I was away in the USA when my neighbourhood got trashed. The road I live in was under siege, the shops I shop in were looted (and in at least two cases totally destroyed) and the bar I drink in saved only by the locals standing outside with the ubiquitous baseball bats.
It was odd to be so far away looking at the TV pictures… Listening to reports of mob riots, looting, arson, murder …happening in places I know – not some far off place that I have never visited. I was wondering what on earth I might return to, but was somewhat pleased (and to be honest relieved) that all parties and wider community leaders were unanimous in condemning the lawlessness. Maybe THIS would be the turning point, when political parties would put their general (or internal) differences to one side and work together in the interests of the country…..
Err no…. No sooner have my feet hit home soil then it all goes tits….. last weeks hand-wringing and consensus was replaced yesterday by an unseemly scrap for political advantage from all sides…..special pleading, finger pointing and cries of ” we need more money” and “it’s all the bankers/MPs/Murdoch’s fault” and “we will fight the government on this” a-go-go.
The worst offender by far was Ed Miliband. His speech yesterday was lamentable – a disgrace - and in parts down right divisive. For a start, most of his speech was “all about him”… how he had talked to Tom or Dick or Harry from Tottenham, Croydon or Clapham….how he had walked the streets, he had listened to the victims.. he got down with the kids… Yeah..Yeah ..Yeah ..And….his solution after all that walking, talking and listening ???? An inquiry. Yep that’s it folks ..sum total.. another bloody inquiry.
You might have thought that with over a decade in power, his party might have just a few ideas. Not the full answer – but just a couple of ideas… But no….he wants an inquiry and suggests that we should listen to the “communities” to “understand” the issues. They spent three terms in power -with all the experience, knowledge and information that must have surely given them… and yet bizarrely 18months later have absolutely no ideas what so ever as to what to do. Except bizarrely (and without any hint of irony) -listen to -and empower -local communities (without any acceptance or apology for running well over a decade of top-down dangerous social experimentation). His attempt to somehow equate the banking crisis and “boardroom greed” with mob-looting was downright irresponsible … And surely I was not the only person in the land contemplating smashing up my own TV when - during the Q&A… nasal Ed’s reply to every question asked - was “excellent question”….before tossing every one of those questions into the “inquiry long-grass”. One wonders why he even bothered to turn up – other than to hurl mud at the Government.
More worryingly for me today however were the Lib Dems. We (the Lib Dems) are increasingly looking like two parties. One in power – working with the Conservative Government (in times of crisis folks!) – and one out of power acting as a minor opposition party. Today was a classic case in point.
David Cameron came out strongly today returning to his favourite theme of social morality, the Big Society etc etc though with a heavier tilt toward clear old fashioned Conservative values than we have heard more recently..family values, supporting the institution of marriage, a 21st century national service, more discipline in schools etc etc.
To be honest it wasn’t a bad speech. I supect that Nick agreed with 70% of what Cameron said… But who really knows what the Lib Dem’s view on this is? What we actually heard yesterday was firstly that Lib Dems would vociferously oppose any move by the Government to remove benefits from those convicted (though not necessarily imprisoned) of rioting. Not a “we will wait and see exactly what is proposed ” line – straight out “muscular liberalism” – or a rather unwelcome bit of political haymaking – which is what it looked like.
The next I heard (on Newsnight) was Jenny Willetts who seemed to be saying we needed to spend even more money on the poor – but perhaps I misunderstood her? Finally - at about 1130 pm last night we finally heard that Nick Clegg would be making a speech today calling for “swift strong justice” …that those involved in the rioting should be made to help with the clean up and meet those that suffered at the hands of the rioters – to face up to the consequences of their actions.
I am not saying that these Lib Dem lines are contradcitory -just that it would have been nice on such an important issue to have seen the two party leaders shoulder to shoulder – standing firm as a coalition government… Why allow the media to run most of the day with talk of the Lib Dem awkward squad all over the airwaves (especially as it is by no means clear that the benefits withdrawal talk was anything other than kite-flying )…Why wait 24 hours before Nick comes out with his ideas… Why put IDS all over the TV -topping and tailing the Prime Ministers speech rather than Nick….?
I can’t work out whether this is (a)Coalition comms cock up, (b)brilliant bit of Tory party muscle, (c)Lib Dem leadership fuck up or (d) some “canny” Lib Dem policy to “differentiate itself from the Government”at every opportunity. If it is (a) (b) or (c) they should sort it. If it is (d) they should not be playing politics on this issue. There are undoubtedly battles to fight – but this is not one of them – and at least if you have to do it, make it clear where you agree with the Government before commencing the sniping. Otherwise please sort your comms out now.