Speculation can wait: The priority is to stop the rioting

There is an understandable rush to speculation about the causes of the riots and many theories – sensible and ludicrous – are already in circulation. But speculation, as tempting as it is, is not what is needed now. What is needed now is for the disturbances to stop.

By Rob Berkeley, director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank 

Events last night took an unprecedented turn. As streets across London went up in flames it has become clear that this is new territory. Saturday night in Tottenham was one thing, the events of the last two nights have mutated into a very different form of street disturbance. 

This is an unprecedented situation that raises a million questions; who is involved in these disturbances, is this about race or class, is this gang-related, what drives people to such extreme behaviour, how did we get here, how bad can it get?

There is an understandable rush to speculation about the causes of the riots and many theories – sensible and ludicrous – are already in circulation. But speculation, as tempting as it is, is not what is needed now. What is needed now is for the disturbances to stop.

 The damage to neighbourhoods across the country and to our sense of community is massive. On our current trajectory, the destruction of property, families made homeless, and people living in fear will culminate in loss of life.

No one can or should condone the actions of the looters, robbers and arsonists. The restoration of public order is in our collective interest.

Already, those looking to establish why these events have happened are being lampooned as apologists for criminality. Commentators like Ken Livingstone and Darcus Howe with legitimate concerns about the use of stop and search, the withdrawal of the EMA, or cuts to spending on youth services are in danger of being characterised as if they welcome the riots .

On the right, the hang’em, flog ‘em brigade are on the move, young people are being described as feral and mindless, Black people accused of not being British. Still the streets burn.

Runnymede warned of the impact of inequalities on our society. We highlighted the alienation and hopelessness among large swathes of young people facing discrimination, without prospects of employment, low levels of skills, and poor relations with the police.

But we never supposed that the despair was as widespread as it now appears to be or even that so many people simply do not care enough about the neighbourhoods and spaces where they live or the moral consequences of their actions to desist from destroying them.

We have to admit that this is a new phenomenon about which we know very little. Speculation is not helping. 

The scale and impact of these disturbances will require a serious and far-reaching inquiry in due course. We will be among those who will be seeking to find out what has happened and assess what the solutions might be. But first, the looting and violence has to stop.

We can then move from speculation to real evidence. Speculation is beginning to solidify into camps along political lines that will close down the attempt to find solutions rather than aid it.

Speculation in a context of mistrust between the police and the communities they serve marked the response to Mark Duggan’s death that provided the spark in this tinderbox.

Additional speculation about the causes may only serve to fuel further disaster. We need the violence to stop before working out how to make sure we never have to live through a city in disarray like this again.

28 Responses to “Speculation can wait: The priority is to stop the rioting”

  1. Runnymede Trust

    Speculation can wait: The priority is to stop the rioting: http://bit.ly/oVZuYn : writes @RunnymedeTrust 's director Rob Berkeley

  2. Reni Eddo-Lodge

    Speculation can wait: The priority is to stop the rioting: http://bit.ly/oVZuYn : writes @RunnymedeTrust 's director Rob Berkeley

  3. mishappenings

    Speculation can wait: The priority is to stop the rioting – Left Foot Forward http://is.gd/3JSZds

  4. Zehra Zaidi

    Speculation can wait: The priority is to stop the rioting: http://bit.ly/oVZuYn : writes @RunnymedeTrust 's director Rob Berkeley

  5. Runnymede Trust

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  6. Joy Francis

    RT @runnymedetrust: #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  7. Jenny Holland

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  8. Julie Tomlin

    RT @runnymedetrust: #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  9. Jose Aguiar

    RT @leftfootfwd: Speculation can wait: The priority is to stop the rioting http://t.co/20PfmRQ

  10. Vicki Butler

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  11. Rob Trotter

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  12. Ed White

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  13. Dave Citizen

    While I agree that wild speculation is unlikely to be helpful I think it wouldn’t do any harm to remind ourselves of a couple of truisms:

    People are more likely to behave the way others want them to if they feel like a genuine member of the same group as those telling them and do not appear to be massively disadvantaged compared to, or looked down upon by such people.

