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Why I will be voting Labour on Thursday

In the style of most self-indulgent blogs, this really isn’t for your benefit, it’s for mine. The fact that I’m voting Labour will be about as much shock as the Telegraph and Mail backing the Tories. My Facebook and Twitter followers have seen plenty of “left wing propaganda” in recent weeks (hi Steve!), so I don’t think anyone was expecting me to have suddenly swung to the right. What I wanted to do was work out how I got here, and if in the meantime I can help nudge you in the right direction then that’s a bonus. Incidentally “right” doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with me; we all have to work out what is “right” for us, and that’s far from easy thanks to the depressing state of political discourse in our country caused largely by our ineffective and often feral press.

The lapsed Lib Dem

Five years ago I was a committed Liberal Democrat voter. Don’t I feel stupid now. The electoral mathematics dealt them a shocking hand which left them screwed and unpopular whatever they did. As the excellent Channel 4 docu-drama Coalition recently showed, Nick Clegg thought that securing a shot at voting reform made holding their nose worthwhile. He didn’t bank on how low the Tories and the press would sink to maintain the status quo of first past the post, which ironically now seems to be working for no one. Furthermore most of the Labour party seemed to be hell-bent on being in opposition, and the numbers didn’t stack up for a Lib/Lab coalition anyway. So the Lib/Con coalition was probably inevitable and the right thing to do.

As Clegg has often and rightly pointed out since, coalition means compromise. The Lib Dems didn’t win the election and so didn’t have the right to implement their manifesto. That’s why tuition fees couldn’t be scrapped. But here’s my problem: not implementing your manifesto is one thing, implementing the precise opposite (i.e. trebling fees) is quite another. Especially when the coalition agreement explicitly gave you the option to abstain – it wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome, but it would have felt like much less of a betrayal.

So where does that leave us? Either the original pledge to scrap fees was a lie, an impossible pipe-dream that hadn’t been thought through, or Clegg doesn’t see a problem with contradicting himself and his party. I err on the side of cock-up rather than conspiracy, but whatever the reason it leaves every Lib Dem manifesto pledge utterly worthless. And it’s not just about fees: I cannot believe that such suffering that has been inflicted on some of the most vulnerable in our society at the hands of the Lib Dems, a party I am now ashamed to have supported.

They now see themselves as the counterweight to whoever is in power. That has some appeal, since the answer so often lies somewhere between the two extremes. That leaves me broadly untroubled by them having an influence in government, but with absolutely no positive reason to vote for them. They’re like the referee – they have a job to do, but nobody pays to see them. (A sporting analogy? What the hell has happened to me?)

UKIP and the Greens: Hell no, and sorry but no

A quick word on UKIP, if we must. And the word is no. Just no. While blaming all of our woes on the EU and immigration has a simplistic appeal, it doesn’t cut it. The EU is far from perfect and changes are needed, but walking away is not the answer. I work in higher education which benefits massively from EU research funding; leaving the EU would be catastrophic for our sector. But nobody talks about that, because frankly nobody (me included) can unravel the complexity of the EU issue. That’s why I don’t want a referendum; that and the fact I think it’s a completely inappropriate issue to spend the next two years fighting over when there are far more important things for us to deal with.

Anyway, UKIP’s message is constantly, repeatedly and irrecoverably undermined by the fact that it is a party which disproportionately attracts some of the vilest sides of human nature. And (or including) Richard Desmond.

I have more time for the Greens. Their intentions are clearly in the right place, but sadly their policies are, well, a bit bonkers. 60% income tax, wealth taxes, £300bn of additional borrowing…. Most of it is either un-costed, unaffordable or simply a Robin Hood version of the politics of division which the coalition have hammered us with for the past five years. Sorry, but it’s another no.

Let’s talk about the Conservatives

How do I talk about the Tories without degenerating into a hysterical Polly Toynbee style rant? It’s really difficult, because I so profoundly disagree with their view of the world. Broadly speaking they believe that everyone should be responsible for looking after themselves and that the state, which by definition is also us, should not be expected to help out. Why should the bin man pay for the lawyer’s university education? Why should the strivers getting up for work at 6am pay for benefits for those who can’t or won’t (a distinction I’ll come back to in a moment)? Let the top of society succeed and the prosperity will trickle down to all who deserve it.

