London riots Day 3. Met tactics come under increasing scrutiny














The picture of burnt out cars may not be the most dramatic of the day, but it is my own and it is very local. I experienced last night in ways all too familiar to old Troubles hands.  It was all happening five minutes away but I didn’t hear a thing. I was busy tut-tutting at the TV showing long lingering shots of infernos in Croydon and Enfield.  And secondly, when it happens near you, you feel differently. The centre of Ealing very near where I live was by no means the worst hit but it was the most surprising target of the night.  Central Ealing is fairly affluent and definitely middle class. Local estates are mainly Asian and some distance away.

This is one case where the old denial mantra may actually be right: “they came from outside the area”.   Expect to hear talk of organised anarchism soon, not just copycat violence. Rubber bullets and water cannon are mentioned in the same breath as curfew and bringing in the army.  The last two are rot. This is no sustained insurgency, it’s hit and run, then leave it to the looters. Of which in Ealing mercifully, we have very few – though H Samuel seems to have been the main exception.

Why, why why? Information is scant and analysis correspondingly lite. Early attention inevitably focuses more on policing than background. Even Labour MPs are resisting blaming the cuts, recalling perhaps Tony Blair’s insight that it’s working people who suffer most from breakdown.

Cries of “where were the police?” grow louder and louder. Cameron’s announcement that 16,000 will be on the streets tonight may blunt the fury, depending on what happens. But with only 6,000 on duty last night, plus claims of how stretched they were, confidence in the already beleaguered Met leadership will not improve nor in the overworked concept of operational independence and their cumbersome procedures and conditions of service.

“What do we want from the police?” is always a fair question that is likely to be asked in different terms after this week.  Ben Brogan‘s Telegraph blog gives a flavour of  the emerging  Conservative critique. This is the harder revisionist line from John O’Connor a former Met commander, writing in the Guardian.  Will local people give offenders up?  This is a stern test of all those years of community liaison. Will the courts break the habit of giving them bail? If not, where will they put them?   London is poorly geared for this.

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  • Lionel Hutz

    Sorry about your car.

    The police are being criticized for not controlling the violence but they seem to be able to arrest loads of these rioters. In N.I. we barely arrest anyone!!! Why is that? I heard that around 80 people were arrested in Liverpool last night alone.

  • keano10

    I have always argued that the biggest danger to any democracy is not necessarily a revolution which sits on the shoulders of a well thought out and well reasoned political ideaology.

    No. The biggest danger will always come as a result of plain straightforward anarchy. And what happened last night in London was simply that. Anarchy on the streets. Enforced political authority simply went missing in London last night and in the preceding days beforehand.

    It was a spontaneous outburst of lawlessness for which there may or may not be any justification, but it illustrates how democratic states are much more vulnerable than they might imagine to anarchic reactions of this kind.

    States will always argue the case against political idealogies but straightforward seeming unexplained anarchic lawlessness leaves them unable (politically or otherwise) to deal with what is happening.

    There was certainly an anti-statist under-current to much of the robbery, violence and arson which occurred, but it was not part of any particular ideaology nor for that matter part of any singular ethnic grouping. Yet the sheer scale at which the trouble spread should send very grave warning signs to Cameron’s Government in Britain. Organised Anarchist groupings will now have real evidence of how easy it is actually is to stretch limited police resources and create mayhem on a wide scale. There is enough dissatisfaction out tehre to have no shortage of potential recruits.

  • Rory Carr

    Mary Riddell in the Telegraph makes a brave and, to my mind, searching analysis of what happened and why in an article that has been linked opposite in Slugger’s “Rolling News and Comment” column entitled Riots: the underclass lashes out. I commend it to you all for reading.

    p.s. Commiserations on the loss of your transport, Brian.

  • Mark McGregor

    My reading was the picture is Brian’s, not the car. On that note I’d add my commiserations on his camera choice which seems to give a 1980s effect.

  • Lionel Hutz

    the sentence is ambiguous. I think the camera gives the effect of a flashback from a US Soap Opera.

    I still dont understand what this rioting is about. We have this problem here. I don’t for one second believe that half the rioters know what they are rioting for. Because if they knew what they rioting for, they would probably know that destroying their own communitiies wont help anything.

    Recreational rioting? Anarchy? All because of a lack of social dmeocracy? I’m not so sure.

  • Banjaxed

    And now we learn that it will take from 4 to 6 months for the IPCC to complete its report and investigation into the death of Mark Duggan.
    Well, I should hope that will give the plods sufficient time to get their stories choreographed and corroborated as they appear to have made a hames of it to date.

  • Neil

    I still dont understand what this rioting is about. We have this problem here. I don’t for one second believe that half the rioters know what they are rioting for. Because if they knew what they rioting for, they would probably know that destroying their own communitiies wont help anything.

    Ennui and a spark. People fed up with being broke and unemployed. Reading any newspaper you could be forgiven for thinking that financial armageddon was due anytime and you may never work again.

    The problem is now the kids realise it’s fun can they get the genie back in the bottle?