    People tend to be less likely to engage in random criminality if they have a job/role that is recognised as valuable or worthwhile in their community.

    People generally apply themselves to achieving goals better if they believe there is a realistic possibility of success: for example, gaining a respected position or buying a nice house.

    “We’re all in it together” comes to mind, only we’re clearly not.

    Please don’t take any of the above as any kind of attempt to excuse the violence etc. Putting lives at risk in such circumstances is an utter disgrace in anybody’s currency. May be relevant to avoiding a repeat of such madness though.

  14. PJ

    The powers that be must take extreme actions to stop this rioting now. Water canon, rubber bullets – give them the works and make the rioters understand that EVERONE must obey the law or accept the consequence.We cannot allow our country to sink to these depths.

  15. Leon Wolfson

    Condemnation and a heavy hand might get things back down to smoulder point, but only that far. It’ll spring back up again if anything else goes wrong.

    This isn’t something new. This isn’t something unexpected. The causes are quite clear, in the way New Labour and now the Conservatives have both attacked those without jobs, even for short periods, not dealt with rising inequality and inflation in food and fuel and finally, for the Conservatives, instituted a plan which will drive many in the areas of out them. How do their kids, then, connect with a community they’re being ripped away from?

    No, the time for statements by leadership, that they’ll do something about the cause, is now. Sadly, it seems that balancing the need to condemn and to do something about the causes is too much for ANY politician today, they all need both hands to simply grab hold of condemnations.

    There’s no politician I now respect, and nobody I can vote for. GG.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Dave Citizen – There are other truisms along with those that you mention.

    People are more likely to behave the way others want them to if there is a level of discipline and respect from them which means they wouldn’t dream of destroying other people’s lives and homes to fulfil their desire to steal the latest training shoes from JD Sports or plasma TV’s from Dixons.

    People tend to be less likely to engage in random criminality if they have a job/role that is recognised as valuable or worthwhile in their community. So how does that work when a 9 year old was arrested on the first night and many of them are under 16? Why aren’t these little sh*ts in bed at midnight?

    All you are doing is typical of the left where the excuses brigade start saying: “I’m not making an excuse but…” and then they start excusing it.

    What we should all be in together is a desire to stop people having their houses and property destroyed and living in fear and we should not be giving any type of excuse for the behaviour.

    I expect unpleasant suggestions from the likes of matthew fox, Leon Wolfson and joe kane on this blog but you surprise me fella. I do not care why they behave like this – they just need to be stopped – one woman has just the work clothes she was standing in as she watched her flat burn. Every item she owned gone.

    People have a right to feel safe in their homes and not have their whole lives destroyed because someone feels “disenfranchised” or whatever and it is inexcusable to try to make excuses for it because there are no valid reasons to destroy people’s lives.

    The likes of Ken Livingston and his remarks have just made him unelectable frankly – Labour does not deserve to put forward a mayoral candidate in London if his views are shared by the party.

    And sure as the sun rises tomorrow Labour will start blaming government cuts such as not paying bribes like the EMA to these thugs and it will backfire – you can smell it coming already…

  17. Anon E Mouse

    Leon Wolfson – Pathetic and cruel remark towards people who have had their homes and lives destroyed. At least your posts here are consistent I suppose.

    You say: ” The causes are quite clear, in the way New Labour and now the Conservatives have both attacked those without jobs, even for short periods, not dealt with rising inequality and inflation in food and fuel and finally, for the Conservatives, instituted a plan which will drive many in the areas of out them.”

    And how have these drug dealing thuggish gang members who shoot at each other resulting in one death a week been “attacked” as you put it? Let’s see shall we.

    Are they “attacked” for not attending school? No. Nothing happens.
    Are they “attacked” for criminal behaviour ? No – one arrested Monday night had been to a youth court 40 times and had nothing but ASBO’s.
    Are they “attacked” by having underage sex and getting pregnant? No – we give them free housing and money.
    Are they “attacked” for anything Leon Wolfson because if they are I don’t see it.

