Let’s send a message…
That was what Cameron said a little after this time last year: let’s send a message that rioting and looting were both behaviours that would not be tolerated.
And thus it was. The courts sat late and long: ne’erdowells were handed down ultra-tough sentences; and amessage was well and trulty sent.
Just as Cameron now is sending the opposite message in a way almost guaranteed to have London ablaze this August.
Its complicated. But its also deadly serious. By cracking down hard on rioting last year, the government actually sent two messages. The obvious, that the penalty for gross criminality was harsh justice: and the less obvious, but equally important, that government cared very much about this issue.
Part of the message was the speed of action. Part was the tough, no excuses stance adopted by those in power.
Unfortunately, that means that messages are blaring out loud and clear as government dithers and makes excuses this week for the Barclays bankers. Speed? Well, not exactly. This is a complicated matter, so we have to move slowly. Coming down hard? Not exactly: while Cameron spews forth hot air on the topic, the police and FSA are left floudnering, not entirely sure they have the legal wherewithal to prosecute the individuals concerned.
Whilst an ounce of the determination shown last year…a demand for names of those involved to be delivered next week. For charges to be laid. For due process to begin. All absent.
Meanwhile, some tory time-server…or maybe another banker – appears on Jeremy Vine today to condemn the clamour for swift action. We need to get to the bottom of this, before rushing to law…and the precise details of who would be prosecuted were no more than, well, detail. Almost, it sounded, an irrelevance.
Perhaps one should try the same line next time stores are burning in London: let’s do the public inquiry first…but who set fire to whom when? Nah…mere detail.
Its the juxtaposition of these two sets of attitudes, positions if you like, that is the real message.
Sure, Cameron and Co. are making some of the right rhetorical noises. But its in the tone and urgency of their demands that the real difference appears. Setr fire to a few of his adoring backers and…response is instant, judicially vicious.
Screw the economy and put seveal extra tens of thousands on the scrapheap and..the urgency fades.
It truly is…one law for them…one law for us.
Its a dangerous lesson to be teaching the young. Very dangerous indeed, what with August approaching and a report today to the effect that the Met could well be under-resourced to meet future public order threats.
I hope things don’t kick off again in a month or two. But it wouldn’ty surprise me if they did: and it would certainly not surprise me if sympathy for the forces of law and order were much diminished…a direct consequence of David Cameron’s utter disrtespect for same.