Home Secretary helps launch book on political riots

John Reid last night helped launch the new book by respected Lobby Correspondent Ian Hernon on civil insurrection from Peterloo to the present day.

Some see Reid as a scary authoritarian but he made what even one jaded cynic saw as a very liberal speech defending detractors in the press who are doing a public service in increasing accountability of ministers.

I haven’t digested the book (published by Pluto) as a whole but had a quick skim through the chapter on the poll tax riot – the overall politics of which I was involved in back in the early 90s – and it’s both a fair and interesting account of how the Trafalgar Square riot came to take place. The book’s blurb says that “this lively book shows how the ugly roar of the mob has perhaps done more to change society than measured parliamentary debate.” I

’m afraid that it doesn’t cover the North (though he mentions that the RUC’s experience was closely monitored by other police forces) or Scotland but Riot seems like a very readable analysis of what Martin Luther King called “the language of the unheard” even if such language is rarely justifiable in conditions of full democracy.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Rarely justifiable in conditions of full democracy”

    As regards the Trafalgar Square riot over the community charge, “not remotely justified” would be more appropriate.

  • Rory

    “As regards the Trafalgar Square riot over the community charge, “not remotely justified” would be more appropriate.

    “Justification” for any political action is a moveable feast, Harry, depending entirely on one’s political stance at the time.

    What is more pertinent, particularly in mass public opposition to state policy leading to large demonstrations and unrest and eventually outbreak into riot, is that the government ignored all signs that their measures were so unpopular as to be perceived as oppressive and rioting is often the inevitable result of that failure. Pooh=pooing it will not make it go away. Better to listen to the people’s voice and heed the warnings.

    The trouble with Thatcher was that in her arrogance she assumed that blatant redistribution of tax burdens from the rich to those least able to bear them would be oassively accepted. Fortunately the resistance to the Poll Tax was not channelled via a ceiminally arrogant and incompetent leadership such as Scargill onlictrd upon the miners. The Labour Party did their damndest to stifle mass dissent and the Trots of course tried to divided down the cul de sacs of Cuckooland but the popular will was too strong to be dissuaded.

    Historically the collapse of Thatcher and the subsequent humiliation of the Tory party may be viewed as justification enough.

    The Boston Tea Party was similarly regarded as “not remotely justified” by those who benefited from the taxation but history views it as “justified”.

  • Rory

    Please substitute:

    “p” for “o” in “Oassively”
    “r” for “e” in “ceminally” and
    “i” for “o” in “onflicted” to read

    “passively”, “criminally” and “inflicted”.

    Apologies that my passive stance on reviewing inflicted such criminal howlers on my readers.