Riots rock the Establishment

THE RIOTS have certainly rocked the Establishment. The police, for reasons still to be adequately explained, lost control of the streets of London and in many other towns throughout England. Over 48,000 stores, shops, pubs and restaurants were hit and five people were killed during the disturbances.

Over the past few days the Con-Dem Government has not been short of advice on how to cope with the aftermath, ranging from the Labour demand for a public inquiry to Neanderthal Tory calls to send in the army and use Wembley Stadium as a temporary concentration camp for suspected looters.

The courts, which are working round the clock, have been told to mete out the maximum punishment to all looters. Councils have been advised to evict tenants convicted of looting or rioting. And one London Tory council, Wandsworth, has introduced a new form of collective punishment — issuing an eviction order to the parent of an arrested youth on the grounds that this was a breach of their tenancy agreement.

But the ruling class is clearly divided on the next step. Many are opposed to the Government’s determination to cut police numbers in London and many were equally opposed to the elevation an American police chief to head the Metropolitan Police. While the appointment of Bill Bratton, a former New York and Los Angeles “super-cop” with alleged specialist knowledge in dealing with gangs, has now been ruled out because he is not a British citizen and does not have immigration status, the fact that Cameron even seriously considered it shows the current thinking of this government.

Gone are the days when Cameron was posing as a liberal intellectual chasing Liberal Democrat votes in the run-up to the general election. It was “hug a hoodie” Cameron then, the socially aware leader-in-waiting who said that while anti-social youngsters should feel “painful” consequences of their actions, there was still a need to “show a lot more love”.

Now it’s back to blaming the poor for their own poverty, demonising them as the “underclass” obsessed with “gansta” culture as Tory television don David Starkey put it, and deserving nothing but the full rigour of the law. Though the Prime Minister has wisely ignored the clamour from the Tory shires for draconian laws that would rival those of the Taliban and Saudi Arabia in their ferocity, the Cameron government has come back with a vengeance to promote a law and order platform that’s a further attack on civil liberties in this country.

London Labour politicians like John McDonnell, Ken Livingstone and Diane Abbott were quick to draw the link between the Government’s austerity programme and last week’s upsurge of violence. Labour leader Ed Miliband has been more subdued. But he has called for a public inquiry, a traditional Labour answer to all problems much favoured in Wilson and Callaghan’s days, and he’s condemned Dr David Starkey’s “whites have become blacks” nonsense as “disgusting and outrageous”.

But Labour must take the lead of the Labour Representation Committee and challenge the creeping fascism of the Tories and their Liberal Democrat collaborators by demanding that the police be made more accountable to the communities they are supposed to serve and held to account when they shoot to kill.

Labour must raise the issues of unemployment, poverty and police violence that caused the riots and put the restoration of the “welfare state” and the public sector top of the agenda. And Labour must close ranks with the unions in the campaign against the anti-people austerity programme — arguing for job creation and investment instead of damaging cuts that are devastating communities.