For me the different is that I want to live in a redistributive society and am intently relaxed about certain people paying in more than they get out, at least in absolute fiscal terms. I squarely put myself in that category; far too many people on the left define the “rich” as being those earning around £10k more than they do, which has given rise to the infuriating concept of the “squeezed middle”, where people on salaries well above the national average complain about being clobbered by the taxman and no longer being able to afford as many holidays. So let me be very clear: I should be paying more tax. Every year for the past five years my April pay-packet has grown as a result of tax changes; in a time of austerity when “we’re all in this together” there is no way that someone like me, on a good salary with plenty left over each month, should be paying less.

But why should I, a “striver”, pay for the “skivers”? Because, quite simply, I don’t think that I am. Of course there are some people milking the system for all it’s worth and/or living irresponsible lives that, by intention or otherwise, require the state to bail them out. They’re the people that get splashed all over the newspapers, held up as the tip of a scrounging iceberg that is dragging the country down. Of course I don’t want to support these people, and I would never oppose a genuine attempt to deal with them although it’s far from simple especially when children are involved.

I genuinely believe they are the exceptions and not the rule, something so often borne out by the statistics. What I want is a welfare system that helps those in genuine need, and somehow weeds out the true skivers. But no such perfect system exists, and so I prefer the compromise which allows a few people a free lunch if the alternative is one where the compromise is that genuine cases suffer. I wish Labour would say that, because pretending that the problem cases do not exist does them no favours.

Let’s give the Tories the benefit of the doubt; policies such as the bedroom tax, benefits sanctions, disability work assessments and compulsory work programmes can all be seen as having reasonable intentions, aimed at flushing out the skivers. But the lack of nuance in their design and implementation mean that the far bigger impact is massive distress, upheaval and even suicide or death amongst those who need and deserve the state’s support. I don’t believe that the Tories are evil; I just don’t see how their policies can be implemented without horrendous collateral damage.

The Conservatives want to lop another £12bn off the welfare bill but refuse to spell out how, ridiculously claiming that as they cut it in this parliament they can do it again. Such simplicity is either treating us with utter contempt, or they genuinely believe it in which case they have even less economic credibility than I thought.

The Tories are obsessed by the deficit. Maybe it’s just an excuse to hack away at the public sector, but again let’s give the benefit of the doubt and assume not. Everyone needs to live within their means, whether it’s a household, a business or a country… but “living within their means” has different implications for each group. Businesses, big and small, are funded on a mixture of equity (shareholders) and debt; debt is not a bad thing in business, provided it is affordable and it is used to do things that are worthwhile, which in business ultimately means making money. The same applies to countries (in fact more so as they can borrow so cheaply) although the definition of “worthwhile” is less monetary. So the idea that we should be aiming for zero debt is ridiculous.

That’s not to say that the deficit is not a problem, but the question is how far and how fast should it be cut, and what is the fairest and most effective way to do that. In 2010 George Osborne claimed that austerity would be difficult, but the prize would be balanced books by 2015. Ooops. The problem is that the economy is a giant, self-feeding machine – suck money out and that withdrawal multiplies. People don’t spend, either because they have less money or less confidence because apparently we’re on the brink of turning into Greece. People buy less stuff, businesses suffer, everyone pays less tax, more people have to claim benefits, and suddenly the money you saved in spending is dwarfed. This is an excellent read on the economics of austerity – it’s worth the time, I promise.

So, Labour

The Guardian’s editorial (somewhat reluctantly) backing Labour is probably a good summation of my feelings. If I don’t want David Cameron to run the country, I therefore must want Ed Miliband to do so. He’s undoubtedly the lesser of two evils; my view of the major parties has long been that Labour have good intentions but mess it up; meanwhile the Tories are much more effective at achieving aims which I think are misguided. But I’ll take good intentions over effective destruction any day. And over the course of the campaign I have come to see a vote for Labour as a much more positive step than simply a “grin and bear it” tactical protest.

I like what Miliband has to say on inequality; I agree that the success of the economy depends on everyone being successful, not just those at the top; I like that he does and says what he thinks is right, whether that’s reaching out to the insufferable Russell Brand or refusing to disingenuously apologise for the previous Labour government’s economic policy (even if the public have swallowed the right’s contention that the deficit can be blamed solely on Labour, not on the global banking crisis which nobody saw coming even if they should have done); I agree that the EU is not the biggest problem facing our country; I think that the housing market is failing and that state intervention is necessary; I do believe in a 50p top rate of tax, even if I have to pay, at least until the deficit is brought down and the economy is stable.

