I was pleased to receive an email from Wokingham police to confirm that no copycat violence had broken out in our area during the disgraceful wave of looting, arson and violence we saw on tv recently. I was even more relieved to see the police decision to put many more officers on the streets of our main cities and to intervene more directly to make arrests. It did succeed in stemming the criminal activities.
Many of you will join with me in thanking local police officers who went to help neighbouring forces in difficult conditions. The police took a battering in order to re establish control of our streets. The cancellation of leave was a necessary sacrifice they made to do the job.
I have written extensively on johnredwood.com all last week about the problems, and have been inundated with responses. Most agree that the first priority was for the police to get in control by a strong physical presence and by actively arresting those who are looting or in other ways threatening people and property. We cannot create jobs, offer good public facilities and meet people’s aspirations, if warehouses are torched and shops ransacked. We need to do everything we can to attract investment, new business and enterprise to our cities. The easiest way of turning it all off is to wield the petrol bomb and the pick axe. The second priority is to ensure proper penalties are imposed on those who were guilty of crime.
In the aftermath of last week’s violence we need to consider what else we need to do, apart from the more muscular policing. There should be no reward for rioting. There should be sensible soul searching about our society, and how we can improve it. It emphasises the importance of the government’s welfare reforms. It always needs to be more rewarding to work than to stay on benefits. Parents need to take a strong interest in the wellbeing and discipline of their children. Schools everywhere have to offer a framework of quiet authority that allows ambition and talent to flourish, and more to feel they can achieve through conventional means.
Drugs, excessive alcohol, and gang culture all need more attention and will I trust now receive it. There are things government can and should do. There are also things the rest of us can do, as we all need to contribute to the creation of a responsible society where each of us strives to avoid harming others. Many of you can offer some leadership to the groups and people you are close to.
I will be working with Ministers to see early implementation of welfare reforms and to strengthen an economic policy capable of generating many more jobs. Wokingham shows how many can provide service and effort that helps the whole community. We need to spread the successful ways of bringing up children, avoiding or removing drugs, and offering hope of a better tomorrow into all parts of our country. In the meantime we need to make it clear that criminals will be detected and prosecuted.