David Allen of the Tottenham Conservative Association has just sent me this statement that he has issued to local media. It’s the best thing I’ve seen on the riots of Saturday night.
The statement says…
…that it was always likely that Saturday’s peaceful protest would be hijacked by criminals…
…that self-appointed community leaders need to be careful with what they say…
…that the police were wrong not to take firmer action against the rioters and that they must not now shy away from policing the locality for fear of criminals over-reacting…
…that the BBC and other media need to find other voices from Tottenham and not pretend the community is the same, ethnically, as it was in 1981…
…that Boris Johnson needs to return to London immediately and show solidarity with local people…
…that Haringey needs to wake up to its mismanagement of the borough…
…that the Government should find policies that turn Tottenham into a business-friendly locality…
…that Spurs should not abandon their community roots…
…that Tottenham’s new ethnic communities should make their voices heard.
Here is the full statement:
“Local Conservatives share the shock and concern of all Tottenham residents at the events of Saturday night. Our first thoughts are with those burned out of their homes and businesses and we applaud the efforts of local churches and others to support and feed those who have lost everything. Once those immediate human needs are met, and the clean-up has taken place, it will be time for long-overdue reflection upon the rights and wrongs of how Tottenham has been run for so long, and what needs to change. It will surely be a time for sackcloth and ashes for many. And there are ashes aplenty on the streets of Tottenham today.
To those who organize “legitimate, peaceful demonstrations”
A demonstration may be lawful, but it is not always justified or advisable. Who cannot have realised by now that lawful protests are increasingly being hijacked by anarchists and criminals to bring chaos to the streets of London? Those who organize such protests should feel obliged to cooperate with the police and local authorities to minimise the chance of their own demonstration unleashing violence against people and property.
To the so-called ‘Community Leaders’
Tottenham is not helped by inflammatory rhetoric from self-appointed, self-promoting ‘community leaders’. Your time would have been better spent offering practical and emotional support to that grieving family, and helping them to understand the process of investigation now taking place at the IPCC. You paraded a grieving family through the streets within 48 hours of the death of their loved one, to wait on a street corner for hours for answers you must have known the local police were unable to give. That wasn’t ‘support’ or kindness—it was cruelty. Will you now redeem yourselves? Then focus your efforts on helping the young and unemployed into training and work, so that they can join in the greater effort to restore and conserve the best of old Tottenham and replace and improve the rest. The educational and economic stagnation of those young people is too high a price to pay for your mess of pottage: facetime on TV and lucrative positions on committees or commissions of enquiry.
To the Metropolitan Police
We share the concern of many local shopkeepers and homeowners that the police appear to have adopted a policy of ‘Don’t intervene, Act later’ when it comes to arson and looting. In other words, the suspicion exists that, to avoid police casualties on Saturday night, you let the arsonists and looters do their worst, with the intention of later relying on CCTV, media footage and forensic evidence to enable a few prosecutions—even if that meant families burned out of their homes, businesses ruined, and many criminals getting off scot-free. If that was your policy: shame on you! If not, then you must act now to reassure the people of Tottenham. We shall also expect you to continue to focus on tackling the illegal possession and use of guns and knives. You must not be tempted by recent events into turning a blind eye in order to avoid confrontation.
To the Media (especially the BBC)
Tottenham will not be helped by your coverage of Saturday night’s events—and could even be actively harmed by your irresponsible attempts to peddle a ‘Back to the 1980s’ narrative for what is happening here. Do your homework: Tottenham in 2011 is a very different place from Tottenham in 1985. Then, a large population of Caribbean origin had terrible relations with a heavy-handed Metropolitan Police. In 2011, Tottenham’s Caribbean population is far smaller, many having followed the paths of previous waves of immigrants, moving on out to Edmonton and Enfield, and further afield to Hertfordshire and Essex. They have been replaced by newer waves of immigration, now being matched in numbers or outnumbered by black Africans, Kurds and Poles, plus many smaller groups besides. But where were THEIR voices in your coverage of this weekend? Or indeed the voices of the ‘native Londoners’ or of the middle-class incomers from all over the UK? Nearly every member of the Tottenham public interviewed on BBC TV this weekend was of Caribbean origin—presumably because that fit better into your preconceived notion that this was all a re-run of Broadwater Farm 1985. And, for the avoidance of any doubt: Tottenham is not a place seething with Community-Police tension. In fact, the Met’ locally is almost achingly PC. The only locals who have a problem with the Met are those who think they have a right to carry knives and guns and resent the police’s attempts to prevent this. You have a moral duty to come back with your cameras and correct the impressions left by your lazy, selective and disingenuous reporting.
To the Mayor of London
Despite your previous, largely positive record as mayor, your refusal to return immediately to London in order to visit the distressed people of Tottenham in person, counts against you today—and will count against you in Tottenham and throughout London on Election Day too, if we don’t see you here very soon.
To Haringey Borough Council
Your mismanagement of Tottenham over the last 40 years has been so extreme that it is hard to ascribe solely to incompetence. It is hard to see how you can play any part in Tottenham’s repair and recovery. A 40-year record of frustrating and deterring private sector investment. The determined neglect of planning enforcement that has seen our many conservation areas trashed with impunity and our exceptional stock of Georgian property left to rot, or be battered and broken by grotesquely inappropriate redevelopment. Our children too often receiving a sub-standard education, half of them forced to commute daily to get an education at all. Haringey’s policy for Tottenham over the last 40 years can best be summed up as: ‘Keep Tottenham Horrid’. Haringey truly is a rotten borough, which deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history, and soon.
To the Government
Save us! Make Tottenham an Enterprise Zone. Do whatever you can to bring investment to this area. Encourage and support Spurs to continue with their plans to rebuild White Hart Lane. Abolish Stamp Duty on homes’ purchases by owner-occupiers to keep the employed here and attract more. The continued flight of owner-occupiers from the area, their former homes snapped by Buy-To-Let landlords renting to yet more housing benefit claimants wipes out the clientele needed by small local businesses to remain viable. Remember, a bill to reorganize London local government is long overdue. Make it happen sooner rather than later. And start with Haringey. This is a deeply dysfunctional borough with a toxic history that deserves to be wiped off the map. If you can’t face reorganizing the whole of London, at least break-up Haringey—it could be parceled out between neighboroughs Barnet, Enfield, Hackney, Islington and Camden.
To Spurs Football Club
Tottenham needs you now more than ever. Don’t abandon us. The scheme you devised with local input for the regeneration of your ground, and approved in November 2010, is superb, and must be built. At all costs the heritage aspects of the scheme must be preserved, but you surely now have a good case to approach government for a substantial financial contribution towards the cost of the scheme, given how critical is will be to the regeneration of Tottenham.
To the newer communities of Tottenham, Kurdish, African, Polish and the rest
You are already making a great contribution to the life of Tottenham, London and Britain through your hard work and enterprise. But the time has come for you make a further contribution by : you must stand up and speak out, and not leave the public debate simply to those who shout the loudest. So, if you see a television camera or a news reporter, don’t run the other way. Speak to them. Your voice deserves to be heard too. Get involved in other ways too: join political parties, residents’ associations, faith groups. Your ideas and energy are desperately needed to build a new and better Tottenham.
Finally, we urge all residents to give generously of their time in the months and years ahead to local civic and community groups and causes, because together, we can make a difference. In spite of everything, we still believe Tottenham is a good place to live, and can be a great place to live.”