Analysis: The London Riots of 7th/8th August
This morning’s newspapers and TV reports are linking the riots to everything from the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government to public spending cuts. Various political groups are claiming responsibility, calling for lessons to be learned or saying “I told you so”.
They’re wrong do to so. None of last night’s rooting had anything to do with politics. They were fuelled by the simple realisation that the police weren’t going to stop the rioting and looting. For sure, I don’t doubt that the widely publicised cuts to the benefits budget had an effect, but last night was a lot simpler than many mainstream commentators and politicians are making out.
For a certain section of society, it’s very easy to milk the system; there is a huge amount of carrot and very little stick. When society stops using the stick, as happened last night when police didn’t move in swiftly and crush the riots immediately, this section of society sees that as an invitation to go on the rampage.
Shops were looted. Shops were set on fire. Stones, bottles and bricks were thrown at the police. After the student riots earlier this year and the G20 before those, I don’t blame the police officers on the ground for not getting stuck in – after all, the mainstream media would condemn them for cracking a few heads together. But in a situation like this we desperately need firm policing and a no-nonsense stance against looters.
These rioters and looters aren’t politically motivated. Their only common attribute is greed, and wanting designer goods for nothing. Curry’s stores all over London were targeted by looters last night, while designer goods shops like H&M and Footlocker were also hit. These people are too used to getting something for nothing. As long as the forces of law and order stand by, watch them do it and give them a desultory slap on the wrist afterwards, they’ll just keep on doing it.