What I don’t care about is Ed Miliband being “a bit weird”, looking daft eating a bacon sandwich, stumbling off a ridiculously shaped stage on Question Time, or that he ran against his brother for the leadership of his party. I don’t care that he was backed by the trade unions, provided that they’re backing him because they agree with his policies and not because he will compromise his principles to bend to their will. People complain about politicians being style over substance, then ridicule one who lacks style. The other day a caller on a radio phone-in said she believed in Labour values but couldn’t bring herself to vote for him. What a sad and ridiculous state of affairs.

Miliband’s personality problem is stoked up by the press, which seems to have sunk to lower levels than ever before in this election. The Mail and the Express always print crap, so no shock there, but the Telegraph really have destroyed their credibility as a quality right wing broadsheet, most notably with the discredited letter from “500 small business owners” which turned out to be almost anything but. Meanwhile The Times has printed a page 24 correction quietly acknowledging that its hysterical page 1 claims on Labour were basically rubbish.

The other factor that has got the press frothing at the mouth is the prospect of the SNP being involved in Westminster politics and wanting to have some influence. How dare they?! What right do they have to stick their oar in? Oh hang on, they’ve got 50-odd seats? The people of Scotland democratically said that they wanted to be represented by the SNP? And no other party won enough support to be able to govern on their own? Maybe they’ve got a point.

I don’t agree with the SNP on many things, not least the fact that I want Scotland to remain part of the UK – although who could blame them for wanting to leave when we tell them that their elected representatives are dangerous and should be locked out of Westminster. And after we promised them all sorts of powers for voting no to independence only to literally the next day turn it into an issue of English nationalism. Come to think of it, maybe Scotland should leave the UK. As long as I can emigrate there.

The fact is we’re heading for a hung parliament and it’s up to MPs of all colours to decide who’s Queen’s speech they will back. That’s how our system works… it’s not about the most seats or votes, it’s about the confidence of the House of Commons, which is needed for stable government. Labour have (I think short-sightedly) allowed themselves to be bullied out of working with the SNP, but when push comes to shove I’m sure that Nicola Sturgeon will back a Labour Queen’s speech at which point the Tories and the press will declare that Labour are squatting in Downing Street. It’s going to be ugly, at least in the papers, but less ugly than another five years of Conservatism which, ironically, would almost certainly see me personally being better off, just living a country that I am increasingly ashamed of and depressed by.

A final (semi-positive) note on conviction

Credit where credit is due: thanks to this government we now have equal marriage, and one day, if I can find someone stupid enough, I could have a husband. It was a policy that David Cameron did not need to force through, and one which greatly damaged his standing with elements of his party, pushed some supporters towards UKIP and probably hasn’t attracted many new Tory voters. But he believed it was right and important, and so he did it anyway.

Politicians of all colours should learn from such conviction; dare I say that much as I disagree with Nigel Farage, at least I know exactly what he stands for . If they would all clearly state and stand up for what they believe in, and credit the electorate with an average level of intelligence rather than pandering to the lowest common denominator, we might get back to a position where politicians command some respect and political discourse can be scraped from the gutter. And that will be better for us all, whatever our political leanings.

Happy voting everybody. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Categories: News Tags: ,

Thoughts on The Guardian’s Open Weekend

Picture the scene… it’s 7:45 on a Sunday morning. The clocks went back overnight, so really it’s 6:45. I hadn’t got in until 12:30 the previous evening having been out drinking in a west end cocktail bar (unusual in itself for me). The previous night I had also been out until late and still up at a reasonable hour. It had been a long week at work, and sleep had been a victim. Surely now was the time to catch up on slumber?

So why in God’s name was I dragging myself out of bed to go and listen to Ed Balls?

The answer is that weeks earlier I had decided that as part of my “get out and do more stuff or you’ll just sit alone in your flat and end up getting a cat” regime I would book a ticket for the Guardian’s first Open Weekend. I know, it sounds like the most revoltingly middle class event in history, which the Guardian themselves described itself as “Richard Littlejohn’s worst nightmare”. As I sat bleary eyed on the Piccadilly line to Kings Cross I really wasn’t sure why I was going, and given the £30 ticket price started to fret that it was all a waste of time, money and valuable doing nothing time.

Fortunately I was proved wrong. Yes, many of the cliches you would expect from a Guardian event were there, including poetry in the foyer, all sorts of free range/organic produce at a canal side farmers market and various eccentric characters milling around. Not that I understood the poetry… I tried, honestly I did, but as I sat surrounded by intelligent looking folk nodding earnestly all I could feel was the whoosh of the prose flying straight over my head. I have no soul.

