Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The New Statesman on The Coming Anarchy

I thought I'd buy one of the mags put out by London's chattering classes and picked The New Statesman since it had the most lurid cover: The Coming Anarchy. Streets on Fire. Markets in Free Fall. Eurozone in Crisis. Can it be stopped? in bold black print on a background of swirling smoke.

Inside, it's all pretty polite:

The Leader, " If the Prime Minister still believes in tackling the causes of youth disorder ... he must now lead the thoughtful debate that the recent disturbances demand". Sounds like The Times to me. It's meant to produce a "Hear, Hear" reaction.

Peter Wilby, retired New Statesman editor opines, "I see no ethical distinction between how the financial services industry loots its customers and how youths looted London shops", which is what Peter Oborne said in The Daily Telegraph a few days previously. So on this the chattering classes are agreed. Whether it means that they think bankers should be locked up or, rather, that youths should not be locked up, I don't know.

Nana Yaa Mensch, chief sub-editor is more interesting because she was there on the streets of Brixton unlike the police who weren't: "Is this the face of policing in the age of cutbacks...?" That's arguable: for many years Private Eye's police logs from Neasden have presented idleness as the face of London policing, cutbacks or no cutbacks. Cutbacks never cut back on schmoozing time with News International.

Laurie Penny concludes that " Civil unrest is a frightening thing, but more racism, more violence and more young people being demonised will not heal our cities" which David Cameron could agree with. He just thinks that first you punish the offenders hard enough for them never want to offend again. True, all the evidence is that only the death penalty can achieve that. Send them to prison for six months and your yoof offenders turn into yoof re-offenders.

And last but not least, Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London 2000 to 2008, "We need one clear answer, from the Tories in Whitehall and City Hall, to when they will call off and reverse their police cuts" Well, nice to see Ken and Boris in agreement.

So, on balance, the chattering classes of the Left are in agreement with the chattering classes of the Right.

Here's what will actually happen:

Since we happen to have a Tory-led administration, there will be some repression. David Cameron will front the campaign. He's not the sharpest tool in the box but he knows that this is what the tabloids expect of him. He is not going to play to Daily Telegraph readers and imprison the bankers and the general enthusiasm for imprisoning young people who weren't so street-wise as to hide their faces will soon wear off. (And already, some of those accused of the more serious offences appear not to be yoof at all: for example, the person accused of setting fire to the Reeves furniture store in Croydon is 33 years old)

Since there's not much money about, not much else will happen. The future will be pretty much like the past. But cheer up, that only means riots once in a decade or so.





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