David Grossman looks back at a tumultuous week of rioting in English cities. Gavin Esler considers how damaged the fabric of England has been by the unrest.
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Tonight - after a week of rioting, how big is the damage to England's
social fabric? Will we look back on the summer of 2011 as deeply
significant, or a fleeting few days of madness? Gavin Esler has
surveyed the damage to the nation. We live in a very different country
from the one we thought we had one week ago. The institutions we took
for granted reasserted themselves in the end, but it also proved we
cannot always rely on them. With us at the end of an
extraordinary week, the historian David Starkey, author Owen Jones
and crime writer Dreda Say Mitchell. And as images of burning cities are
beamed around the world, foreign dictators are making mileage out of
our misfortune. What does the rest of the world make of us now? David
Tang, Tyler Brule and Nabila Good evening. The streets are calm,
the rioters now diminished to a subdued and steady train through
the courts - public order, then, nominally restored. But the
reminders of an anarchic week are everywhere - burnt-out buildings,
broken windows, and yes, a highly visible police presence. Those
numbers will inevitably diminish as we try return to some kind of
normality. But tonight we ask if things have fundamentally shifted,
and whether the week of rioting has shown us something of our country
we didn't know before. Today, as the unseemly tussle continues over
who should take credit for bringing England back from the brink, our
political correspondent David Grossman has been speaking to all
sides. What has been the fauna of first of all from those comments
made last night on this programme by Sir Hugh Orde? Yes, we have had
this bust-up between the politicians and the police over who
should take credit. There is a lot of annoyance from senior police
officers about the suggestion that it took the politicians coming back
from their holidays to bang heads together to get things sorted out.
Last night we did an interview with Sir Hugh Orde, where he said it was
ridiculous that the Home Secretary does not have the power to order
the police a cup of coffee. Today, the Home Secretary has been much
more appreciative of the role taken by the police. The Home Secretary
has no power whatsoever to order the cancellation of police leave.
The fact that politicians chose to come back is an irrelevance in
terms of the tactics which were already developing. I accept that
the people who got the riots under control were the brave policemen
and women who were out there on the front line, dealing with the riots.
What about the Prime Minister himself? There is some puzzlement
at Downing Street about these claims. He does not claim that he
came back to rescue the country. And going through what he said in
the Commons yesterday, he certainly did not claim that. The nearest you
could get was him saying that he had chaired a meeting. But we have
to cast our mind back to where we were a couple of nights ago, and
what the country did not need was a lesson about chains of command and
who has responsibility for the police and the judiciary. What we
needed to know was that people were taking tough decisions, and the
country had leadership. That is what they're emphasising tonight.
What about the public, who are they giving credit to? It is interesting,
we're getting the first polls in now. One poll tonight by ITN, 30%
said Cameron had done a good job, 45% said the acting head of the Met
Police, Tim Godwin, had done a good job. This is another poll, and this
is interesting. It is about cuts to police numbers - should the cuts to
police be reversed? 71% agreed that those cuts should be reversed. The
Government says they will not be. And then, on the question of
sentencing, we have seen some very robust sentences for some of the
early offenders in the magistrates' courts. This was the question of
the automatic jail sentence no matter how small the involvement.
78% agreed. I understand that going forward, there will not be a
meeting of COBRA tomorrow morning. The meeting this morning was, I'm
told, just to reporting exercise, There can never be a good time to
have riots, but these ones have come at a particularly inauspicious
moment in our history, against a backdrop of austerity and severe
economic straits. Some have argued there's a strong link between the
two - others say that's facile. Whichever side of that particular
divide you're on, the two things running in parallel have provoked
the question of how much trouble our society really is in. Gavin
Esler has been assessing what happened this week, and whether it
gives any clues as to where Britain is heading. His piece contains some
It was something we hoped we would never see again - cities on fire.
