The London Riots
In 1987 Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as society”. Over the past few nights her declaration has finally come true. The rioting and looting in London and elsewhere has been on an unprecedented scale. Even if only for a few hours, society broke down. And there is a very real risk that it might happen again tonight, and the next night, and the next night.
These are Thatcher’s, and Major’s and Blair’s Children, terrorising the streets. Over the last thirty years we have been in thrall to the cult of the individual. The welfare state and our public services have been attacked. Communities have had the heart ripped out of them, all while the mantra of the Individual and putting yourself first is perpetuated.
These events are essentially Looking After Number One taken to its logical conclusion. You want something, you take it. You don’t want something, you destroy it.
This has also become a world where irresponsibility is tolerated, rewarded even. If you are a banker you can take as many risks as you like, trample over as many lives as you like, and you will still get bailed out when it all goes wrong. And you are free to carry on as if nothing has happened. If you are a politician you can lie, cheat and steal, and still get your job back when it all blows over. Theft is legitimised. There are no consequences. This is the world we live in.
And wouldn’t those billions of pounds we gave to the banks come in handy now? Yet, throwing money at this situation won’t solve it. You can’t just build a few youth clubs/borstals (delete according to political preference) and hope it all goes away. There is something fundamentally wrong with society that needs fixing. The rioters and looters may have broken society overnight, but they are essentially the symptom of a wider malaise.
We need society. We need communities. We can’t always put ourselves first. We need a world where there are consequences. Where you don’t just get bailed out.
There are no simple answers, and if we are foolish enough to think there are, then we’ll see this happen again and again. Politicians need to see beyond the Middle England that in a distorted voting system is Kingmaker. They need to address the inequalities in this country, and the moral bankruptcy of its Establishment.
Today, and over the next few days, we need to see strong leadership. This doesn’t necessarily mean sending in the army, or curfews, or any other draconian measures. It means reassuring the public, raising morale, inspiring confidence and bringing communities closer together.
I have yet to see such leadership. But we need to see real, substantial change. And it needs to start now. I don’t want another night living in fear as all the towns around me are attacked and looted. I want to be proud of London. I want to be proud of my community, and proud of society.