I hope these riots are a wake-up call. Otherwise, London could end up as lawless as Nairobi

Violence in Hackney, east London (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

There is really nothing to say about the London riots that has not been said already. All sensible and moral people must condemn these criminal acts, for which the perpetrators are to blame. But, of course, every criminal and/or sinful act has a history behind it, and these criminal outbreaks are no exception. On that subject I defer to Melanie Phillips, who is spot on in her analysis:

I have written for more than two decades on the various elements that have contributed to this collapse of order: family breakdown and mass fatherlessness; the toleration and even encouragement of grossly inadequate parenting; educational collapse which damages most those at the bottom of the social heap; welfare dependency; political correctness and the vicious injustices and moral inversion of victim culture; the grossly irresponsible toleration of soft drug-taking; the shuddering distaste at the notion of punishment and the consequent collapse of authority in the entire criminal justice system; the implosion of the policing ethic and the police retreat from the streets; the increasing organisation and boldness of anarchist and left-wing subversive activity; and the growth of irrationality, narcissistic self-centredness and mob rule and the near-certainty of a fundamental breakdown of morality and order.

This has been going on for years, as Melanie points out, and we have tolerated this type of behaviour, though on a smaller scale, for far too long. I wonder how many readers, like me, have had the desolating experience of trying to confront badly behaved young people in a public place? Try, for example, asking some teenagers to turn down their music on a train, as I once did, and see what happens. Or try to tell some Catholic schoolboys on a bus to stop swearing, and see what response you will get, and how little support you will get from your fellow members of the travelling public.

Even mentioning incidents like these makes me feel like Colonel Blimp; but it is important to remember that crime is not an issue of left and right: it affects us all.

People who doubt this should try and live in Nairobi for a bit. Nairobi is an almost completely lawless city, without a properly functioning police force. As a result rich and poor live in terror of crime. This makes things that some Londoners take for granted – such as a drive at night time – frightening. Murder, rape, carjacking, home invasion, muggings, theft, are all common. One consequence of this, I assume, is that even though Kenya is growing economically, it would be growing much more if one could walk down a road in its capital city at any time of day or night without having to look over your shoulder. Kenya earns a lot through tourism, but would earn far more if the Foreign Office travel advice did not make such chilling reading. The US State Department is even more forthright in its advice:

US citizens in Kenya should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in public places frequented by foreigners such as clubs, hotels, resorts, upscale shopping centers, restaurants, and places of worship. US citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events.

That advice does not leave many places uncovered, does it. Even going to church may be risky. Given this advice, which reflects a real situation, tourists may be frightened off, and foreign investors may think twice.

The London riots may well have a similarly damaging effect on London’s reputation. If you were a potential tourist, would you want to come here after seeing the recent television footage? If you were thinking of doing business here, would you want to buy or rent one of those now vacant lots in Tottenham High Road?

Cities can go into decline, and they can, in extreme circumstances, die. The usual example of the latter is Detroit. That is an extreme case, and London is not on its deathbed, but the idea that London may be in decline – like Nairobi – is not beyond the bounds of possibility. Economic growth is already at low levels, and these riots may well ensure negative growth next quarter; the stock market has already tanked, and these riots will cause it to fall further, as insurance companies have to sell off stock to raise money for their pay-outs. We need a spirit of enterprise and job creation but many of the small businesses burned out in recent nights will never re-open.

One hopes, of course, that these riots will be a wake-up call, and that they will lead us to abandon the failed policies that have brought us this far. The consequences of carrying on with the approaches that Melanie Phillips so rightly lambasts are too depressing to think about. Some tough thinking and tough decisions lie ahead – if only our politicians have the courage to face both.