Residents fleeing their homes. got outside and saw the building,
the flames going up the building. Businesses destroyed, pitched
battles in the heart of English cities. Who would do such a thing,
terrorising their own neighbours, stealing, looting, destroying
anything they came across? The riots of 2011 came in a week which
changed our country and made us ask some terrible questions about who
we are and what we have become. Who were these people who were
destroying our cities? What should we do with them? If we saw some of
the worst, we also saw some of the best - community spirit and
extraordinary tolerance for people -- from people who have lost so
much. It was a week to be ashamed and occasionally, just a little
proud. It started in Tottenham a week ago, one of the most deprived
London boroughs. Police marksmen killed a man they were trying to
arrest, Mark Duggan, in disputed circumstances. In the aftermath, a
peaceful protest turned ugly. Patrol cars, a shop and a bus was
set ablaze by masked gunmen. The following morning, we slowly woke
up to what had been done to one of our communities by some of its
citizens. The victims were neighbours, small businesses, local
residents - us. Tottenham's aim be toured the community and expressed
the outrage of many of the rioters. We now need restraint and calm. I
say to those who wanted to come to Tottenham to cause violence and
disturbance to stay away. But other people were also listening - those
who saw the riot not as an outrage that as an opportunity. London is
hit by a second night of rioting. Looting and vandalism spread to
other areas of the capital... violence was to spread like a
madness which proved contagious. Eventually it spread to Birmingham,
Manchester, Nottingham and other English cities. When we woke up to
more damage, the same questions were repeated from the previous
night. Where were the police? Why didn't they stop it? Why was the
Prime Minister, his deputy and the Home Secretary all on holiday at
the same time? The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was the first
to be visibly back on duty. Can a ask you, is this what is going to
happen in England now, with the cuts? People suddenly being made
homeless? I don't think so. weren't we protected...?
violence continued. By now, the simmering anger of the law-abiding
majority was directed at police, politicians, and above all, the end
of the within. It is absolutely disgusting, they are feral Rats,
what are those parents doing? Those children should be at home. This
was the shocking incident of the Malaysian student robbed by those
who had been appearing to help him. It summed up the viciousness of the
events of the week. When the Prime Minister finally returned from his
holiday in Italy, his response was resoundingly tough. I have this
very clear message to those people who are responsible for this
wrongdoing and criminality. You will feel the full force of the law.
And if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to
face the punishment. And then, something remarkable - tens of
thousands of people, many with brushes in their hands, turned out
to help clean up their own neighbourhoods, waiting for police
to let them into crime scenes. Some scathingly talked of the pointless
destruction as recreational rioting, shopping with violence. What
happened here last night and most of this is not about politics, it
is about a individual and what they want to do, and all they want to do
is kill, take, steel and Rob from people but are working hard.
Political classes tried hard to catch up and catch on. It is time
we stopped hearing all of this nonsense about sociological
justifications for wanton criminality. Whatever people's
grievances may be, it does not justify smashing up someone's shop,
and wrecking their livelihood. train of discussion could be heard
everywhere - were their reasons for the rioting, or merely excuses?
we are doing is jailing our children. Look at the mental
institutions - young, black people. His any of your kids in prison? His
any of your kids getting stopped and searched? No, they're not. So,
continue the riots. From street corners in Clapham to the Newsnight
studios, you could hear the same differences of opinion. On the
question of parenting... Who has been in charge of parenting for the
last 13 years? If there is anyone who's responsible for the
environment in which these young people grow up, it is you and the
Labour Party. As London's slowly came back to normal, the violence
continued in other big cities. In Birmingham, three young men were
killed when a car ran into a group of Asian men trying to protect
their homes and businesses. New fears followed of reprisals into
ethnic tensions and vigilantes. There are pockets of our society
which are not just broken but frankly sick. But of all the words
spoken this week, the father of one of the young men killed in
Birmingham stands out. Anything I ever wanted done, I would always
ask him to sort it out for me. Not my eldest, but my youngest. And
they killed him. In the past week, you could see broken Britain and
sick Britain. You could also see people volunteering to clean up
their own neighbourhoods - Community Britain, solidarity
Britain, generous Britain. A society which got over the shock,
mostly kept calm and carried on. The young Malaysian student who was
mugged appeared in a news conference, and thousands of pounds
was donated to help him. We live in a different country from the one we
thought we lived in one week ago. The police, the politicians and the
government reasserted themselves in the end, but it proved that at
times, we cannot always rely on them. Beyond those institutions,
our society, people like you and me, also failed for a while. We did
come together, but only after so Joining me now, the historian David
Starkey, the author of Chavs, Owen Jones, and the crime writer Dreda
Say Mitchell. The scenes of wild rioting were played out around the
world. Do you think this has been a profound cultural shift this week?
