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.   

  1. Maxine says:

    I hate to sound like an old fogey, but it is partly to do with our woolly feeble culture in which the perfectly reasonable concept of human/individual rights has been grossly swollen into a vicious sense of entitlement. In the times you wrote of, who sued the council when they tripped over a cracked paving stone, or sued their doctor if their treatment were less than ideal? Who these days is interpreting these “rights” but a load of silly do-gooders who seem out of touch with the vast majority of people who do a day’s work week, month and year in and out, only now to see our pensions, savings etc fading away. Yet are those people rioting? no.

    These kids are just kids and however clever they think they are to be hitting out at their society, they are deeply wrong and misguided. I hope that the ones that are all caught are forced to sit and watch movies of what it is like to live in most countries of the world. And I hope someone makes them clean up the mess (though decent volunteers are doing that). And if they go to prison, I hope they get an education scheme not wall to wall satellite colour tv showing them yet more things they want to have but can’t afford.

    Yes they are criminals and there is no justification for what they’ve done. Perhaps the authorities and these kids’ parents will learn something from the fact that no bookshops were looted.

    Oh and while I am in my rant allocation, I will jsut note that I have no sympathy for that rich cambridge student who was recently jailed either. Throwing fire extinguishers onto a crowd and so on is not defensible behaviour. he will obviously be earning a rich wage soon enough so I hope a proportion of it is allocated to repairing some of the damage he caused.

    • Norman says:

      Maxine, I am definitely the old fogey. The scenes of the police being attacked in Woolwich, and the spread of the violence to the Midlands and Manchester are signs that the rioters are not worried by the chance of an ASBO, a meaningless fine, or even a few months in prison.

  2. Peter says:

    Ye gods, have you ever considered standing for Parliament? I’m sure you’d give a fine speech.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  3. Peter says:

    Hmm, no comment appeared, no notification that moderation is enabled, no sign that anything was wrong with my comment, so let’s hope it appears!

  4. Norman says:

    Peter it seems WordPress is a bit quirky. Some comments go through without moderation, some require moderation, and some get put in spam by mistake. I will look at my settings again. I lived for many years in those South London areas where there have been riots, and what is happening there is a tragedy.
    When I was a child there were bomb sites in South London created by the Luftwaafe, now there are derelict sites created by a small violent group of scum. The failure of the police to take robust action [rubber bullets, tasers and water cannon] when faced by violent disorder, arsonists, bricks, metal poles and bottles is a result of a softly softly policy directed from above. A policy that has lead to this anarchy and a total lack of respect for any authority.
    Don’t believe the tough talking politicians, you will get a tougher sentence for jaywalking in the USA than these people will get here. So called TV pundits who have never lived anywhere near these areas compare the protests with the Suffragettes, and one twerp mentioned Martin Luther King. I thought I knew my history and I don’t remember Emily Pankhurst or Dr King stealing anything.
    People have died and people are frightened, and the idiots who rule us want to cut police numbers, while wasting money on overseas aid that ends up in Zurich banks, the Afghanistan war, and the intervention in the Libyan Civil War.
    We have politicians leading our nation that make Harding, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, look like FDR, and Washington. Rant over but I suspect the riots are not.

  5. Great post Norm. Hoping that tonight things are finally calming down, although I see the Telegraph reporting in breaking news that disturbances are breaking out in Eltham. This really has to end.

  6. Norman says:

    THanks Rhian.
    Cameron talks the talk, but this level of policing can’t be maintained for very long.

    I see that a rioter who assaulted a police officer and tied to gouge out his eye was sentenced to 20 weeks [out in 10]. Pleased the courts are getting so tough…….
    I hope I am wrong but once the rain stops and police numbers drop the rioters will be back.
    If you heard those moronic girls in Croydon [an area I used to know very well] say “this is about showing the police, and the rich people, we can do anything we want, they can’t do anything to us the prisons are full.”
    I haven’t seen any “rich people” suffer so far, just a lot of very scared hard working citizens who deserve to be protected.
    Once shops were firebombed then very robust policing should have been the order of the day. I lived about a shop as a child, and believe if arson endangers life a charge of attempted murder is valid. Unfortunately until one of these rioters receives a sentence of 10 years plus the trouble may go on and on.

  7. Norman says:

    From the BBC website today:

    “A district judge dealing with cases relating to disorder in Nottingham has said people should speak to the government if sentences seemed lenient.

    Tim Devas, district judge at Nottingham Magistrates Court, also told Craig Cave, 26, of Burrows Avenue, Beeston, to “sort his life out”.

    Cave was found guilty of obstructing the police and was fined £60.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s