    All I see is wanton criminal behaviour by feral thugs who are allowed to live a life of worklessness and criminality and it is excused by the likes of you who somehow think it is appropriate to somehow try and blame governments despite the fact inequality doubled under Labour.

    Besides, since you claim to have been shot at, bombed and “ambushed” by a BNP gang (twice), why do you have any sympathy for these disgusting feral youths.

    A new low even from you Leon Wolfson. I suggest you crawl back under whatever rock you emerged from this morning and get a life…

  18. Robert

    Of course if people in work they can save for the TV the trainers the clothes they steal.

    Miliband brave words to day helps a lot, it’s the parents, then at the end it’s society, but his nose job has made his voice worse the plum is still stuck in mouth.

    The sad part to all this the Police they are all criminals because we know them, they are criminals, but we are told every week crime is down.

    But Labour would never accept they caused this, it must be those work shy Lazy, workless people again, yes the same workless people who came together to clean up the mess, because if they had a job tney be in work not cleaning.

    Then I see people with cricket bats and pipes and pickaxe handles protecting a mosque, saying they kill people great.

    Then we have gangs of young Muslims out on the street protecting our community, protecting the Muslims community, none of them seem to have jobs since they are all protecting something or other, in the middle of the day.

    Boy what a county we have politicians who stole and got away in the main with expenses, we have the top police officers who took back handers and we are told by politicians these youth are criminals

  19. Anon E Mouse

    Robert – I would say that both are criminals…

  20. Eugene

    Great stuff! I wonder if any of this rioting psychology could be applied to bankers and the financial sector? They have, after all, done far more damage to the fabric of western European society than any average rioter could ever hope to do. Thing is, the bankers have done it in a far more damaging – though more socially acceptable way – than the rioters. Loss of jobs, livelihood, housing, unearned income from looting and greed, asset stripping, destruction of businesses, criminal activity on an unprecedented scale, etc., etc.

    Rioting and economic disruption by bankers have no discernible difference between them in the long term – except that perhaps the public pay a far greater price in the imposition of taxes to provide support through bail-outs. And, of course, rioters do not get paid collosal bonuses as a punishment for anti-social activity. But, in economic terms, what, precisely, is the difference?

    Curiouser and curiouse, said Alice.

  21. Piali Roy

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  22. Cities of Migration

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  23. StopWatch Campaign

    Read the latest from us on #londonriots on @leftfootfwd: "speculation must wait: the priority is to stop the rioting" http://t.co/35UtJTh

  24. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘is this about race or class?’

    Neither. It’s about greed and wanton criminality. It’s about a tolerance and encouragement of endemic worklessness and a complete denial of personal responsibility. It’s about an entitlement culture and widespread acceptance of family breakdown as “the norm”.

    ‘On the right, the hang’em, flog ‘em brigade are on the move, young people are being described as feral and mindless, Black people accused of not being British.’

    Not “all” young people are being described as feral and mindless. All “looting/rioting” young people are being described as feral and mindless, and there’s nothing objectionable about that, since they clearly are (N.B. that said, I would guard against describing them as mindless, since that in some way excuses the perpetrators: they know what they are doing and we shouldn’t forget that). Neither are “black” people being accused of not being British. Instead, “looting/rioting” black people are being accused of not being British, in precisely the same way that white people robbing shops and setting fire to houses are also, rightly, being accused of not being British.

    There is nothing wrong with demonising wrongdoers. Quite the reverse. Society should and must condemn these scumbags in the strongest possible terms.

  25. Ed's Talking Balls

    ‘This isn’t something new. This isn’t something unexpected. The causes are quite clear, in the way New Labour and now the Conservatives have both attacked those without jobs, even for short periods, not dealt with rising inequality and inflation in food and fuel and finally, for the Conservatives, instituted a plan which will drive many in the areas of out them. How do their kids, then, connect with a community they’re being ripped away from?’

    There’s truth in some of what you say, but I have to disagree with much of it.

    Political parties haven’t attacked people for not having jobs. They’ve collectively mollycoddled them for too long, tolerating idleness while simultaneously making it harder to those who want to work by relentlessly pursuing a policy of mass immigration.

