Broadcasters and talking heads want a narrative that props up liberal myths. They want to talk of the spirit of community that has been broken by hard economic times. They want to shoe-horn the people of Tottenham into the heroic mould of London’s East Enders who stood shoulder to shoulder during the Blitz: this, they think, will prove to the public that we are right about the cruelty of the Coalition’s cuts. But listen to eyewitnesses in Tottenham and Enfield and they are telling a different story. It is one that stars criminals, not “community”.
Earlier on, Ms. Odone had written this:
If I hear [the BBC's] Emily Maitlis talk about “protesters” one more time I’ll scream. Come on, Emily: let’s call a rioter a rioter. A protester is a rebel with a cause. These youths in hoodies and men in bandanas are not fighting for a principle, they’re trashing neighbourhoods for a plasma telly and a pair of new trainers. Masked gangs are looting department stores, not waving placards. One woman described being on a bus that was set upon by angry rioters; someone else talked about Turkish men lining the street of their neighbourhood to protect their homes from looters: neither eyewitness seems to be describing a protest…Broadcasters from the BBC to Bloomberg can’t decide whether they want to attribute the mob’s motives to anger against the Coalition’s cuts or fury at the police killing of a father of four in Tottenham. But the testimonials tell a different story: violent gangs coming together in an orchestrated fashion to confront “the feds” and seize an opportunity to plunder.
I exchanged emails this morning with a friend of mine who has lived in Islington (an area of north London) since the 1980s. He told me that the local corner shop had its front door “smashed in” on Sunday night. The owner told my friend this morning that “a Turkish vigilante group” had driven off a mob in Dalston (which is some way to the east) last night (there has been a large population of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot descent in that part of town–I lived nearby in the early 1980s–for a long time). A “couple of the [storekeeper's] Turkish friends are going to spend the nights at the storekeeper’s place from now on”.
Now, that is what I call a community.
This will be an enormous challenge for David Cameron. I read a comment somewhere last night that the British politicians who came off age in the ‘easy’ 1990s were now having to deal with a poltical scene that looked more like the infinitely rougher 1970s than anything else. That looks right.