Parliament has been recalled today from its summer recess for the first time in nearly a decade to discuss the rising violence and riots in London and across other cities.
I think the last time the House of Commons was recalled was to debate the Iraq War in 2002. I believe there was a strong case for MPs to return to Westminster anyway to discuss the growing and ominous fate of stock markets around the world and the historic downgrading of America’s credit rating. This may be a long way away and seem very remote from day-to-day lives, but this unprecedented acknowledgement of America’s decline as the world’s economic superpower will affect us all.
As it is, it is certainly right for David Cameron as Prime Minister to ask the Speaker for a recall of Parliament to discuss the riots. Technically he doesn’t need to do this to combat the lawlessness. Nevertheless, it is important that this should happen now for MPs both to condemn the appalling violence and to debate if more can be done to deal with the thuggish behaviour.
Let all decent people be under no illusion about what has been happening since Thursday. There is no possible justification for any of the violence on Tottenham’s streets.
There is certainly no justification for the copycat riots that have taken place this week across London and in other cities. Can anybody seriously suggest that the thugs in Manchester were protesting in sympathy with the death of Mark Duggan, the man who was shot dead in Tottenham on Thursday? I very much doubt they know who Mark Duggan is.
These are not people who are protesting about poverty or political oppression, as we have seen in the Middle East earlier this year.
Let us be completely honest – these are criminals who want to loot and rob, and who couldn’t care less about the consequences for their own communities, and for the image of our country in the eyes of the world, less than a year before we host the Olympics. They care more about stealing the flat screen telly from Curry’s or the latest pair of trainers than they do about their local community.
There are no excuses, and all participants in the riots should be identified, arrested and dealt with as severely as possible. We need the broadest possible condemnation, not merely from MPs in the House of Commons today, but from all decent and civic-minded people in this country.
In the last few days we have seen all possible aspects of human behaviour. We have seen the thuggish behaviour of some yobs across London and elsewhere. But we have also seen the bravery of police officers who have had to deal with the riots and try to restore law and order to our streets, alongside fire fighters, ambulance crews and many other public sector workers.
We have definitely seen the best and most public-spirited elements of human behaviour, with many residents coming together, cleaning up the streets and reclaiming their communities.
The spirit of the Blitz seems very much to be alive, repackaged for the 21st Century under the Twitter hashtag RiotWombles!
I support the Prime Minister in what he wants to do to tackle the rioters. As an MP I want to give him my help in whatever way I can, as I’m sure other MPs wish to as well.
That doesn’t mean supporting him in an unquestioning way – I think he was rather slow off the mark in recognising at the weekend that the Tottenham riots were something of enormous significance for British society.
In the early part of the week it looked as if the Government didn’t have a handle on the situation and the authorities were losing control of the streets. I also worry that impending police cuts, of which I spoke in Parliament before the recess, will make police responses to such violence and lawlessness even harder.
The priority, after restoring law and order, even before dealing with the perpetrators, should be to help those decent people who have been affected by the riots.
I hope the Prime Minister today in Parliament will offer real help and support for individuals and business in a similar way to when the Government offers help in the event of a natural disaster like a flood.
The events of this week can’t be tolerated. They shame our country in the eyes of the world. It is right that Parliament, at the centre of national life, is recalled to discuss these matters.