The event mostly consisted of a bewildering selection of talks, workshops and debates held across the Guardian’s Kings Place HQ, the lower floors of which double as an arts centre. It’s a wonderful building nestled on the Regents Canal just round the corner from Kings Cross. I had serious office envy, although as I know too well a good looking building is not necessarily a joy for its occupiers.

Here are some incoherent ramblings on the sessions I attended:

Ed Balls in conversation

I’ve never been a huge fan of Ed Balls. He always comes across as a bit of a bully who is very keen to tell people they’re wrong but then less so to tell us the solution. In this session his human side definitely came across, probably thanks to the time available and a tone far less aggressive than your regular interview, Commons debate or episode of Question Time. His worries over the NHS reforms was surprisingly chilling, describing such policies as the moments that make opposition hurt the most. His critique of the budget was unsurprising, although again I couldn’t grasp much substance in terms of alternatives.

Obviously a room full of Guardian readers such as myself were going to be sympathetic to Balls’s coalition bashing, and much as I found myself nodding along I felt deeply uncomfortable that I was merely validating my own views. The interviewer could have been more challenging at points, although she rightly picked up on the hypocrisy of a former Labour minister criticising the current government for attempting to manipulate the media. It wasn’t entirely a love-in from the audience though, with many expressing the common exasperation of left-leaning voters despising the coalition but struggling to understand the opposition’s message. Balls’s answer is that as the public grow tired of excuses the mood would change and support would drift back to Labour. I think he’s right about being tired of excuses, but I’m not so sure about the second part.

Some edited highlights of the session are available here.

Will the internet be open?

Richard Allan (Facebook’s European director of policy), Rachel Whetstone (Google’s global head of communications and public policy) and Clay Shirky (auther, professor, God to geeks) discussed freedom on the web and the threats to it. China may be the obvious example, but as Whetstone pointed out this risks letting several (even democratic) countries off the hook. While she was reluctant to name and shame, Shirky was happy to point the finger at Turkey and South Korea. The panel explored some of the issues, both real and hypothetical, that face companies like Google and Facebook as well as their implications for start-ups – YouTube can afford lawyers, the next YouTube can’t.

Allan was reluctant to be drawn on Facebook’s stance on China and what they would and wouldn’t be willing to compromise on to gain access to the lucrative market. I think that relationship status will definitely be “It’s complicated” for a while. There was also a brief but good-natured ding dong over what Facebook did and didn’t reveal to Google and why Mark Zuckerberg’s Google+ profile appears higher in Google’s search results than his Facebook presence. It would have been nice to hear the neutral Shirky pronounce over such issues, but time was against us.

No great conclusion was reached, but it was a thought-provoking discussion with excellent speakers, especially Shirky. I ended up buying one of his titles from the bookshop, where I could happily have spent a small fortune had I not reined myself in and remembered my already overflowing in-tray of reading material.

Small society: are Britain’s social bonds fraying?

This was a wildcard option for me as I had a spare slot and there were still tickets available. It was definitely the most “Guardiany” session of my day, addressing issues around social cohesion, community and inevitably last year’s riots. Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids Company was, as ever, a captivating listen, conveying the sometimes impossible to imagine realities of some young people. There is always a danger of appearing to make excuses which, on the whole, she successfully avoids, although as with Ed Balls this was hardly a balanced room.

Social analyst Richard Sennett discussed the implications spending more time at work, especially with work now often so far from home. His suggestion seemed to be that more home “stuff” (my pathetic phrasing, not his) such as schools and childcare should be moved closer to our work. I wasn’t too clear on how this would make a significant difference, other than distancing us even further from our home communities. As an audience member later questioned, why must we accept the premise that life should adapt to work and not the other way around?

Conservative MP Jesse Norman somehow bypassed security and made it to the stage, but generally refused to play up to the Tory stereotypes which was pleasing, although I honestly can’t remember the thrust of his argument (and I wonder why the journalism thing never worked out for me?).

The tone of the discussion was not especially combative, with each speaker largely making their own points without disputing the others. There was one tense moment when Norman attempted to suggest that Hereford was not the bed of roses you might expect, which seemed to rile Batmanghelidjh and more so the audience, which I found frustratingly predictable.

Again there was little in the way of conclusion… other than the depressing thought of what social unrest may blight the Olympics. Cheery cheery. Incidentally I’m no saint on communities – in the six months I have lived in my current flat I have barely said a word to my neighbour, and I’m massively jealous of my friends in the suburbs who not only know their neighbours but even socialise with them!

