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January 09, 2014

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Dan Hardie

I think we might well have avoided the riots* going London-wide (and then nationwide) if it hadn't been for the phone-tapping scandal, which led to the resignation of the Met Commissioner, Paul Stephenson. IIRC, there was a shooting in Tottenham, followed on the same day by a demonstration outside one police station which turned into a local riot; followed the next day by a series of riots in nearby areas; followed by London and a whole series of other cities going up in smoke, at least partly because it seemed that you could go out and loot without having to worry too much about the cops.

You would have hoped that someone in authority would have realised that something was seriously wrong at the first stage, or at most at the second. But with Stephenson having resigned 20 days earlier, there was no actual Commissioner in charge of the Met. The Prime Minister, of course, was sunning himself abroad. I suspect the scene at Scotland Yard during the early rioting consisted of a lot of top brass passing the buck among themselves, until, three days in, it was more or less impossible to deny that there was something of a public order problem.

I am very likely to be wrong on all of this, btw, since I saw the riots from the vantage point of Greece. When I left for Athens in July 2010, I was told 'Be careful you don't get caught up in a riot'.

*Yes, we'd have avoided even local riots in Tottenham if there hadn't been the shooting of Duggan, or even, perhaps, if the early demonstration had been handled differently.

Dan Hardie

And meanwhile, we have the latest round in what Jamie has so usefully called 'The Great British Trench Off'. The Torygraph is accusing the Government of deliberately neglecting the role played by ANZAC and Canadian soldiers in order to commemorate Indian, West African and Caribbean troops. Another way of looking at it, in the words of frothing nutter and former Colonel Richard Kemp, 'trying to appease large numbers of immigrants.

Maybe the Government are doing this, maybe they aren't, although frankly I'm a little dubious of any argument supported by a loon like Kemp. But after Gove's little contribution, and now this, it's already getting to the stage where I can't be bothered to find out what this country is supposedly doing to commemorate the Great War.

Chris williams

I don't know what the government are doing. I know that the HLF is hoping to fund a project looking at troops from the Caribbean, and has already funded one looking at troops from India. I'm pretty sure that they haven't funded anything on troops from West Africa, though, and I'm a position to know. Thirteen thousand men volunteered from the Caribbean. They served on every front. If anyone tries to tell me I ought not be trying to make sure that the British West Indies Regiment and the West India Regiment get remembered too, I will go Evans on them.

Phil

at least partly because it seemed that you could go out and loot without having to worry too much about the cops

That was a big part of it in Manchester, allegedly caused, ironically, by GMP's finest being drafted in to help the Met out. Although the first wave of arrests had a high proportion of individuals already known to the police (they're easier to identify, after all), I think there was a lot of opportunistic & spontaneous looting & vandalism. Two data points: firstly, I heard later that the local prolific offender management team went round that evening checking on the names on their lists, and nine times out of ten they were sat in front of the telly (Evening, officer, what can I do for you?). Secondly, we were having a meal out that evening, and my son (then 16) announced several times, in animated tones, that if he was in the town centre he'd be very tempted to smash a few windows himself. (After about the third repetition we gave up trying to get him to keep his voice down and just told him to shut up.) If that's going through the mind of your proverbial Young Man From A Good Family With a Bright Future Before Him, it's not exactly surprising if the reaction on some of the estates was a bit more direct.

dsquared

deliberately neglecting the role played by ANZAC and Canadian soldiers in order to commemorate Indian, West African and Caribbean troops

If you're taking the overall view that it was a patriotic triumph and the commanders can hardly be faulted for their brilliant generalship, you probably do have a bit of a problem with the ANZACs. It's almost a Mitchell and Webb sketch ... "Now, Hennimore, pay attention! In this room I am hosting a tribute to the glorious successes of World War One - In this room I am hosting a tribute to the dead of Gallipoli - ON NO ACCOUNT MUST THE TWO PARTIES MEET"

dsquared

opportunistic & spontaneous

I remember thinking at the time that so many people were wringing their hands and saying "What is it that could have motivated so many young people to take to the streets and smash things and loot?" without considering that "a warm night with no cops about" might be an answer in and of itself

ajay

I'd be entirely behind a bit more effort going into the contributions of Indian troops, because there were a lot of them involved, mostly in Mesopotamia but also on the Western Front (including my great-grandfather, who is still there) and they don't really feature much or at all in the popular image of the trenches. (The Chinese labour corps feature still less, this blog excepted.)

On a related topic: everyone knows, I assume, that Housman's "Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries" was written about the BEF? Mercenaries as in professional career soldiers, you see, rather than volunteers or conscripts.

ajay

It would also have happened fast, as soon as it became apparent that the streets couldn’t be cleared by main force

But would this have become apparent in China? Or would it just have been a case of putting a couple of brigades of PAP on to the streets of Tottenham and restoring harmony that way?