  • Brian Walker

    Thank you Mark, The photo not the car indeed, taken with a three year old wee Nokia – not like the Blackberry the rioters are supposed to be using. How can they afford them?

    Rory, I agree. Quite a lot in my friend Mary Riddell’s piece, but the underlying causes will have to wait until the rioting is contained or burns itself out. A great deal of techy ingenuity and planning seems to have been deployed, unless the cops are hyping their adversaries. . I can only say it’s a pity it isn’t used in a better cause..

    We can expect a huge reappraisal of policy, but as for different results,who knows ? Who is the new Hezza?

  • pippakin

    The riots must end before real analysis can begin. As far as I can see most of it is opportunist thuggery. But look on the bright side no doubt there will be future job opportunities in the community spokesman/leader market.

  • Toastedpuffin

    What is it about difficult-to-take-seriously politicians and brooms…

  • …Why is that?…

    C’mon, Lionel. You should know the answer. So far, I don’t think any of the rioters having been shooting at the police.

  • A “local” perspective on the city riots/rioters ……

  • Brian

    SJS’s comment on the pennyred blog is right on.

    “Well, I grew up in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in England. My family was not only poor, it was only one step removed from a cardboard box beneath a bridge.
    I went to the same schools as these looting, mugging thugs. I was presented with the same lack of opportunity as them, I was just as disenfranchised with this floundering country.
    I have been searched (many times) without justification by police, I’ve been charged with an offence which never even took place.

    Am I out there smashing windows, mugging old ladies, torching builds and cars? No… I’m not!

    You can blame society as much as you like, but you’re demonstrating a noxious delusion an unfortunate number of ill-informed and ill-experienced people. More depressingly, it is predominately people such as yourself who dictate policy as short-sighted as your rhetoric.

    What makes me different to these morons? Simple: I CHOSE not to be a moron. I elected to LEARN when I went to school (and ever-after), I wanted to make something of my life.
    Inversely, these morons have no desire to WORK. They’ve no drive to learn, or to achieve anything for themselves. They’re content to live on “the dole”, sponging from taxpayers such as myself who work bloody hard to make a distressingly poor wage.”

    These people are wilfully unintelligent! They CHOSE not to pay attention in school. Not because they’re poor, not because they’re “downtrodden”, but because they are plain stupid…. by CHOICE.
    They are simply too lazy to do their own thinking, and so are easily cajoled into “gangs”, empowering them to be a complete moron… thus, you end up with mobs rioting and looting.

    You cannot change the way these people behave, because they LIKE the way they are. They lack any moral compass, any social responsibility, any willingness to be productive. In the place of those purposefully belayed virtues, they have weaknesses: desire to steal, to “make fast money” at the expense of those of us who work hard, to cause others pain, to seek “popularity” within their gang, to watch the world burn.

    There’s NO justification for their actions, no excuse. “

  • Rory Carr

    It is not a question of attempting to find justification for the activity of the last few nights, Brian, but rather of trying to understand what caused it then and there and why it has spread like wildfire.. To say that it was simply “mindless criminality” is only to make a judgemental description and doesn’t get us anywhere nor does the heartfelt plea of SJS, the contributor to Penny Red’s blog, who obviously is not a man happy with the sentiment, “There, but for the grace of God…”. The exception, contrary to popular wisdom, does not actually prove the case.

    The actions are criminal certainly but then, so what? The actions of the bankers, reckless speculators and profiteering warmongers which have brought us all to this miserable pass are apparently not criminal and yet they have created death and destruction and misery on a scale incomparably greater than anything these poor deluded rioters could ever contemplate in their wildest dreams.

    These mega-rich merchants of death, misery and destruction are wooed and feted by all in government while they, quite improperly, attempt to dictate to the courts what action on sentencing must be taken against any convicted of participation in the events of the last few days.

    To blame the spread of the rioting and looting on social networking tools or such as Blackberry is equally mistaken as again it only describes the means of communication and goes nowhere to addressing why such communication was acted upon.

    And, finally, for SJS to explain why he was NOT out rioting over the last few nights goes no way to explaining why others were, or indeed why I was not.

  • DC

    One of your better comments Rory.

  • Rory,

    I was saddened at the wanton destruction in your area on the first night and, of course, all of the areas on subsequent nights.
    Hope the police can get a handle on this.

  • Rory Carr

    Thanks for thought, Joe. As it happens, although I am about 5 minutes walk away from where it all kicked off, because I am on the Stamford Hill* side of Seven Sisters Road and Underground Station, we have escaped from serious damage. Also because my flat is in a side street, I am pretty cocooned from what is happening only a short distance away. Still, the High Road is not looking its best although, to tell the truth it was always pretty grim, perhaps the crappiest high street in London.

    The main attraction of Tottenham, apart from the River Lea which is accessible through the crappy park at the park at the bottom of my street (but at least it’s a park with one or two trees still living), is the terrific tube line (Victoria Line), overhead rail line to Barking and Gospek Oak which runs past my kitchen window and whose station is at the bottom of my street, and Tottenham Hale Underground with a fast run to Stanstead airport, and a terrific bus service including the legendary N73 night service to and from the West End.

