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Archive for August 9th, 2011

Well done to Mayor Lutfur Rahman for yesterday’s statement about the riots, particularly his remarks about neighbours. However, he let himself be dragged down elsewhere. Here it is:

Tower Hamlets residents will be deeply concerned by the outbreak of rioting and street violence across London. This violence is totally unacceptable.

As your Mayor I urge everyone in our borough to remain calm.

We are one community, one Tower Hamlets; and it is the responsibility of all us as neighbours to look after each other, our local area and our services. The council is working around the clock with community leaders to ensure that this message is taken directly to our young people.

It is also the responsibility of the police to deal with crime in a way that wins the trust of local communities. That job is being made much harder by the cuts to community policing being forced through by the Mayor of London and the government. We need a local police service that remains in touch with, and understands the community.

We do not yet know all the facts behind the outbreak of these disturbances. I believe when full investigations are carried out one of the factors identified will be a sense of anger among our young people that they have been forgotten.

Government cuts are hitting our youth the hardest. Youth unemployment is rising, while youth services are being destroyed.

When opportunities for our young people are closed off, it is inevitable that frustration and alienation will increase. It is a recipe for disaster.

Young people should not target their  anger at their own community. It is not our local shopkeepers and businesses that are to blame.

We must have a genuine debate about how our society is being fractured and divided by an economic crisis made far worse by government policies.

Here in Tower Hamlets my administration will do whatever it can to show that there is another way; by protecting youth services, delivering jobs for local young people, increasing community policing, and showing that they have a future ahead of them that is not worth throwing away.

Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman

Sadly, I don’t think he really thought about what he said and what he could and should say now.

I don’t know where he was last night, but he certainly wasn’t down the Roman Road. Perhaps he was watching from the expensive and impressive CCTV control room in Tower Hamlets Council’s Mulberry Place.

Along the Roman Road, there are several cameras that feed into that room. In fact, there’s one right by the overturned car which I took a picture of here. The people who work in that room feed their evidence directly to Tower Hamlets police, and Lutfur, I’m sure, would have been given updates. If he wasn’t on the streets he would have known what was going on.

How was it that all night that overturned car was simply left there? Where were his £35,000 a head THEOs, the not exactly ubiquitous Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers he recently decreed were crucial to crime-fighting in the borough?

Here’s what he said about them in June:

“The THEOs have been making a real difference to our communities for over a year now, which is why we protected their funding. They patrol the borough: reassuring residents and responding directly to concerns about anti-social behaviour.”

Were they patrolling yesterday? Well, they weren’t in Bow? What is the point of them if they can’t be deployed when most needed like last night?

Yet, in his statement last night, Lutfur, like his out-of-date mate Ken Livingstone descended into politics. He blamed the Coalition cuts. Well, the THEOs weren’t cut were they?

No, if Lutfur had been on the streets in Bow last night he would have seen with his own eyes exactly what was going on: looting as a spectator game of dare. There was no one there to deter these people.

I know some of the people involved last night because they live extremely close to me. They’re gang members, barely out of their teens. I’ve watched them grow up for years; their mother is an alcoholic. She doesn’t work; I presume she’s been on benefits throughout the time I’ve lived here.

She and her sons live in a lovely three storey housing association home with a garden (worth about £350k, according to property experts). These kids didn’t grow up during a time of cuts. More than one person last night said quite the opposite: it was the bloated spending of the last decade which created the culture of dependency that failed to force their mother to encourage them into work. Let’s face it, they proved last night they don’t lack a certain entrepreneurial spirit. And neither are they “angry youths”.

And if Lutfur had been in Bow and along Bethnal Green Road last night, he would have noticed a couple of other things. Most of last night’s perpetrators were white and black trash scumbags who have no pride in their area and no real sense of community. They’re the ones who looted and encouraged it. In contrast, along Bethnal Green Road, there were groups of Sikh and Bengali shopkeepers standing guard outside their properties and probably prepared to fight if attacked.

This is what Lutfur should be bold enough to say today and ignore anyone who calls him racist. He should tell the returning Boris Johnson and David Cameron they can probably learn a thing or two from the East End: that much like there used to be among post-war white working classes, there is a stronger sense of family and community loyalty among Bengalis here – and they’re much more likely to stand up and defend themselves. Kind of Big Society really.

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