The answer? More democracy

One dead in London, 77 dead in Norway, but the answer to both is the same.

More democracy.

There is no excuse for what is going on in London right now. Nothing can possibly justify the thieving and wanton destruction sparked by the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of the police.

Maybe in the beginning it was about the death of a black man in suspicious circumstances, but that has long since ceased to be.

Now it’s about fear and power and violence and theft and control of the streets. It is the antithesis of democracy.

There may be no excuse,  but there is a cause for the rioting, and in a minority of cases it is a sense of helplessness.

Many feel that the democratic system and the state it serves is unrepresentative of their needs.

That is not to say that a revolution is needed. Great Britain’s parliamentary democracy may be flawed, but it is robust enough to stand the test of time.

Those who operate within it are not.

Ever since the advent of “New Labour” and “the Big Society”, people – especially working class people – have gradually felt more and more disenfranchised.

All the major parties have bought into the PR idea that a united front must be presented at all times – there is to be no overt dissent. No deviation from the party line. There is no place for anyone who disagrees.

Such a ham-fisted kills effectively drowns politics at birth. As a result, no-one in Labour is allowed to speak of legislating to make life better for the underclasses for fear of spooking “the markets”.

No-one in the Conservative party is allowed to mention immigration or crime or fearing old age, unless it has first been put through a tumble-dryer of spin and had the creases ironed out before being presented to the public, sanitised and cleansed for public consumption.

At a political level, people need to be allowed to speak freely, and they need to trust that their political representatives will not water down their ideas and opinions as they are passed up the line.

They need to be able to express their anger and frustration through their democratically-elected politicians at local and national level.

They need to recognise themselves in public debate, to see their ideas presented and dealt with in public- openly, transparently and accountably.

What they do not need is leaders, politicians and policies de-fanged and de-clawed, robbed of all the passion and urgency that made them worthy of discussion in the first place.

At best, people disengage from politics and leave it to those who understand how to manipulate the system for their benefit.

At worst, they turn to extremism and violence, like Mohammed Sidiqe Khan and Anders Behring Breivik.

People need to see government by consensus, whereby a good idea is a good idea, regardless of which side of the house it came from.

After all, what is the point of having a voice if it never gets heard or acknowledged?

Governing by consensus does not and should not mean that we agree on every single point – it means that people must be allowed to disagree before the best solution to a problem is found.

And whether that solution comes from the House of Lords or a high-rise in Brixton should make no difference.

Rioting is not revolution

I was in London not three weeks ago, and it was marvellous. I wouldn’t like to be there tonight.

It’s a city I’ve loved and loathed in equal measure; I’ve sometimes been troubled by its bustle, but never by its people.

Until now.

These riots are no revolution.

Though they may have started as a reaction to the death of a man in Tottenham, apparently at the hands of the police, they have long since become something else.

Now they are about violence, and greed, and power, and taking what you can’t afford because in some way, deep down, you think you deserve it.

I’ve news for you – if you’re rioting on the streets of London, looting from and burning down small businesses, you don’t deserve it.

Whether it be a satnav or a flatscreen TV, you don’t deserve it at all.

And if you think that this is the way to change things, you’re utterly wrong – in fact, you’ll find in the coming days and weeks that actions like this usually make life worse for the downtrodden you claim to represent, not better.

After all, what small business will give a teenager in a hoody a job after this?

What magistrate will take a lenient view of a gang member brought before them?

What school will look to help a problem child who has been bounced out of school?


People will read the headlines in the Daily Mail and turn their backs on you.

If you want to know what it’s like to be disenfranchised and robbed, look at the Irish people.

Their government have not only robbed this generation, but several generations into the future, to pay for the foolishness of the banks. If anyone has an excuse to riot, it would be them.

But they don’t. You might say they’re too lazy, but after hundreds of years of violence and uprisings, they’ve come to a different conclusion.

Setting a car on fire or breaking a window never changed anything, and it’s not going to do so this time either.

If you, in your righteous anger, truly want to make life better for your people, your community, your children, you’ll take off the mask, put down the brick and go and learn how the system is run.

Because if you don’t understand the system, you cannot change it.

Real revolution comes not from breaking windows and stealing televisions; real revolution comes from reading books and communicating with your neighbours and friends and from the hard work of building your community from the bottom up, one small victory at a time.

Real revolution is about helping your neighbours and friends to build up sustainable local businesses that serve their communities, not smashing them up and burning them out.

Real revolution is not about violence or bitterness or hatred.

Real revolution is about being angry enough at society to want to change it. Not destroy it.

Because you are society. We all are.

And in trying to destroy it, you’re destroying yourselves as well.