Not this week. I'm sorry, I'm a historian, we will only know in the
future. But one thing is for sure, profound changes have happened. In
one sense, these riots are completely so official. Somebody
brilliantly put it, it is shopping with violence. It is merely
extended commercialism. For me, the key image was the woman cool the
trying on a pair of trainers outside a shop which had been
looted. So, that's one aspect of it. But in one area, there has been a
profound cultural change. I have been re-reading Enoch Powell,
rivers of blood. Its privacy was absolutely right in one sense. The
river did not flow with blood, but flames wrapped around Tottenham and
Clapham. But it was not into communal violence, this is where he
was completely wrong. What happened was that a substantial section of
the chavs that you wrote about have become black. The whites have
become black. The particular sort of violent, destructive, and a
holistic gangster culture has become the fashion. And black-and-
white, boy and girl, operate in this language together. This
language which is wholly false, which is a Jamaican patois which
has been intruded in England, and this is why so many of us have this
sense of literally a foreign In that speech he talked about the
black man having the whip hand over the white man. It's not skin colour.
It's colour churl. List ton David Lammy, a successful man. If you
with list tong him on radio, you'd think he was white. David,
absolutely, absolutely not at all really. Of all the theories we've
heard this week, this whole notion that this is down to the way that
some young people may choose to speak, that people... Behave.
People, David, like myself, who maybe talk in a particular way.
don't talk like them. "them ", this is the problem. It's them and us
culture. We can't keep thinking of this as them and us argument. We
keep talking about different communities. You keep talking about
black culture, black communities are not homogeneous groups.
course not. There are black cultures, lots of different
cultures. What we need to be doing, we need to be thinking about
ourselves as not individual communities, as one community. We
need to stop talking about them ar and us. We need to talk about our
children. We need to be using words like "we" and start putting this
blame on different people. The blame culture has got to psto. We
have to face head on what the issues are. When you say that white
culture has adopted black culture, are you saying that has been at the
heart of the rioting? Is it black culture that has caused rioting?
Remember, what we're dealing with, listen to these boys, listen to -
think you should answer the question. This is the text sent by
the girl who had been the Olympic ambassador, who then engages in
shocking acts of looting. Pigs shouldn't of killed that guy last
night innit, then they wouldn't get blown up. Girls goes to steal wiis.
"That's outrageous, what you're saying. You're equating black
culture with criminality - No, a particular sort. Let me finish. You
said David Lammy when you heard him sounded white. What you meant by
that is that white people equals being respectable and that white
people, by adopting black culture is worse. You glorify rap? David I
use rap in schools to teach children literary devices and it is
a fantastic way - David, do you equate rap with rioting on the
streets? Is that what you think? glorifies it. Rap actually, some
rap, if you look at their void yoz, actually it reinforces the
materialistic world that we live in. When was the last time you watched
a rap video or looked at a rap song. Tell me about a rap artist, David?
I'm curious to know about this. You hear stories and you deal with
impeerical evidence, you base your theories on evidence. Explain what
your evidence is before you make, frankly what a lot of viewers will
find offensive generalisations. This these times, we need plain
speaking. Plain speaking is necessary. You need facts, David.
will give them. You are doing a Jeremy Paxman. I took part in
Jamie's Dream School. I was involved in this. We used rap. We
used rap to explore particular notions of masculinity, of violence,
of dominance, of the relationship between old aristocratic violent
practice and modern gang culture. It's very interesting. It is
historically interesting. When we look at the facts, bringing it back
to rioting, clearly it was not a riot that was only dominated by
black people. It was, there were many white people. It started as a
black protest about the killing of a black man. So can we just have
that fact absolutely straightforward. A peaceful protest.
A community protest. It quickly ceased to be peaceful. We've got to
understand in Tottenham in particular, in this country black
people are 30 times more likely to be stopped and searched. In
Tottenham one - let me finish. of gun crime is black. One in two
people in Tottenham grow newspaper poverty. I no know. There's a sense
of harassment by the police. This is just the latest in an example of
a civilian killed in very dubious circumstances. What the IPCC
originally came up with... utterly outrageous. I want to
manufacture this on. David Cameron said this wasn't about race at all.
He thinks it's about crime. Culture. He said it's crime actually. Let's
look at the damage to the social fabric in terms of what this says.
You talked about the shopping violence. Shopping with violence,
yeah. Do you think this is part of an inquiztive culture that endless
consumerism, it wasn't mindless rioting. It was rioting with a
clear commercial purpose. Absolutely. We are the society.
We've tripped ourselves up. What have we emphasised to children,
success equals money. That's what we've been saying for such a long
time. So is it any wonder that the type of shops they were looting, it
was all about materialism. If you think about it, we've had a
recession. One of the issues of our recession is about the way that
banks behave. We let our banks off basically. I don't - Were any bank
as tacked? Ferel bankers and looters. Despite all this stuff on
politicians, on the press, on bankers, no public buildings were
attacked. If you get a real political outbreak, public
buildings are attacked. Can we just move on to something - So that kind
of protest is OK? No, it's not OK. I mean I don't actually think that
direct, I don't think there is a human right to riot. There is a
right to protest. There is a right to protest. Can we turn this round?
