conservatives can’t get past that fact; the Martin Luther king quote that has been repeated by socialists regarding a riot being “the voice of the unheard” is from a speech condemning rioting as useless and a sure sign that a society has something fundamentally wrong with it. You can’t endorse a riot, any more than you can endorse vomiting; their reactions to an underlying problem, if someone vomited, then their friend’s response was “get them to stop drinking and put them in bed”, a reasonable reaction would not be to accuse the friend of excusing and endorsing vomiting.
This narrative is being peddled to make sure no one (conservatives particularly) has to take a long hard look at themselves and the society they’ve allowed to happen, this isn’t something that came about during the coalition government, or New labour, or even Thatcher, this is endemic in the society we’ve built for ourselves in which theft, violence and intimidation are only okay if you wear a tie and make sure you get the deeds first. 24 hour courts doling out harsh sentences won’t solve this one.