Archive for August 9, 2011

Out of Touch:1963 & the 2011 riots

Posted: August 9, 2011 in England

I am reading A Little White Death by John Lawton, a novel  loosely based on the events known as the Profumo Affair during 1963 in ‘swinging’ London. In the summer of 1963 I was working in my father’s shop in the fashionable King’s Road, Chelsea, before going on to university. One of the major figures in the Profumo Affair, osteopath Stephen Ward [Patrick Fitzpatrick in the book] was a regular customer, and his subsequent suicide on the last day of his trial was a shock.

John Profumo, Secretary for State for War, was forced to resign on the 5 June after lying to the House of Commons in March about his relationship with Christine Keeler.  When Prime Minister Harold Macmillan resigned in October 1963, ostensibly because of prostate gland disease from which he was not expected to recover [but lived on for another 23 years], he was succeeded by Sir Alec Douglas-Hume, formerly the Earl of Home. Remember that in 1960 the USA had elected the young vibrant Jack Kennedy as President, and young people at the time were full of hope.

We had lived through the real austerity of the post war years, the fear of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and we now looked forward to an exciting brave new world. The Conservative Party’s answer to this hope for a better future was to appoint the 14th Earl of Home, formerly Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain, a man forever to be linked with appeasement. At the time this nineteen year old thought how totally out of touch they were with ordinary people, and especially with young people. 

Today it seems after three days and nights of arson and looting the present government, lead by old Etonian David Cameron, are less in touch with what is going on than the much maligned 14th Earl of Home back in 1963. Last night the forces of law and order had totally lost control of the streets. If the police allow themselves to be pelted with missiles, while watching looting going on within 10-20 metres the reaction of  these violent young people will be ,’I can do that’, and ‘I want a piece of that’.

The police on the ground are clearly worried that any robust action will lay them open to criticism [or possible prosecution] by self appointed community leaders, journalists, human rights lawyers, and their superiors safely ensconced in an office far away from the violence. Theresa May, a Home Secretary obviously completely out of her depth, spoke this morning as if these were a few minor disturbances, and not a complete breakdown of law and order with widespread arson and looting.

She does not understand ‘policing by consent’ has broken down, ‘policing by containment’ is obviously not working.

People’s livelihoods and lives are at risk. We can discuss the alleged causes at a later date, right now we need to re-establish a safe environment for our citizens. Organizations like the BBC should stop referring to ‘protesters’, they ceased to be protesters and became criminals when they set light to cars and buildings, and stole goods from their fellow citizens. 

Is this lack of respect for other people’s property, a result of years of young people being told about their entitlements, and not their responsibilities? Is it a protest about stop and search by the police? Is it about the cuts, and closures of youth centres? Is it about not being able to have the right kind of designer jeans or the latest Blackberry? Is it about unemployment? Is it the result of parents, schools, police, and the courts being told not to discipline or punish anyone, because it is against their human rights? 

Frankly I don’t care, because all I see at the moment is good people of all races and colours losing their businesses and homes, wandering about looking fearful as mobs wander the streets looking for loot and likely victims.

Perhaps our politicians should stop getting involved in civil wars in Libya, giving overseas aid to India and Pakistan, and start thinking a bit more about youth in our own country. The priority now must be the reimposition of law and order on our streets, because this cannot, and must not go on for another night.