Nothing like it since the blitz

I first became aware of the recent riots courtesy of Fox News, while I was in New Orleans.  They spoke of cars and buses burning in “Tott-ing-ham, London”.  Back home yesterday morning, having seen TV coverage of the previous night’s mayhem, I Tweeted: “Memo to COBRA: Time to get tough.  Bring in the Army.  Shoot looters and arsonists on sight”.

This was not, of course, a practical policy prescription — more a howl of protest on behalf of all those decent law-abiding citizens who, like me, were shocked and outraged by what they’d seen.  In fact I’ve seen nothing of this first-hand — thanks heaven the troubles have not reached rural Leicestershire — but nonetheless because of the Tweet, the media decided that I must be a pundit on the issue, and I have been besieged by media bids, though I only accepted local media and Radio 5 Live.

Inevitably, as usual, Central Office “dissociated itself from Mr. Helmer’s views”.  The great thing about being a humble back-bencher is that one is free to use robust and colourful language which would give Central Office apparatchiks the collywobbles.

Almost as shocking as the riots are the opportunist attempts by various left-wingers to blame the government and “the cuts” for the violence.  In practical terms, of course, few of “the cuts” have so far been implemented.  But in any case, the blame attaches clearly and solely to the feral youths, the low-life sewer-rats who were smashing and grabbing and looting and burning, with a wholesale disregard for life and property.   It is fair to ask questions about police strategy and readiness, and about underlying social factors that have created an alienated under-class, but the blame for nights of carnage lies solely and squarely with the perpetrators.

Predictably, the BBC repeatedly described these thugs and hooligans as “protesters”.  They were no such thing.  They were simply criminals.  They had no legitimate cause.  They had no demands, no programme.  They were motivated by greed, nihilism and sheer devilment.  This gives the lie to those who have tried to compare the suppression of riots in the UK with events in Libya and Syria.  Those countries sadly have oppressive authoritarian régimes.  We, fortunately, have democracy, and we voted in the present government only fourteen months ago.  There could be no legitimacy for violent street protests, even if they had a legitimate cause.

Lord Harris says that these young people need jobs.  Maybe so, but what employer in his right mind would offer them one?  Who would employ these inarticulate, nihilistic, mindless young people, totally lacking in any vestige of moral sense or respect?

On police tactics, I recognise that the police were as surprised as everyone else by the scale of the riots, and I respect the courage and sheer hard graft of many officers.  But I do have the sense that the Met were playing catch-up for too long, that they have too many senior officers with sociology degrees who are more concerned with building bridges, respecting minorities, and promoting community relations, than they are with protecting life and property and keeping the peace on our streets.  They see themselves as a Police Service rather than a Police Force.

The copy-cat rioters in Manchester and Birmingham and elsewhere did it primarily because they thought they could get away with it, because they’d seen the initially low-key response in London.  We all saw young people queuing outside broken shop windows for their turn to grab the telephones, TVs and trainers, with no police officers in sight, or sometimes two or three officers standing by impotently, in the face of dozens or hundreds of rioters.  In other cities they thought they’d also load up on brand-name consumer products and bling, and they calculated that they could get away with it scot free.

On social issues, there are many underlying causes that could be adduced.  Simon Heffer says we have an underclass because we have decided to pay for one.  We have family breakdown, the lack of male role-models and authority figures, the growth of moral relativism and the decline of religion.  We have insolent and nihilistic “rap” lyrics inciting violence.  In education we have the undermining of discipline by trendy, “progressive” educational theories, and teachers lacking any credible sanctions against bad behaviour, and we have a significant proportion of school leavers functionally illiterate and innumerate (as Carol Vorderman recently pointed out).

It is gratifying that the Coalition is addressing many of these issues (Michael Gove on education; Iain Duncan-Smith on welfare and family issues, for example), but it’s a long-term project.