    So, it is easy to get away from which is just as well as facilities and amenities are generally shit. The pubs are shit. The restuarants are shit. The lovely old Victorian swimming pool was closed and the new one is shit. The lovely open-air Lido which was just beside Broadwater Farm and was once a great boon to mothers with young children in summer was filled in years ago and turned over to Travellers as a rest in a pretense of compassion to that comminity. But it was all a ruse, as the Travellers were turfed out and the site flogged to developers as was the plan all along. The schools are shit. The shops are shit.

    But the local footbal team are worthy of support (and I say that as a Gunner), the people are grand and we do some terrific riots every now and then. Damn it! I love the oul’ place. There’s no accounting for taste, is there?

    * Stamford Hill further along from me towards Stoke Newington and Dalston is colonised by Hassidic Jews who also own a significant amount of property and businesses in the area – dodgy looking bakeries, a pizza making factory and numerous rack-rent poorly maintained properties among them. You may have seen on television a large number of white men with side-locks, white open-necked shirts and black waistcoats milling about on the first night of the Tottenham riots among all the young black faces. They were not out to join in, they were looking after their investments and they some time ago set up a community police force of their own akin to New York’s Guardian Angels (but with side ringlets) which caused mixed feelings in the area.

  • You certainly live in an interesting borough, Rory. I’m glad you like it, love it, and I’m so pleased to hear that you weren’t directly affected.

  • Munsterview

    Brian : regrets too from me on the loss of your car. As a matter of information do that clause of the Insurance not being responsible for a car lost in a civil disturbance apply over there and if so who pays for your car replacement and how quick is that likely to happen ?

    I know some of the Asian electronic shops around there and I always found the shop owners and the people in the shops friendly and easy going. I have been thinking of them and I hope that they escaped the looting but that is not very likely.

    Rory : keep the head down and stay on your own side of the road !

  • Munsterview

    Rory : “….The lovely open-air Lido which was just beside Broadwater Farm and was once a great boon to mothers with young children in summer was filled in years ago and turned over to Travellers as a rest in a pretense of compassion to that community. But it was all a ruse, as the Travellers were turfed out and the site flogged to developers as was the plan all along…..”

    Similar stunt pulled in Eastbourne a decade and a half or so ago, or so I have been informed. A fine old historic building was first acquired for a youth group by Local Government who then starved the enterprise of funds until it was run down and a hangout for undesirables.

    It was then closed as ‘a nuisance’ and for ‘public safety’ after which it was allowed run down some more and the development company that wanted the building all along apparently then got it at a considerably reduced cost if not for the proverbial song.

    I was also told by one very pissed off local young man that seemed to know what he was talking about that this sequence of events was a common place stunt to get hands on good property that should go to public use but was earmarked by Conservatives for their developer friends. Seems Fianna Failed are not the only political party on these Islands that can pull a stroke !

  • pippakin


    My local Lido in London became a danger zone. How many times do you think children should be pushed into the pool before you decide to shut it down?

  • The only effective way to stop this spreading destruction, looting, etc is to convince those engaging in it that they will be arrested and made to pay for their illegality.

  • Awesome to see on the TV hundreds of, mainly, young people cleaning up the aftermath with their brooms.

  • streetlegal

    The big shops can take it – but there is no reason for hitting small traders or fire starting.

  • As they say, OMG! — The big shops can take it – but there is no reason for hitting small traders or fire starting. In a tired, overworked phrase: Get real! There are no victimless crimes here.

    Meanwhile, anyone remember Trisha Meili, BA, MBA? Worked for Salomon Bros (ah! you remember them!)

    Ms Meili was the victim of a celebrated assault and rape: she was the Central Park raped, left unconscious to die from hypothermia and haemorrhaging. Her case is instructive for two reasons:

    1. It provided the term “wilding”:

    a slang term that refers to the practice of marauding in bands to terrorize strangers and to swagger and bully.

    I see that is now the diagnosis for what we have been witnessing these last few nights. The prescribed remedy is “give it all it takes”. In Ben Brogan’s words (which seem to resonate with how the Opposition are playing it) that amounts to:

    Mr Cameron should lead from the front in requiring that the police act against looters and those who interfere with their work with extreme prejudice. Cameron, Boris Johnson and Theresa May have not been impressive this last while: I await David Davis, among others, putting his boot in shortly.

    2. Five individuals, by no accident all Black teenagers, were arrested, confessed, were then arraigned and convicted of the assault and rape. They were, it now seems, innocent, set up by the NYPD who needed a quick conviction. Twelve years later their sentences have been quashed. Nota bene.

    My sympathies to Mr Walker. There but for accidents of geography goes anyone of us, our environment, our peace-of-mind, our possessions, our livelihoods, even (as we see overnight) our lives.

  • Sorry that the /blockquote was misplaced. Please shift the second one back a sentence, and preserve the integrity of Mr Brogan’s lucid prose.

    In the spirit of streetlegal @ 11:22 am (“Pass the sick-bag, Alice!”), we are expected to appreciate the signing of the new Tottenham striker — Grabatelli.

    No: it doesn’t work for me, either.