In an unsure and frightened society, how reassuring to know that our MPs have been dragged back from their holidays to sort out the mess. Sadly, though, the backing track to the summer of 2011 will not be “I predict a riot”, but “I predict a platitude”.
The debate in the Commons on Thursday rapidly descended into some perverse competition between slobbering MPs desperately trying to out-do each other in condemning the savagery relayed to them via satellite link to villas and second homes from Tuscany to the Rocky Mountains. Like a mob baying for blood, they goaded each other into uttering increasingly puerile statements with all the aplomb of looters attempting to break into a pound shop. The outrage was cranked up to such an extent that it seemed that some of the less continent members might actually turn themselves inside out with fury. The rationale seemed to be that unless everyone shared in calls for vengeance with extreme prejudice only just stopping short of hanging, drawing and quartering, such weakness is tantamount to defending rioters. There were lots of bulging eyes and veins standing proud on necks.
At the centre of this unrest was our leader, David Cameron, a man who before the election and his assumption to power, described Britain as “broken”. After 15 months in charge of the glue and the gaffa tape, perhaps the PM looked down at the fires of London as the aircraft returning him from his curtailed holiday descended through the night sky into RAF Northolt. One wonders if he is proud of his achievements.
At the arrivals gate, he and his fellow coalition masterminds had their voice microchips reprogrammed with the words “criminality, thuggery, mindless and robust” to be automatically generated whenever a lip movement is detected. Never one to disappoint, Cameron stood at the dispatch box and led with “mindless criminality”, quickly followed by “thuggery” and then talk of “robust” policing. He spoke of elements within society that demand “rights” but refuse to take “responsibility”.
His motivation is obvious. Criminality places a convenient distance between his government’s failure and the unacceptable disorder. He and his clones and underlings claim that the carnage is nothing to do with political protest. This strategy might get him through the coming weeks but it is a very dangerous game to play. If the widespread criminality that saw cities burning, the nation terrified and people losing their lives is not a protest against coalition policies, then he has to face the fact that his government presides over a criminal underclass that is capable of bringing the country to the brink of anarchy. Hardly a glowing testimony for re-election.
It is true that the looters and rioters carried no banners, wore no lapel badges and chanted no chants – that was the preserve of students and school children who had the crap beaten out of them in December. But the lack of political engagement by mindless thugs is a political act in itself and MPs, having by and large got away with fiddling expenses, will ignore this disaffection at their peril. The rioters might not care for politics, but politics is driving them f**king mental. What we witnessed was a catastrophic break-down of law and order and a chain reaction of violence that occurs when a mob gets out of control. How swiftly the veneer of civilisation is stripped away. Not to ask why or how those conditions came about is an abrogation of responsibility worthy of a dysfunctional, booze-addled absent father.
Cameron, after a bit more stuff about “responsibility” went on to blame parents, schools and, with the caveat “this is not a criticism”, criticised the police. Like Falstaff, the Prime Minister understands that “the better part of valour is discretion” and made no mention of cuts to family tax credits, the cancellation of BSF, EMA and an unaffordable rise in university tuition fees or the reduction of front line police officers. Taking the responsibility of power by the horns, he suggested that local authorities could evict convicted rioters, stop their benefits and exclude feral children from schools. Chief Constables, already criticised, should set the level of policing to deter disorder. Me, I’m just Prime Minister, what do I know?
The hippo might be a bit dim, but the notion of forcing drug and alcohol addicted criminals out onto the streets, stopping any income and kicking their uncontrollable kids out of school is not exactly a recipe for a harmonious community.
Cameron made no reference either to the decision by Haringey Council who, due to coalition government funding being withdrawn, closed eight out of 13 youth centres. Tottenham, in case you needed reminding, is in Haringey and is where the “mindless, thuggery, criminality, thuggery, mindless” began. He did mention Mark Duggan, though, which must be a comfort to the dead man’s family. Strangely, Her Majesty`s Loyal Opposition did not, for the most part, take the coalition to task over its woeful stewardship of the nation. Before the debate, Hazel Blears, a Labour MP for “riot devastated” Salford demanded to know why looting children were not at school. The former solicitor working for Manchester City Council’s education department did not seem to know that it is August and the looting took place after the 3-00pm bell. Fortunately for her, the Met and the CPS found no evidence of her fiddling money from the public purse way back in 2009.
The PM went on to reassure victims on measures for adequate compensation but was rather vague when questioned if the payments would come from already slashed police budgets or from the treasury reserve. Whoever coughs up, it gives Gorgeous George Osborne another excuse for economic stagnation brought about by his complete incompetence. At this point, Cameron’s vocal chip malfunctioned and he reverted to the version one programme and droned about “inherited deficit from the party opposite”. Switching him off and then on again resolved the glitch and he set about the evils of social media.
Even as the Prime Minister spoke of the sinister use of social media in organising disorder, a Tory MP on the front bench who resembled Ivy Tilsley from Coronation Street was entering data onto her mobile phone. A few seats along, Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes, the very definition of hypocrisy, could be seen fiddling with his own hand held device. His party leader, Nick “If the Tories are elected there will be rioting in the streets” Clegg, who at 16 was found guilty of cactus arson, should really take his MPs in hand and tell them that onanism should always remain a solitary vice.
Then came the endless calls for retribution. Plastic bullets, water canon, indelible dye, Wembley Stadium as an internment camp, the army on the streets, the return of the death penalty and the shrill expressions of outrage and indignation that became farcical. Any carbon based life form with a brain the size of an amoeba will, of course, utterly condemn the violence and lawlessness perpetrated on our streets. But only those in possession of a brain the size of an amoeba would howl with contempt and shout down those who seek to find reasons why this horror took place. How swiftly the veneer of civilisation is stripped away.
It wasn’t just our wonderful MPs who, returning from holiday at the tax payers expense, expressed such lynch-mob anger. Hard-working, law-abiding, thoroughly decent users of the now discredited social media vented “mindless, thuggery, criminality, thuggery, mindless” with some suggesting shooting children dead. How swiftly the veneer of civilisation is stripped away.
It now seems that some semblance of order and normality has returned thanks to a massive police presence on the streets and the sterling work done locally by the likes of Mark Payne and Richard Stanley who used the evil social media to dispel ridiculous rumours and reassured the public that the sky wasn’t falling. This, however, cannot be sustained with cuts to the police and the bright idea of shutting down the internet in times of crisis. If this sounds strangely familiar, consider Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and China.
The nation has been frightened by its children and frightened by what we have allowed them to become. More terrifying is the sight of coalition MPs donkey braying “hear hear” to a proposal to do away with human rights legislation, talk of curfews, curtailment of free speech, baton rounds and vengeance, an opposition happy to acquiesce and vitriolic attacks at any attempt at rationality.
The only difference between the Bullingdon Club and JB Sport is the ability of mummy and daddy to pay for any damage.
How swiftly the veneer of civilisation is stripped away.