Panic in the Streets of Whitehall
I’ve put off writing this post in the aftermath of the rioting, partly because I’m keenly aware that ranting about politics is not what this blog was originally set up to do, partly because I suspected in my cynical and road weary fashion that we’d get a bunch of soundbytes from Prime Minister Cameron asserting qualities such as ‘leadership’, blaming riots on the previous administration, followed by well, no coherent action. I wanted to see, if I was right.
Well frankly, in my wildest and most paranoid dreams I could not have predicted what a complete hash Cameron would make of it.
Firstly we got the soundbytes, exactly as expected. There was a lot of confrontational language on display. Words such as “fightback”, phrases like “zero tolerance” – not the words I would have chosen when dealing with a situation as potentially combustible as this, but exactly the sort of old fashioned Tory tripe I had expected to hear from Cameron.
And it got worse. Cameron enthusiastically blamed the Labour Party, the Police, the absent fathers – everyone and everything except the cuts, the joblessness and the despair his policies have visited upon the poorer sections of society. He proposed that not just the criminals, but their entire families be evicted from social housing. A suggestion immediately acted upon by Westminster council. A suggestion that flies in the face of fairness, human rights and common sense. And possibly the law.
Next, after a consultative process that must have lasted oh, at least five minutes, Cameron proposed to shut down Twitter, Blackberry messaging and damn it, if necessary the entire internet to stop these rioters communicating. I expect the telephone service and the royal mail to swiftly follow. Apart from the implausibility of the coalition actually doing this, isn’t this exactly what he so vociferously condemned the Egyptian government for attempting six months ago?
And then it got hilariously, stupidly, downright incompetently even worse. Without consultation with the police forces, Cameron appointed one Bill Bratton, ex chief of police for LA, a district so ridden with gang violence that it makes Tottenham look like Camberwick Green, to advise the government on how to deal with the societal issues that caused the riots. As offensive as this idea must have seemed to our own police forces, it was about to get even worse.
Bill Bratton is chairman of the private detective agency Kroll. (You can see where this is heading, right?) In June this year, Kroll were accused very publicly and in formal court papers by Dr Martin Coward, a city investment manager, of illegally planting covert surveillance equipment in his house and car. Evidence submitted to the court included the surveillance equipment and hilariously, a video of the goon squad going about their business. But of course as we well know, Cameron is a man who believes in second chances, so obviously he got his people to carry out background checks? Well, with crushing inevitability, it seems no background checks were carried out. So for the sake of a soundbyte, Cameron has done exactly the same thing he did with Andy Coulson. Arrogant? Ignorant? Incompetent? all of these?
There is just one good thing about this government. It is impossible to countenance the electorate ever again falling for a politician who combines poor leadership, empty promises and an empty headed view of people based solely on class, connections and money? Well, isn’t it?