In contradiction of the News comments about overheating August days, reminiscent of that heatwave that fed the flames of the French Revolution, it’s a cool, breezy evening in London tonight. Wide skies, lagged with bruising purple clouds, threaten thunder and rain, punctured with pools of golden sunlight flashing on the eyeless buildings. But the tension in the air is carried on the sounds of police sirens wailing and rushing everywhere. My little corner shop, in a region of Kennington which is very residential, is boarding up early. But then London is burning, after the looting that began last Thursday. If real social problems on the streets, and the reported failures of the Fire Brigade to get to burning buildings recently are anything to go by, there are real dangers threatened and ordinary people have already suffered.
Lewisham, Lambeth and Peckham are affected now and you wonder if those hooded youths who seem to be wanting to unleash their anger everywhere, or use the situation to show off, loot or destroy, have been using the same ‘social’ networks that have helped the Arabic Spring. One said ‘the police have too much power’. Perhaps they should go to those countries to know what a truly tyranical police force means. But without being too meritricious, you wonder how the frightening, confusing world news is feeding the action. The plunging markets in the US today, the fears in the Eurozone, the talk of a Double Dip recession. But there is one thing that can reassure us all – Boris Johson, Mighty Mayor and famous defender of girls against yobs on the street, is rushing home!
But in fact, with new footage it is no joking matter at all. Gangs were attacking police cars and looting, before night fell. In Croydon and Peckham buildings and cars are burning. An emergency Cobra meeting is being held tomorrow, and the violence has spread to Birmingham too. After three days, it does seem to be co-oridinated, or turning into a pattern, but Mark Duggam’s partner, shot dead by police on Thursday, has also criticised the violence, saying innocent people are getting hurt, while trying to defend her claim that her boyfriend was unfairly fired on. There are real questions about police tactics throughout.