I am not attacking these groups. What do you mean by "these groups".
Please, you correctly say these people feel excluded, they're poor,
they can't get jobs. They're searched bit police. Now why is it
that these groups particularly in these areas, you were saying black
males... I'll give you an example David. Can we look - I will give
you an example to this building - Can I move this on. I have to stop
this. You are using black and white culture interchangably as good and
bad. I want to know how much damage you think this has done to the
fabric of society. I think it's considerable amount of damage. What
I would like to see is a recognition that what is the way
out for these boys and girls. The way out - You think that's by
dropping black culture? No, well, I think it's a particular form. I
think - I find it really... Why is it so important to do so? Because
this type of black male culture mill taits against education.
is nothing to do with that. There will be people watching who think
that black culture is synonymous with gang culture at least.
Absolutely. That is something that we need to fight against. There's
an angry backlash and understandably so. People felt
terrorised in their communities. I felt that and my friends felt that.
There's a dangerous climate where to even begin to understand the
underlying social and economic causes is seen as justifying
mindless thuggery. It's not do-re- mi-fa-so-la-ti-do that. We have to
accept there is a -- it's not to do that. We have to accept that. If we
look at young black men it's half of them are out of work. If you
have a tiny proportion of people who feel they have no future, that
they have no future ahead of them, a tiny proportion take to the
streets in a way that happened this week, in the most tragic of ways,
that is enough to cause chaos on the streets. Unless we solve that,
this will happen again and again. Thank you very much for coming in.
The scenes of wild rioting were played out around the world. It's a
fairly safe bet the world can now see Britain doesn't just do queuing.
This time next year, London will again become a global media focus
for hopefully happier reasons, as the 2012 Olympic Games kick off.
How much has our international image been tarnished? Despotic
regimes may be laughing now at our own lack of order. Can we repair
the damage in the Long Run? Here's Stephen Smith. Centrepiece
of the festival, London South Bank exhibition opens on schedule.
other time of economic hardship, the 50s, the Festival of Britain
was staged beside the Thames in London.
ARCHIVE: Escalators carry visitors to the top floor. For the then
cutting edge technology on show, it was a showcase of British values,
such as resourcefulness and pluck. 60 years on that event is recalled
in another festival, which offers a nostalgic view of the great British
summer holiday and perhaps a gentler time. This tribute to the
Festival of Britain was supposed to embody similar values - optimism,
the best of British in a time of austerity. But visitors coming to
the country this week could be forgiven for having an all together
different impression of the place. The way I perceive the whole way
has been totally madness, frustration, feeling like, you know,
why is this happening to London? What's going on? Not understanding
at all. It's unbelievable because I have been here before. I've never
seen something like this. The kids were saying there's so much
happening in Pakistan, especially Peshawar. When we have come here,
we have brought the disturbance here. So I said no, no, it's not
that. It's just a mishap. It's a coincidence. Our parents gave us a
call and they said "Oh, don't go to London. There's a little bit
trouble, great trouble there." But we decided another way. We had a
nice day. No regrets so far? This is what the outside world is
accustomed to seeing of us, a royal occasion with all the trimmings.
Foreign reporters who are based here have had a very different
story to tell this week. I think it was a shock. It was a shock for
people, because when they come here as tourists, when they come to
London, what do they do? They look at Buckingham Palace, they think
about the Queen. They go to the usual tourist attractions. They see
Bond Street. They do some shopping. Britain is really in German eyes
not really connected with the social unrest and with social
problems of that magnitude. So the public image has got some really
big scratches through those occurrences. London on fire. A wave
of violence... Whether we like it or not, the riots in England have
been headline news around the world. The French were one of several
nations to urge their people to think carefully before travel to
the UK. While state TV in China took the opportunity to question
whether next year's Olympic Games in London would be safe. Television
loyal to Colonel Gaddafi in Libya portrayed the riots as a deprived
people fighting a repressive government. While some other
broadcasters in the Middle East said this was Britain's Arab Spring.
Some Greeks have even been marching in sympathy with English rioters.
They've got the wrong end of the stick says a correspondent here.
They assumed that this was a similar situation to theirs, that
this was a middle class uprising against austerity, against cuts.