    Yes, Labour was too comfortable with rising inequality and the Conservatives show no appetite to reverse the trend. Yet ultimately, if a feral cretin refuses to work and shows no desire to better himself I’m happy for him to be bottom of the pile. He deserves to be there and should have no call on another’s wealth. This isn’t to say that I don’t recognise the wider problem you refer to: the average man works hard and has his wealth eroded by inflation while the CEO gets rewarded handsomely for repeated failure. There has to be something wrong in that.

    Lastly, driving people out of an area isn’t wrong if those people can’t afford to be there. Why should someone else pay for them to live somewhere they couldn’t dream of themselves? Were it possible to do so, it’d be a good thing if we could drive these vicious criminals not simply out of Tottenham but out of the country altogether.

    You make a fair point that people need to feel part of a community and to forge positive relationships. But do you honestly believe these people were doing so under Labour? Or, for that matter, under administrations from the distant part? A huge problem, as identified by Max Hastings, is that these people exist rather than live. If they don’t show a willingness to engage and apparently don’t know how to behave in a civilised manner, I genuinely don’t believe that chucking more money at them, be it via more youth centres, subsidised bus passes or educational bribes (a.k.a. EMA) is the answer.

  26. Leon Wolfson

    @4 – You’re the one calling for the policies which will make it happen again and again. Ascribing your sins to others, as always. Crawl back to the Tory sites, and stop trolling on these ones.

    Inequality increased under Labour because they didn’t do enough, but the Tories are of course working to actively accelerate the rate of inequality. And you’ll blame the poor for that time and time again rather than trying any fixes.

    @8 – “Political parties haven’t attacked people for not having jobs.”

    What rot. There’s been an endless string of attacks. Over and over. Guess what? If the jobs are not there, it’s punishment plain and simple. Of course, you’ve made it plain you love that.

    And of course you have to drive people out of areas rather than take sensible measures, like rent caps. Despite the fact house prices are falling, rents continue to increase above inflation. It’s profiteering, and hurts people who depend on their incomes too. But no, we have to have social cleansing, driving people out to where there are even less jobs, for the SIN of being poor. Never mind we’re one of the world’s richest countries, we have to drive poorer people out of TWO THIRDS of the country, and have many others sit in the cold dark this winter. You’re just DANDY with that.

    Never mind that many of those people will previously have had low-paid or part-time jobs, and will lose them. Never mind there’s been a dirth of social housing, never mind the sink towns you’re creating, which will be tinderboxes which will burn on a regular basis, as you blame the inhabitants for the sin, again, of being poor.

    The EMA is anything BUT a bribe – it’s a massively effective program, as are others over the world, at keeping children in school. But of course it can’t be had, we can’t have the poor bettering themselves. That’s un-Tory.

  27. Dave Citizen

    Anon – fair point that job opps aren’t much good to 9yr olds. I can only think that those kids parents are either in a total mess themselves or simply too self centred to take proper care of their kids.

    As it happens, I do think the nasty thugs who have been beating people up while thieving etc. should be dealt with very firmly. However, it’s just too easy to rant about such idiots. If we want to live in a better place tomorrow we need to stitch things together not rip bits off (they will still be around, just worse)

    I reckon compulsory national service may be one way to help teach the young some social responsibility and make them feel that they are part of something bigger than just them and their mates. It seems to work in places like Finland and, as long as absolutely everyone had to do it, I’d support it.

  28. Anon E Mouse

    Dave Citizen – I hear you on the National Service but trust me the army doesn’t want them.

    What I’d do is immediately deport foreigner in our prisons. Because they have reached the situation where the courts have imprisoned them they are not suitable individuals to live here.

    Then I’d lock the rioters up in the freed up prison places for a long time to send a message.

    Then I’d make anyone in receipt of benefits attend mind numbingly boring 9 ’til 5 courses to drive them into jobs that we give to immigrants such as burger flippers and toilet cleaners. There is nothing wrong with those jobs and people in this country should be forced to do them.

    Sorted.

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