On the cutting edge: scientists working at CERN explain the latest developments in physics

Scientists communicating their work always fascinate me… I don’t know why people so fantastically intelligent and sufficiently focussed (some would say blinkered) to reach the summit of their chosen field should somehow, by coincidence, be expected to also possess the ability to disseminate this knowledge to us mere mortals. Many of my university lecturers were, I’m certain, at the bleeding edge of their specialism, but they couldn’t explain the relative basics for toffee.

The three physicists on this panel did a reasonably good job explaining their amazing work, and an excellent job conveying their passion and enthusiasm. I was definitely struggling by the end though… clearly this was due to a lack of sleep. Yet even as I sat in utter confusion, I was thrilled that on a glorious Sunday afternoon there were a few hundred people willing to sit in a dark basement in Kings Cross to hear about this stuff.

The Guardian's three little pigs and big bad wolf

The Guardian's three little pigs and big bad wolf

Some other nice touches to occupy time between sessions:

  • Over lunch in the staff canteen (a very tasty lamb cobbler) I shared a table with a couple of Guardian writers who were happy to chat about the sessions we had each been to, along with what they were working on that afternoon. A reminder that amidst the crowds there were still people putting together a newspaper for Monday morning.
  • A giant mural was created over the course of the weekend, documenting and reflecting on the event, exploring the purpose of the paper, its relationship with its readers and its future in the digital age. Yeah, OK, very Guardian.
  • The three little pigs and the big bad wolf from the Guardian’s recent TV ad were on display in the foyer. If you haven’t watched the ad, do so now – I think even an Express reader would chuckle.

And the point?

So what was the point of all this? At £30 for a day ticket it wasn’t exactly cheap, but I have no idea if they made a profit or if that was even the purpose. I suspect this was more about a newspaper engaging with its audience, trying to make them feel more connected, more inclined to get involved and more likely buy copies / subscriptions / associated services.

And the point for me? I don’t really know. It was just a nice way to spend a day, surrounded by pleasant and friendly people. Much like when I go to Radio 4 comedy recordings at the BBC, this felt like my crowd – certainly more so than the people I shared the cocktail bar with the previous evening (my friends aside of course!).

This was an opportunity to learn more about things that I knew a bit about and to learn a bit about things I didn’t know about at all, though I should probably have challenged myself and done more of the latter. My one regret is not getting along to any of the sessions about the paper itself – how it’s put together and what the future holds. Hopefully I’ll have another opportunity next year.

I’m still a media anorak at heart. And apparently a Guardianista as well. I can live with that.

Categories: General, News

10 years ago…

… I was working in a betting shop in Romford. It was a quiet Tuesday afternoon, just a handful of regulars placing small bets on unremarkable races. I got a text message telling me to turn on the news as something extraordinary was happening in New York. I then went through the same process as I’m sure many others did – shock at the initial pictures, followed by trying to work out how air traffic control could have gone so terribly wrong. Perhaps naively it wasn’t until the second plane hit that I realised it was not an accident.

We put the news on one of the screens in the shop. At one point a customer came to the counter and quite irately demanded to know why we were showing a silly disaster film instead of the 3:10 from Kempton. It was a misunderstanding that sums of the surreal nature of that day.

This morning I was setting up my new TV, and since it was Sunday morning most of the channels were showing drivel, so I put it on BBC News which was showing one of dozens of documentaries that have been made about 9/11. Although I have seen those pictures hundreds of times and heard many moving stories of what people endured that day, it still brings a lump to the throat.

This was a story that unfolded on live TV, in all its shocking detail. I won’t just read about it history books and watch archive, like I have done so many events of the past. It’s odd to think there are people now in their teens who wouldn’t have been aware of what was happening on 9/11 and who now wonder what it was like to have lived through those times. Of course people older than me can say the same about many other historical moments.

This was undoubtedly the defining news event of my life so far. Here’s hoping it remains that way.

Categories: News Tags:

The riots hit home

It must be bad if I’m actually writing a blog.

I went to bed last night having spent an uncomfortable few hours watching the coverage on BBC News. The images such as those of the furniture store burning out of control were simply astonishing and tragically compulsive. Around 11pm I started to hear rumours that trouble was brewing in Ealing, my adopted home of the past 6 years. Initially I dismissed this as rumour and exaggeration of the (justified) extreme police precaution. Last night you could put virtually any place name into the Twitter search box and you would find tweets claiming the area was under attack and that its branch of Nando’s had burned down. By 11pm I could no longer bear to hear any more, switched off the radio and went to sleep.

