Britain, Diane Abbot, London Riots 2011, Nick Clegg, Police, Theresa May

Riotous hyperbole

London Riots

London Riots

Someone from the government should be engaging with the agitators. And those who are just attending the riots for criminality should be dealt with harshly. Harry Raffal offers his take on this week’s biggest story…

With the latest violence being described as horrific by the police, politicians on all sides of the spectrum seizing the opportunity to condemn the violence and the papers aggrandized the scale of the violence, particularly the events of Sunday night, there is a distinct lack of balance in the examination of what has occurred over the past few days.

The Mirror ran with the headline of “London Burning” and questioning why the PM isn’t here to heal the woes of the world but is off being photographed with a waitress. David Lammy the local MP for Tottenham has issued sound bite after sound bite, even going as far as saying the rioters had “ripped the heart” out of the area, whilst doing little to explore the underlying issues which have caused the problems. Indeed watching BBC news I was far more impressed by the interview with the local reverend Nims Obunge who both seemed to grasp the underlying causes behind the initial violence, the problems the police faced and how the violence seems to have been escalated by outside influences.

Contrary to Lammy’s statements the initial disturbances were quite representative of the Tottenham area. Long held resentment to the police has been sparked by the recent shooting of Mark Duggan and the police force’s lack of engagement with the local area since that incident. The events of Sunday night which went on in to the early morning of Monday were quite different.The first trouble in Brixton followed a local festival before later more trouble descended and scenes familiar to those seen in North London occurred. As trouble in one area died down it flared up elsewhere lending credence to the view that a hardcore of organised individuals were determined to exploit the genuine anguish of the Tottenham community.

Diane Abbott, labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has said it should be made clear to those involved from the local areas that looting will harm the future prospects of the area as it will make redevelopment harder. Personally. I think Abbott losing the Labour party leadership election was the worst thing that could have happened for the Conservatives, she really is wasted offering her views up to Portillo on the couch of this week.

My scorn at this comment is that since, the majority of those involved from the local area are the people who will be squeezed out by rising house prices as areas move up market, and are unable to afford the high prices in the shops that relocate to developed areas, it is hardly a convincing argument and suggests a real sense of dislocation between those in charge of these areas and the young people who have been involved in the looting that occurred last night. There are undoubtedly issues fuelling these outbreaks of violence and I would suggest youth unemployment is pretty close to the top, it certainly seems to be fuelling the recent disturbances in Northern Ireland. However, whilst a significant number of those involved in the troubles last night were from the local area it is also apparent that there were individuals simply looking to wreak destruction and damage property.

Interestingly, Enfield, Walthamstow, Brixton and Oxford Circus are all easily accessible by both train and night buses. Indeed Walthamstow central is a transport hub on the North terminus of the Victoria line, Oxford Circus is in the middle and Brixton is the south terminus of the Victoria line. It seems clear that a group of individuals separate from the local populace of those areas used the tubes to jump between areas causing trouble and using the mobility of the tube to stay ahead of the police. That the police were left in the wake of trouble does them little credit; the police are known to use twitter to monitor trouble and could surely have spotted the trend of individuals using the tube to stay mobile. That said the police did prevent widespread destruction.

Whilst it is clear the police were initially caught cold by the riots in Tottenham it is apparent they were able to minimize the scope of events on Sunday night-Monday morning. Indeed the destruction that occurred will allow the police to plead their case once more for the loss of personnel and the damage cuts have done to morale whilst avoiding the widespread pillaging which might have occurred if there was another night of substantial destruction.Were I the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police I think I would be delighted at how my officers reacted to events last night. It would also explain why in areas like Brixton police initially left looters unimpeded before reacting with force after a certain amount of destruction had been accomplished.

Theresa May has flown back in no doubt to add her voice to the condemnation of the violence; obviously Nick “Deputy PM” Clegg didn’t do a good enough job. I’d be much more impressed if a member of the government came out and offered to engage with those involved in violence from the local area whilst promising to come down like a ton of brick on those solely engaged in criminality. If we really want the violence not to continue throughout August we’d be better off hoping for rain, heavy rain. No one goes out to riot if they’re going to get soaked.

About Harry Raffal

Historian at the Royal Air Force Museum. Currently preparing for the viva defence of my PhD thesis on the RAF and Luftwaffe during Operation DYNAMO, the evacuation of the Dunkirk in 1940 (University of Hull). Other areas of research include: The online development of the Ministry of Defence and British Armed Forces. 2014 — Institute for Historical Research research bursary for ‘Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities’ project. 2018 — published in a special issue of Internet Histories. The force structure and capabilities of the Eritrean Air Force Internet deterrence: How to counter the weaponization of information online These research projects have formed the content of several papers including lectures to the Royal Aeronautical Society, as part of the RAF Museums Trenchard lecture series, and the 2017 Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials (RESAW) conference. This research has been funded through bursaries and educational grants from the Royal Historical Society, the 2014 Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities research grant, the Princess Royal Trust, the University of Hull, the Sir Richard Stapley Trust and the RAF Museum PhD bursary. Placed in Total Politics 2011 top 100 non-aligned political bloggers


5 thoughts on “Riotous hyperbole

  1. Good article, Harry.

    I think it is crucial to note the difference between the initial expression of anger towards the police and then a hardcore of opportunists who sought to cause mayhem afterwards.

    Excellent point about Diane Abbott. There really is a disconnect between the political class and the people of London, pertinently those involved in the riots.

    What long-term solutions did you see to remedy some of the underlying causes of the rioting?

    Posted by seanmchale1986 | August 9, 2011, 7:33 pm
  2. Hi Sean, thanks for your comment,

    Long-term solutions are difficult in most cases. Quickly I’d say I think there has to be a real engagement with the concerns that most young people have at the moment. I’m from Fulham, was raised on Prothero road down from the Clem Attlee estate and both individually and what my friends from the area seem to be worried about is housing and the rising cost of living in London. Council housing stocks are diminishing, there isn’t any rent control in place meaning that people buy property’s and use the rent to pay the mortgage off. The effect this has is that people feel squeezed out of their local area and I think the looting in particular in indicative of young people who don’t have a real connection with looking after their local area and welcome an opportunity against attacking the property and interests of those they think of as supplanting them.

    I should note I wrote this yesterday morning before the events in Croydon, Clapham, ect. I expect there to be more violence tonight but for the police to deal with it effectively. I was in Clapham earlier in the day and there were enough police to break up the initial violence. They let it go unchecked and then young guys from the estate down from Lavender Hill arrived. This seems to have happened in many areas. I think I noted this trend in my article and the motive I believed lay behind it and I’m now convinced the Police have played a clever game. The police will now have been promised more funding by Dave and will now reduce the violence in London is my guess.

    Posted by Harry Raffal | August 9, 2011, 7:59 pm


  1. Pingback: A very British riot | Olivia Jackson - August 10, 2011

  2. Pingback: A very British riot « Politics on Toast - August 10, 2011

  3. Pingback: A review of the August riots « Politics on Toast - August 14, 2011

Debate this article!

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

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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

Read all about…

Sites We Like

Directories We’re Listed In

British Blogs Politics Blogs
Politics Blog Directory
Add blog to our directory. My Zimbio
KudoSurf Me!
%d bloggers like this: