One thing about a riot is that EVERYONE has some bollocks to say about it and I am no exception. Labour are banging on about the riots being a reaction against the cuts. I don’t think that Labour even know what cuts. Ed Milliband has jumped on the issue like he jumps on every bandwagon and is talking bollocks about the “absolute priority” for citizens to go about their lawful business while using the disturbances to call for cancellation of the cuts which were due for the police force. The trouble with Ed is that his absolute priority is always the last thing anybody said to him. This week it’s the police next week it will be something else.
I have heard people blaming the immigrants though I’ve seen bugger all evidence that immigrants were involved in any greater proportion than anyone else and though sociologists warned that racism thrives during times of poverty and violence we are now seeing the insidious way this is being acted out. I heard about a group of vigilantes in Enfield protecting their area and to start with had some sympathy for what they were doing. I heard that they termed themselves the Enfield Defence League, a named strikingly similar to the racist English Defence League (EDL). Later I heard that the EDL had amassed in south London also to defend the area against rioters. We should be wary of this sort of thing. Their next step will be uniforms and we should remember that we want security and not fascism.
We British are a bunch of yobs. Every time there is a recession something like this kicks off. I wonder if this may be partly due to our class centred culture. Despite what the “blitz spirit” crowd would have us believe, when things get tough we Brits don’t pull together, we just blame the other classes.
In the case of the riots the yobs blame the rich, the politicians, the police and the press. One difference this time is that they are perfectly justified and any dispassionate observer listening to David Cameron declare that the rioters will “feel the full force of the law” is forced to ask why the bankers, politicians, police and press did not feel the full force of the law over the past few years.
Another difference this time around might be technology. An outbreak of civil disorder 20 years ago would probably remain an isolated incident. In the 21st century these cretins can instantly tell their friends who will tell their friends who will tell their friends and a flash riot will ensue. For this reason the police probably need to react more swiftly than they have done in the past and there are dangers here that they may overstep their authority leading to tragedies such as the death of Ian Tomlinson.
There was a discussion on Radio 4′s PM program this afternoon where some bloke speculated that two years ago, during the G8 demonstration, the police were too heavy handed leading to the death of an innocent man. He thought that perhaps the police had reacted by becoming more restrained.
If this is true then somebody should explain to the police the difference between a legal demonstration and a riot.
A little bit of British folk law that has knocked around my brain ever since I can remember is the phrase “reading the riot act”. According to Wikipedia, the Riot Act was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain introduced in 1714 that authorised local authorities to declare any group of twelve or more people to be unlawfully assembled, and thus have to disperse or face punitive action and remained on the statute books until 1973.
It seems to me that there may be a case for bringing it back.