Whilst the weekend riots in Tottenham are ringing numerous alarm bells, most of these appear to relate to the immediate issues of the police response and how a peaceful protest turned into a violent one.
For me, the flaw in the approach of pandering to the bellowing headlines that demand immediate answers and equally immediate solutions, is that it allows the politicians to duck the really hard questions. The first of these is, does this expose how thin the veneer of civilised society in this country is? In other words, are we fooling ourselves in to thinking that, given the opportunity, the same thing would not happen in practically every other city, town and village in this country?
Why such a depressing view of British society? Well, just look at our urban centres any Friday or Saturday night and the complete lack of self respect for both themselves and the police, displayed by our young people. Using the excuse of alcohol is a cop out in my opinion and allows those in power to duck the real issue of an increasingly failing society. David Cameron made reference to this in a recent speech and sadly I think he is right. Equally sad, is the fact that he didn’t seem to have any idea what to do about it other than something called the ‘Big society’.
The second issue to come from these riots for me, is the police response. The low level policing of a peaceful protest march had to morph into all out riot control almost instantly. If this had been anywhere else but London with its (relative to the rest of the country) high levels of police numbers, one wonders how much worse it could have been. Having drafted in police from other areas, including Kent I believe, did this then leave those area vulnerable to the same criminal behaviour? News reports from the following day, reporting incidents of sporadic rioting and looting breaking out in other areas of London, one can only suggest that the answer is yes. Even if it was a case of the criminals migrating via their Blackberry based intelligence network and not a case of other (normally law abiding people?) taking advantage, the issues remain the same, can the police cope now and what happens when the cuts in policing numbers take effect?
I hope I’m wrong and that when they do their inevitable post riot navel gazing exercise, part of it involves an analysis of where police officers were draft in from and where the subsequent rioting and looting took place and that this shows my fears to be unfounded.
Finally, where these two concerns come together – social breakdown and policing numbers – lies in the question, what are the politicians going to do about it? Despite David Cameron’s Big Society idea, our politicians are clearly failing to offer us any real solutions. This policy void brings me to another question – where next?
My solutions? Initially, more police on the streets, applying a zero tolerance policy and a justice system that doesn’t continue to think a police caution is a deterrent to anything. Longer term and much more difficult and expensive to do, is addressing the causes of the social breakdown. This comes from the lack of respect, for both themselves and others that we see in many young people these days, namely poor parenting and poor schooling and needs to be addressed before it damages another generation of children.
All we need now is a benevolent dictatorship, so that these policies can be implemented and not derailed by the liberal lefties who want to hug the hoodies- sorry Dave!