Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Keep Calm and Carry on Looting

As I sit in my bedroom in Salford, a poster I bought when I first moved in 12 months ago still constantly attracts my attention. In the style of the fashionable ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’ war time nostalgia. The poster bares the St. Georges Cross and the phrase ‘Lie Back and Think of England.’

This is quite easy to someone like myself, someone who is intensely proud of the country in which they were born. After all, England is an incredible country; a country that boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery and gave the world some of the finest sports and culture. Football, William Shakespeare, Rugby, Charles Dickens, Cricket, Oscar Wilde, The British Royal Family, Sir Isaac Newton, Edgar, Isambard Kingdom Brunel are all products of English society and that list could go on.

Geographically we are a tiny insignificant island nation but yet so significant in other ways; economically, socially and politically. I mean we won two world wars (and one world cup)

A hand full of people from around the world have visited England. They have seen it for themselves. They’ve been to the Lake District, the white cliffs, the Yorkshire dales, the new forest. They’ve seen our cities and our culture, they’ve eaten our food and met our fantastic people. But what about the rest?

I have a fear that when the world switches their televisions or radios on they can only see a tiny aspect of what we’re about, what we have to offer and this upsets me. They only see our alliance with the United States of America, the resulting conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Libya. They’ve seen our banks collapse, our cities attacked by terrorist organisations and now they’re watching our cities attacked by their own. At least we had the Royal Wedding this year.

We’ve all seen the news, so I’m not going to spend hours informing you what has been going on in England these past four days. Basically though, at the moment, I’m struggling to differentiate between the news and the television advert for the new ‘Planet of the Apes’ film.

There are several ways that you can look at this rioting, looting and general mindless criminality. You can take the sides of the fools doing it and say that it was inevitable, that the government cuts are the devils work and that the looting, arson, vandalism and police abuse must continue until George Osborne puts his hands up, admits he was wrong and re-thinks his budget including a 300% increase in housing allowance.

Personally, I wouldn’t though. You see, the fact that seven different excuses have been offered for the behaviour in seven different cities suggest that in fact, there is no real reason for this and that the local thieves, hooligans and generally unintelligent people have all came out to have what they would call a party, started in Tottenham last Sunday. The riots ‘cause’, the death of Mark Duggan in London has been forgotten, buried under a pile of smashed glass and ash. This stopped being a protest around an hour after it began, the riots started, the cause was lost. Greed, anger and impunity took over and the ‘copycats’ around the country followed suit.

I am proud of my Newcastle roots and although the riots didn’t make it that far up north I have still lived in Manchester for 2 years, it’s like a second home to me and watching people who were born here smashing the place up baffles me as much as it angers me. I wouldn’t dream of doing it in the North East, nor would I dream of doing it here. These people are damaging (often beyond repair) and looting their own local amenities, places that themselves and their families have previously shopped in and relied on; their own back garden. This is clearly the work of the uneducated masses.

The arrest and charge figures, the speed of the CPS in processing the court cases and the ‘togetherness’ the affected communities have shown in the aftermath of these antics have impressed me. The attacks in Manchester/Salford started last night and already around 75 have been charged following raids on properties and people identifying them from CCTV images. Greater Manchester Police were even updating their twitter page throughout the night one post stating “Lots of CCTV images, we will identify you and will be coming for you.” I have to admit I wasn’t so sure at first but they have proved me wrong. The police have been exceptional.

David Cameron has got everything right so far too. He’s cut his holiday short and rushed back to the UK, he’s re-called Parliament, he’s sent Nick Clegg to Wolverhampton to be boo’d and sent the right, stern message out to those people responsible for these crimes. I will be watching tomorrow with great interest to see the result is of the latest emergency commons meeting tomorrow. So long as Mr. Speaker can keep them from yelling and sticking their fingers up at each other for long enough; and if they treat it with half the passion they did with the ‘News of the World’ phone hacking scandal we’ll most likely see police officers up and down the country blowing the dust off the stocks and gallows, and we’ll probably see the ‘Queen Mary 2’ temporarily brought out of commercial service for a few voyages to Australia. If this doesn’t happen, some lengthy sentences for the worst offenders and the maximum amount of offenders given the strongest, most ruining convictions will suit me fine and I think you’ll agree.

As for the next few days? I say leave the rioters to the police and the aftermath with government and the crown prosecution service. If you feel useless pick up a broom, get on the bus and head for the city centre and help the clean up operation. My plan? Sit at home watching the news and the helicopter circling above whilst writing shit blog posts like this one that no one will end up reading.

Thanks to Hannah my girlfriend for the help on this one.

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