I don’t think that I have seen anything like the widespread criminality sweeping England, in my lifetime. It may happen in LA or the Paris bainlieus, but not England. Watching it from the sanity of Scotland enhances the feeling of it happening somewhere I don’t know.
It is necessary to be plain about one thing. This is not, in any sense, a legitimate political protest. Nor is it a revolt of the deprived, homeless and starving. Few of those arrested are coming to the attention of the police for a first time. What is happening is that the burgeoning criminal underclass is realising that it is now large enough to defy society if it can concentrate its forces quickly in specific localities.
This is not a race issue. This is the social mileu from which Jade Goody, Amy Winehouse and Wayne Rooney (all of whom have had close associations with people imprisoned for violence) emerged just as much as it is gangs of Somalis and Nigerians – and it is indeed that too. It is a product of a contemptible urban sub-culture driven by a detestation of education and an avid materialism. That its devotees can argue that the corrupt bankers and politicians are morally no better is a perfectly valid point, but no justification.
They are not destroying the homes and livelihoods of politicians and bankers, but of ordinary decent people.
The policing does raise vital questions. The Met has 30,000 officers. Tonight it will have 16,000 out on the street, including reinforcement from elsewhere. Why on earth did it only have 6,000 out last night across the whole of London, when everyone knew what would happen? And why then did they simply watch looters? Senior officers had decreed that the “containment” tactics used to control political demonstrations should be used here. What arrant nonsense. You don’t just cordon off areas in which looters are allowed to loot.
There are root problems in society which have caused this, but the immediate cause is impunity. The criminally minded witnessed that they could loot what they wanted, while the police would merely stand and watch. As a result, more and more joined in and the situation has gone from bad to worse. One thing which has been under-reported is the amount of personal violence that has been used, with people mugged in the streets, cab and bus drivers attacked and people stoned as they ran from burning flats.
I have no problem at all with calling for the deployment of baton rounds, tear gas and water cannon. If nobody has been burnt to death so far, it is a miracle. If the odd looter gets killed by the police by accident by a baton round, I would view that as very sad but something they brought upon themselves. I would not bring in the army at the moment, but the force of society should be brought to bear by the immediate enlistment of any volunteer with no criminal record as a temporary special constable. They should look to enlist tens of thousands.
The resources of civilisation are not exhausted.