Is there any silver lining?  It was good to see London residents turning out with brooms to clean up, and in some cases law-abiding citizens on the streets to protect their property and neighbourhoods.  No one wants vigilantism, but if the police have clearly demonstrated an inability to protect life and property, we can hardly blame citizens for filling the gap.

And I was pleased to see in the press at least one parent of a young looter expressing her own outrage.  We need law-abiding middle-aged parents to turn in their youngsters who come home with obviously looted stuff.  The police, after a slow start, have now made many hundreds of arrests.  They also say they’ll be rigorous in following up the numerous leads from photographs, security camera footage, and even from the FaceBook postings of foolish youngsters who have paraded themselves with their loot.  All these young criminals must be given credible custodial sentences.  ASBOs and community service orders will not do — though I’m not sure where Ken Clarke will find all the prison accommodation.

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15 Responses to Nothing like it since the blitz

  1. Malcolm Edward says:

    That people who have the fortune to live in a society such as ours wish to destroy it causes me great anger.
    Though they are products of the effect of socialism and wishy washy liberalism, the decision to riot is their own.

    By rights (of the majority) they cannot be left in our society and they need to be expelled to somewhere remote in the world and preferably to an already destroyed country. I think in a labour camp working on one of Mugabe’s farms would have much to commend it.

  2. Axel says:

    I fear that you, Mr. Helmer, have failed to appreciate the underlying reasons for these events. Whilst I cannot exculpate the miscreants for their terrible acts, there can be no doubt that Britain’s youths are facing a future of terrible dispair in many cases, as a direct result of the last government’s, and the current government’s lunatic energy policies.

    Policies which have meant that, few British manufacturing industries are now competitive in world markets. This has led to a grave dimunition of Britains industrial capacity, and consequent loss of employment, and career opportunities for the youth of today.

    These events, whilst appalling, and indeed criminal, are in fact born out of despair, and the majority of todays dis-affected youth have not even taken part….so far. As the energy costs inexorably rise however, more and more industries will become uncompetitive or close down completely, and as production is driven abroad, there will be hordes of disaffected adults on the streets also. This is a dangerous and srious threat to civilsed society, and the solution lies not in reacting to events as you suggest, but in amelioration of the conditions for British Manufacturing and Production.

    Society cannot be financed with a “service economy”, where less than 20% of the economy, which are actually producing saleable goods, is expected to finance the other 80% who produce nothing but paperwork and red tape, or make money from manipulating numbers on some Bank’s computer system.

    Britain needs affordable energy, and to ditch the “Carbon” and other so called “Green” taxes. Energy minister, Charles Hendry needs to stand up to his overlord, Chris Huhne and tell him the bald facts of life with regard to energy costs and industrial production, else these civil disturbances are likely to continue, and may even get worse, as millions more citizens are thrown on the scrapheap of industrial debris, originally created by Tony Blair, then Gordon Brown.

    David Cameron must steer a different course for this great Ship of State, that we were once proud to call “Great Britain”.

    • Axel,

      I agree very much with your comments on climate and competitiveness, although not entirely with you comments on service industries. A pound earned from software development or tourism is just as good as a pound made from manufacturing widgets, and overseas sales of insurance or banking services are just as much exports as cars (though we do need a better balance in the economy).

      Nor am I sure about “despair”. Looking at the success of immigrants, especially Eastern Europeans, in finding British jobs, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that these unemployed British youths have actually chosen not to work.

      • Axel says:

        Banking “services” like those sub-prime loans, and bundled debts, is what I am talking about. “Quantitative Easing” and other such abstractions and misnomers, which essentially mean manufacturing moneys from thin air. Fractional reserve lending, of moneys that don’t really exist, and so on. These are not genuine “products”. A pound earned from that is simply a fraud.