Guano

There's an interesting article in the Independent today (10th January) about corruption in the Metropolitan Police. This is more important, in my view, but will the story gain any traction?

jamie

@ajay, the dynamics of mass incidents in urban China are somewhat different to the 2011 riots (which is where my comparison is a bit of a stretch). The point there is to outscale the cops and PAP and seize territory. Then you get a seige/standoff situation which the authorities often seem to resolve through formal concessions. When these succeed in getting a critical mass of people to drift away you send in the mop up squads to deal with the rest.

dsquared

This is more important, in my view, but will the story gain any traction?

From the way the coverage was going, I think the media went chips-in on the assumption that the inquest was going to find unlawful killing (they might have been wrongfooted by a Press Association summary which got the guidance wrong and said that it had to be unlawful killing if he didn't have the gun). Now that it isn't, I suspect they will lose interest and move on. A shame really as it's pretty obvious when you think about it that a jury verdict is not going to be the place to have a discussion about the Met's inveterate and constant habit of covering up and falsifying evidence, but that's not the story, unfortunately.

Chris Williams

I do think that the 'cover-up, spin and lies' narrative is beginning to get traction: plebgate has helped here.

Stephen

Can anyone remember ANY incident in the last say fifteen years where the Met have shot ( or otherwise killed) someone and the initial story they put out hasn't turned out to be ( being charitable) wildly inaccurate?

Equally can anyone remember any such incident where said story hasn't, despite all previous experience, been reported as gospel by a credulous meeja with nary a 'police say' far less a 'police claim' to be found?

Malcs

Yes. Leveson et al appear to have disrupted this not a jot.

Dan Hardie

Some rather tawdry light has been shed on the First World War commemorations story. The 'row' I referred to above turns out to be a case of deeply sleazy anonymous briefing, and it shouldn't be a great surprise who is behind it all.

It turns out that the 'Whitehall neglects brave ANZACs to suck up to darkies' stories emanated from Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Education. Apparently Michael Gove thinks that the best way to commemorate the outbreak of the bloodiest war in British history is to send his minions round the newspapers smearing the Culture Secretary. If Cameron doesn't get a grip of this playground viciousness now I think we should just forget all about any official commemorations of 1914.

'It followed a briefing to Australian journalists by Whitehall officials which led to reports that the Anzacs were being "whitewashed" out of the commemorations in favour of black and Asian servicemen from India, the Caribbean and west Africa.

It was claimed that the emphasis on troops from the "New Commonwealth" was intended to promote "community cohesion" in the UK – leading to accusations in Australia of "blatant politicisation".

The Daily Mail quoted a "senior Whitehall source" as saying: "This is awful. The idiot Maria Miller is doing nothing to involve the rest of the empire, who sent vast numbers of people to help us."

A Whitehall source quoted in the Sun said: "The DCMS's plans to airbrush out all the countries that helped us during world war one are totally disgraceful. Maria Miller is way out of her depth."'

dsquared

it shouldn't be a great surprise who is behind it all.

in fairness, when I read that I thought "Oh God, Ed's gone back to Charlie Whelan tactics".

Chris Williams

Were I the FCO I would also be hopping mad at this one: the Dominions have had a significant tradition of remembrance (as anyone who's ever needed a drink in a small town in Oz at 7pm can testify). It's the Ireland and New Commonwealth -- the ones which the UK is not nearly as closely aligned to -- which, for bloody obvious reasons to do with independence do not have much of a WW1-remembering infrastructure in place. Own goal by Gove subverts potential charm offensive by St James.

(If someone could also mention something on this thread about the teaching of history via distance learning, then _every_ distinction between this post and my day job would collapse.)

ajay

I thought that B&T threads _were_ teaching history via distance learning.

Can anyone remember ANY incident in the last say fifteen years where the Met have shot ( or otherwise killed) someone and the initial story they put out hasn't turned out to be ( being charitable) wildly inaccurate?

Mark Saunders? I don't remember any wild inaccuracy there, though I am open to correction.

ajay

Also, bloody hell to Dan Hardie. I mean to the thing he posted. Gove just goes from strength to strength, doesn't he?

Phil

What ajay said. I knew Gove was an arrogant shit-flinging pillock, but it came as a genuine surprise to see him in the role of arrogant shit-flinging racist pillock.

Alex

Who has even used the phrase "New Commonwealth" since the Notting Hill riot, for fuck's sake?

Chris Williams

Me. It's a handy way of getting at the disctinction between states that got independence before 1933 and those that had to wait til after 1944. In two words. When I'm busy.

johnf

Wonder if Gove would be keen to commemorate the "white" Polish troops who fought in WW2?

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