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Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ashes to Ashes - the aftermath of the London riots

I have the feeling I'm watching the UK gather itself for an implosion of note.

During the riots that happened last week, people lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their cars. Worst of all were the lost lives, and I will never forget the dignity of a bereaved father telling a gathering crowd to go home.

People are angry, and calling for strong sentences and loss of benefits to those who took part. That conveniently ignores the fact that not everybody who went on the rampage is on benefits; not everyone who smashed a shop window is struggling for work or money.

The problem is that Cameron and friends now seem intent on turning this into a class war. Councils are evicting families if a member of that family is accused of taking part in the riots; never mind if they're found guilty. The key word here is accused, by the way. Not convicted, accused.

By all means, those who took part need to realise actions have repercussions. But it seems to me that making thousands homeless because of the actions of a few is mind-numbingly stupid and one hell of a good way to make sure the next mob is a lot bigger and a lot angrier. Taking away the last hope for people who already have basically nothing has historical consequences. It was done to Germany at the end of the first world war, and look how well that mess turned out.

Watching the petulance of a politician who had to interrupt his holiday is irritating in the extreme. Listening to this man point fingers at the police after he cut their budget to tatters, is insistent that the force needs to be cut to an absolute minimum, and then follows it up with self-serving bombast of "zero-tolerance" is infuriating.

My solution? Send the politicians into the front-line with the cops, the ambulance service and the fire department. No special treatment, no kid-gloves - just go and do the job, sunshine.

Then go and spend a month in the communities you dismiss with contempt. Go and live in a council house on a  godawful estate, on the benefits system you keep saying is so generous. Deal with the smell on the stairwells, the needles in the playground, the danger of walking into the wrong postcode.
Wear the rayon, the cheap sales clothing, and eat the food that you bought past it's sell-by date because it was cheap and you could afford it.

Then come back and decide that these people have it easy, that they deserve what ever you can throw at them - whether or not they were involved in the trouble.

I live in hope that one day, people like Cameron and his chest-beating cronies will realise that creating ashes from ashes might get your name in the paper, but it does nothing to make your country stronger.

Until that actually happens, I'm afraid my view of politicians remains as follows : anybody who wants this amount of power shouldn't be allowed within a mile of the job.