This was something they could relate to. My job was to kind of
explain further the nuances. the Iranian government has its own
take on English events. TRANSLATION: The British people
have reached the end of their tether. They've run out of patients
during these times of economic hardship. What this suggests is
that though we may live in a global village, what the English get up to
in summer defies easy translation. With me in the studio the Chinese
businessman and Australian trip newer Sir David Tang, the Canadian
businessman, Tyler Brule and French journalist Nabila Ramdani. Thanks
for coming in. How do you think the world is viewing us now?.
images of the rioting and the burning and all the unrest, I think,
painted a very bad picture of Britain in the last few days across
the world. Two things I would imagine, one, for a foreigner and
in particular, even the seasoned travellers, who used to think that
London was a very safe capital, had to be amazed and possibly start
thinking again whether, in fact, it was such a safe place. Secondly, I
think that dictators and tie rants and toe tatt tairn states around
the world must be absolutely having a distinct sense of sharden Freuder.
Western democracy, touted as the argument for civilisation and in
Arab Spring in particular being pedestrianled and promoted is now
seen to be a totally vulnerable to social unrest and even more
important social injustice. What about how China deals with dissent
though. You saw my government there questioning whether London is able
to handle the Olympics. And I've talked to a lot of Chinese, I
wasn't in China at the time. I was actually in Europe, but when I talk
to them, they, of course, are laughing in a way, because they
couldn't believe that something like this could happen and so, they
are beginning to question all sorts of things. If it wasn't so serious,
it would be farcical hearing from Ahmadinejad in Iran and China's
government about whether London's capable. What's the danger here?
think David Cameron's knee-jerk reaction to the riots is certainly
going to attract an enormous amount of harm to Britain's international
standing. You think he's overreacted? Absolutely. The
possibility to bring in the army, not only upset the Metropolitan
Police, but it made him sound like some kind of insensitive autocrat
and you combine this with the mooted idea to curtail social
networking, and it makes him sound uncomfortably like the autocrats or
the behaviour of the autocrats, which provoked the Arab Spring.
you think there's a possibility of a massive overreaction here? Do you
think anything's going to hit us There has been a lot of discussion
about the poor Malaysian student, which was one of the most striking
images. But if I look at a second image, it is all about the second
biggest investors to this country, which is Japan. We had that
smouldering solely distribution centre. I think there will be some
board meetings, and people will be thinking about their investment
strategy in this country next year. Especially from the point of view
of the Japanese. Soon after their disaster, there was hardly any
looting. Everybody was behaving... But these are the same Japanese,
the same Koreans, the same Americans, who have been watching
our Royal Wedding... That's why they wanted to see something bad.
Unfortunately, in the world today, when you have images of burning
cars allowed by the police to carry on, and let looters loot and so
forth, unfortunately, those images are indelible. You lived through
the Paris riots of 2005 - would you say those images are now Indelible?
People do not say, I'm not going to Paris because of those riots six
years ago. Well, those riots certainly damaged the reputation of
the city of Paris. It made it appear a dangerous, turbulent city.
I'm afraid it is the same thing that will happen to the reputation
of the City of London. As David was saying, I think the pictures on the
footage of arson was perhaps the most depressing aspect, because you
cannot have a worse image. You did not actually see somebody torch a
building, but the images of people smashing up shops and looting, and
the police are standing by, rightly or wrongly, that sends a very bad...
You're saying, it is the failure of the institutions to take control.
People could not believe that the Great Metropolitan Police, Scotland
Yard, Sherlock Holmes... But it is a very old-fashioned idea.
people are old-fashioned. Gang here in a very modern way. People
outside of Britain have a very typical version, understanding, of
what Britain is. I think that caused irreparable damage. Does
Britain need to go on a PR offensive now? Not today. The last
thing the country needs to do right now is to buy up lots of airtime on
CNN to say how great it is. People need to see a plan. If you look at
international investors, they want to know what's going to happen with
youth unemployment - if I'm going to invest in this country, I'm
going to set up a semiconductor plant, I want to make sure there's
a trained workforce here. If you look at this country versus Germany,
our peers want to see a plan. We have not have that this week.
before we go, news of tonight's special Review. Thanks, Emily.
We're live from the Edinburgh Festival tonight, when we highlight
taboo-breaking comedy from Margaret Cho and Ruby Wax, explore
exhibitions by Robert Rauchenberg, Tony Cragg and David Mach. We look
David Grossman looks back at a tumultuous week of rioting in English cities. Gavin Esler considers how damaged the fabric of England has been by the unrest, and Stephen Smith looks at foreign reaction to and coverage of the riots. Presented by Emily Maitlis.