At 6am I awoke to news that there had indeed been violence in Ealing. Turning on Sky News I was met with images of destruction not unlike or anywhere near as severe as the pictures I had seen from Tottenham, Enfield, Hackney or many other areas over the past few days. Except this time the windows that were smashed were those of coffee shops I had relaxed in, restaurants I had dined in, and retailers I had shopped in. Selfish though it sounds, it definitely hurts more when it’s your home.

In the office today the mood was subdued, and most people had a story to tell of what they witnessed last night. One colleague told of a troublemaker hiding under bins in her garden, meters from her bedroom window. I consider myself fortunate that in my temporary lodgings in a relatively sleepy village near Heathrow (long story) I am immune from the direct of impact of events.

As many of you will know, I’m something of a Guardian reading, granola munching, fairtrade drinking lefty liberal. And as us types so often do, I’ve found myself torn on my feelings around all of this. Seeing the images of youths running riot in the streets, especially streets that I know and love, like most people my instinct is that they should be punished with the full force of the law, with a tragic feeling that there is no hope of “fixing” such mindless animals.

And yet at the same time I am unable to shake the desire to understand and explain their behaviour. Many times over recent days attempts to analyse the situation have been shouted down by those saying that there is no justification for the appalling violence and theft that we have seen and that those responsible for the trouble over recent nights must be punished quickly and firmly.

And I wholeheartedly agree. But what about the kids that are going to cause trouble tomorrow? Or next week? Or in five years time? Many say that firm policing and punishment would be a deterrent, and perhaps this is true. But do we want to live in a society where the reason people don’t commit crime is just because they don’t want to go to prison? I don’t. So therefore I do need to understand what has driven these people to make the utterly incorrect conclusion that this behaviour is necessary or acceptable.

I could write about how the education system has failed people and how too many children do not have a stable and loving family to look after and guide them. I could speculate over how the current spending cuts may be disproportionately affecting the poorest, youngest and most vulnerable in our society while the bankers and the wealthy continue to occupy a different world. I could explain how it’s all the fault of the coalition. I could argue that the 13 year Labour government must be to blame. Plenty of people have and will continue to write on the subject with varying degrees of accuracy and sensitivity, but clearly I’m not best placed to work this out. I’m a white, middle class accountant who has been fortunate to have received a good education and to have been raised by loving and decent parents who somehow instilled in me an implicit sense of right and wrong. I have a good job paying a decent wage, have never had to go hungry or cold and my only worries in life are superficial in comparison to many others.

Obviously I have an opinion which I could and at some point may share on this blog, but that’s another post for another day, and you’re unlikely to have your view changed by little old me anyway.

Whatever the underlying cause, regardless of whether you’re a bleeding heart liberal or a member of the Daily Mail “hang ‘em and flog ’em” brigade, the immediate question is what the police should do to stop the trouble in our cities tonight, and dare I say over the next few nights. Should they use water cannons? Should the army be called in? Should Blackberry Messenger be closed down? Should there be curfews? Should there be a media blackout? My answer…

I don’t know.

Outrageously, given me zero years of experience and training in the area of public order policing, I cannot tell you what should be done. Pathetic isn’t it… everyone else with an equal and even lesser understanding of the subject have been able to come up with a view, be they callers to radio phone-ins, members of the public interviewed on TV, politicians, colleagues, friends, random people on Twitter or some bloke on the bus that some other bloke overheard. As Simon Mayo ever aptly and succinctly tweeted earlier – “I never knew I followed so many experts in urban riots”.

In hindsight I’m sure that the police will be able to learn lessons from this. Who amongst us when faced with a new and unprecedented challenge can guarantee that we would get it right first time. For now they are simply doing the best they can under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. When people rant that the police “weren’t there” to protect them, that wasn’t out of choice. They weren’t sat in the canteen sipping tea and eating doughnuts. And for whatever failings there have been in the past or inevitably there will be in the future, I still trust them to make the best choices about how to deal with the situation. Frankly if I didn’t, I should probably be moving.

To finish on a positive note, as is so often the case when our city comes under fire and we witness the worst of human nature, soon after we witness the best. By 7am this morning “#riotcleanup” was trending on Twitter and throughout the day we have seen pictures of the “broom armies” out in force and getting our communities back to normal. I would have loved to join them in Ealing today, and like the police and our other emergency services the images of them hard at work remind us of the overwhelming number of decent people that we pass and ignore every day of our lives. Thanks to them my faith in the people of this city is maintained at a time when it would be so easy to despair. Thank you all.

Categories: News Tags: ,