The Summer Riots

I have over the past few days like many of us watched in horror at the riots that have been taking place. I also watched Boris Johnson, Nick Clegg and others being booed on the streets as ‘Johnny come lately’s’ and I also watched the debate in the recalled parliament with the very sensible words of David Cameron.

Initially this started in the Tottenham High Road a place dear to my heart as a Spurs fan and supporter so I watched with interest as what seems a tragic but classic sets of circumstances; namely a police shooting of a younger man and a boiling over of a sense of injustice in what is a very challenged area of London, the police losing the control of the streets, a mob mentality setting in and looting and fire starting as a consequence.

What followed seems to be something new, organised as was the Arab Spring using new media; Blackberry messaging, tweeting, face book; viral and copy cat in nature. No identifiable ring leaders, not community groups to sit down and calm their supporters on the street, just a common denominator of youth. With the protesting entirely secondary to the looting and sheer violence towards the police and other people both young and old and property.

Much is said about the police and the lose of control on that fabled night and initially on subsequent nights, I seem to recall this is always the case as we have a consensus police force which by design and our collective will, requires a default setting of lawfulness from us all to work. As is always the case it takes time to mobilise but they did and have generally brought the situation under control and are to be commented for their controlled responses and frankly bravery when you saw what was happening in parts of our cities.

But of course the strength did not come quick enough for some very frightened people were put at great personal risk by so mindless thugs who behaved so appallingly, I would have been equally outranged and frightened. I entirely agree with the police statements about we have you on film and we are coming for you, sentences should rightly reflect the public’s damnation of the feral behaviour.

So in the aftermath the debate in the press and blogs seem to falling to two camps is this just opportunist of the Shameless TV show’s ‘lets have a party’ type, youth getting a quick buzz and lining their pockets with looted goods, or more deeply routed.

David Lammy the Labour MP for Tottenham seems to have a deep understanding of his community from his comments and I think senior politicians would do well to listen to the MP’s from these areas and to their local ward councillors.

What we need now is Local Leadership, real and immediate community support and in the longer term parental and school control.

To my mind leadership means local MP’s, Councillors and community policing officers to see what can be done in their very different areas to engage with youth more on a community by community basis, and frankly that takes money at the back of it.

Unfortunately I have to say I think this needs to go hand in hand with stiff sentencing of the guilty to send a clear message that this is not acceptable behaviour, to many this is unpalatable and against their libertarian principles but I think it is required.

Then longer term our national politicians need to look at our school system, I have not spoken to a single person since this has happened who has not mentioned discipline in the home and in our schools; There simply should be more rules, more consequence and more discipline in our schools. But this applies equally at home and its up to parents; oh and that also means it’s no good going along to the school when your child is disciplined and complaining about the injustice towards your baby. It seems to me everyone agrees this needs to be tackled and I entirely share many peoples opinion that it is the erosion of this element of raising children that this is a route cause of what we have seen.

What we do not need is a Commission of the good and great visiting the areas and taking the next two years to gather evidence, write a 500 page document that no one has the time to read and by then we have all moved on to the next problem.

Lakenheath Carnival

Yesterday I was asked to be the Head Judge at the Lakenheath Carnival and village fete, which was both an honour and great fun. As I and my fellow Judges walked up and down the procession as it mustered in Woodlands I was amazed at the hard work people had put into the design and execution of their floats and costumes. My congratulations to all those who took part and I thought the Little Fishes were worthy winner of the First Prize.

 The John Whisson cup was awarded to CJ Sandwich Bar, not only a great place to get a proper cup of coffee and I have to admit the occasional great bacon sarnie, the effort they put into their Mad Hatter’s Tea party theme was brilliant and the perfect spot to watch the floats go by, very well done. I would also like to use this article to thank all those who worked so very hard to bring the day together, with a particular mention to Tracy and Mark, it’s a well worn cliché but without them the day simply would not have happen.

In politics much is talked about the ‘Big Society’, at the county and district level we talk about ‘Our place’ and ‘engaging’ with the community, to bring communities together and make sure all residents are connected and not isolated in these difficult financial times. Well the Carnival and fete showed what can be achieved if a community does pull together and the benefits in terms of the community is not a one day wonder, it has an effect that is long lasting and real.

 By working together on the floats and putting together the stands people make lasting connections and you could see as you strolled around in the afternoon just how many community groups we are blessed with here in Lakenheath from the Digital cinema to the Ladies Keep fit club, there really is a lot going on. Cllr Roger Dicker, Chairman of Forest Heath District Council, joined me to hand out the prizes and he remarked how many people worked so hard on so many stands and floats that it really showed what can be done together, and he is right.

A really great day out and it just shows what communities can do for themselves.

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