        As to the “success” of immigrants, in finding British Jobs, this is easy to explain. They work for less wages, and are mostly single males with no responsibilities. They are prepared to live in dormitory style, sub-standard accomodation and will endure abuses of working practices which had been built up over many decades, by mutual agreement of employers, trade unions, and governments. They are prepared to work without proper safety equipment, and show a casual disregard for their own future health. They furthermore take all the low-paid jobs, the “first rung on the ladder” jobs, that would have, in the past, gone to school leavers and other youths.

        Britain’s young people should not have to diminish their own living conditions, and endanger their own health, in order to find meaningful employment. There has to be a proper standard, and indeed such standards as are laid down by governments and local authorities are oftimes ignored entirely by unscrupulous employers, who do then actively recruit foreign workers in preference to British Citizens.

  3. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    You know, Roger, the only people who have a problem with your tweet are politicians, pie-in-the-sky lefties, and guardianistas, Daniel Knowles of the Telegraph, and other very silly people.

    Meanwhile, everybody on planet earth who isn’t actively putting small businessmen out of business agrees with you. While Teresa Dismay may be worrying her pretty little head over whether water cannon would be a bit too nasty to be included in a “robust” police response, and the police calculate that small businessmen are second-class citizens whose livelihoods are expendable in the great project to avoid being accused of racism, normal people — i.e. the ones who pay the politicians’ and policemens’ wages — are outraged at this lily-livered decadence.

    For God’s sake, is it too much to expect SOMEBODY to get a grip????

  4. Heather Alibakir says:

    I have just learned that in the case of one nine year old looter, the parents were there joining in. How reliable their source is I do not know, but I heard it on the BBC!

    Compare this with the dignified interview given by the father of one of the three young men who were murdered by a car driver.
    The poor man was giving CPR to one of the lads when he noticed his own son was there too and transferred his attention to him. As we all know, neither of the young people lived.The angels weep for that father and the other parents involved.
    The majority of the people of this country agree with you Roger:let us hope that when people come out of shock they do not seek reprisals.

  5. Lazarus says:

    Perhaps you should start to really listen when Central Office “dissociated itself from Mr. Helmer’s views”.

    If you really want to live in a country that has the army on the streets shooting kids perhaps Syria might be more to your liking.

    Of course, if you didn’t really mean what you literally said, when actually are challenged and held accountable, then we are getting quite used to politicians of that sort.

    • Thanks Lazarus. If you read my piece more carefully, you will see why comparisons with Syria are egregious and irrelevant. Of course I don’t want the army on the street shooting kids. But I don’t want rioting, arson, mayhem, mugging and murder on the streets either.

      • Lazarus says:

        “Of course I don’t want the army on the street shooting kids. But I don’t want rioting, arson, mayhem, mugging and murder on the streets either.”

        But here you seem to be suggesting an either or choice.

        Our Government, one you seem to take delight in undermining, has at last responded by doing the right thing by implementing more robust policing and fast tracking through courts.

        That is how you prevent rioting, arson, mayhem, mugging and murder on the streets, not bringing in the army with loaded weapons.

    • Andrew Shakespeare says:

      It’s one thing to not be serious when talking about shooting rioters. It’s another thing altogether to not be serious when promising to hold an In/Out referendum on the EU. Pillock.

  6. Lazarus says:

    “it was Lazarus I was calling a pillock.”

    Well I’m glad I don’t live in a world where name calling doesn’t win over rational and civilised debate.

  7. ChrisM says:

    ” We, fortunately, have democracy, and we voted in the present government only fourteen months ago.”

    did we indeed? Can you tell me how many constituencies the coalition stood in? Or how many Liberal Democrat voters expected their to form a coalition with the Tories? Clue- they’ve lost most of them since the election. Or where all the cuts were mentioned in the Tory manifesto?

    Still, this doesn’t count because you have a fantasy mandate where everyone you talk to thinks Cameron “isn’t going far enough”. You want to stand on a hard right manifesto, go right ahead, and we’ll have another election.

    “this great Ship of State, that we were once proud to call “Great Britain”.

    I thought you were a Unionist. Funny you can’t get the name of the country right.

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