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August 01, 2007

Christie Davies is dismayed to find that the predictions about social breakdown he made after the looting of a ship in Devon in January have been confirmed only a few months later by the looting and vandalism that followed severe flooding in Britain

Posted by Christie Davies

Christie Davies - the author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain - is dismayed to find that his predictions of social breakdown are being confirmed all too soon and all too well.

One always has mixed feelings when one's own prophecy of doom turns out to be justified. After the looting of the container ship Napoli off the coast of Devon in January this year, I wrote on the Social Affairs Unit Web Review that next time there was a disaster:

the rats will come out of their holes, the rabble will converge… and seize and destroy…It might be your house. It might be your business.
The looting and vandalism that followed the recent floods in Yorkshire and then in the South of England have proved me right.

I wish I had been proven wrong. It must be a singularly unpleasant experience to be forced out of your house by a flood or to have to abandon your car to escape the waters, and then to return to find that your house has been burgled or your car broken into. In some cases people put their possessions outside their houses to dry out and came back to find that someone had turned up with a large van and stolen them. These were not opportunistic thefts by a passer-by who failed to resist temptation. These were criminals who saw on television what was happening and drove to the scene to see what they could make off with. People in Yorkshire and later in the Severn and Thames valleys suffered the depradations of our marauding underclass. In Abingdon, one conman tried to make people leave home, claiming he was from the Environment Agency and they were about to be flooded. Soon the victims' possessions will turn up on ebay or in car boot sales to be bought by knowingly dishonest customers willing to ignore a few flood marks, mud stains or bits of damp.

The broadcasters of course have concentrated on the heroic and selfless behaviour that most British people exhibit in the face of a disaster, rescuing the elderly and the helpless, losing earnings and taking risks to provide food and water to those cut off by the floods. But this isn't really news. It is what people did during the floods of 1947 and 1953 because they saw it as their duty, as the right and decent thing to do. At the time of the Aberfan disaster I was on my way to South Wales by car and my first instinct on hearing of it on the radio was to go there and grab a shovel. There was no need. The police asked people not to do so because too many volunteers had set off already and were in danger of clogging the roads and impeding the emergency services. That has long been the good side of our national character, and it is still there.

What is new and is news is the existence of a substantial predatory underclass who see disasters as opportunities. There have always been some individuals like that, as we know from what happened during the police strike in Liverpool in 1919 or during the Blitz. Now there is an entire class of people, perhaps 10% of the population, who are willing to behave in this way. The existence of this class was shown by the willingness of its members on certain estates in Cheltenham and Gloucester to steal, destroy or contaminate the emergency supplies of clean drinking water that had been transported to the affected areas. When the yobbery are willing to piss in their neighbours' only source of water in an emergency, you know that there has been a moral breakdown. It should not surprise anyone. These are the same people who will obstruct and throw stones at firemen on their way to quench a fire. These people are not deprived, they are depraved.

If this is happening when medium sized respectable towns are flooded, imagine what would have happened if there had been floods in Lewisham or Haringey. The guns would have come out and we would have had another New Orleans. The poor would have suffered most because their homes and indeed the areas in which they live are the least well guarded and once the police were caught up in the urgent duties of combating the floods, there would have been chaos.

No doubt Mr Cameron could and can rest assured that no one would break into his house in flooded Witney (assuming that he has one and is not always in Notting Hill) or steal his ultra-expensive bicycle or his instant windmill while he is away prancing in Rwanda. The rest of us don't have this kind of protection. During the past year, I have had two bicycles locked to the railings in my garden stolen, a further attempted theft of an old, worn bicycle by someone who glued the lock and my wife's car was broken into. Next time the government tells me that crime is falling, I shall sneer. When it comes to crime I would sooner trust the Daily Mail than the Home Office.

Worst of all, nothing will happen to the looters. The police are overstretched dealing with the flooding and are unlikely to catch them. It is all very well very senior police officers telling the media that they will respond "robustly" to looting or that looters will feel the "full might of the law". The law reserves its robustness and its full might for those who offend against political correctness. It is lenient to looters as we saw from what happened in Devon back in February. The Crown Prosecution Service will say that taking looters or those poisoning the water supply to court is not a priority. Even if such people are convicted, it will be community orders all round. Even if they go to gaol, the government will promptly release them because of prison overcrowding, an overcrowding caused by their unwillingness to build new prisons and expand the prison population.

In an area near Doncaster there were five burglaries in one street. When the victims reported them, the police warned "they'll be back". The police knew that the professionals were at work. Even where they had taken everything of value, they would come back for the boiler or any other metal that could be sold as scrap. The local people had to form groups to patrol and guard their own area.

But let us suppose that some such patrolling group should encounter the predators and there should be a fracas in which one of the criminals is injured. Immediately there will be arrests and severe sentences and stern warnings about the dangers of "vigilante justice", "people taking the law into their own hands", the human rights of violent criminals and other such blather.

Yet, given that the ability of the State to protect individuals and their property is crumbling, what are the victims supposed to do? Why should those who feel abandoned by the law continue to respect it? The deal is that we have surrendered our use of force to the State in return for protection, but that protection is no longer forthcoming. No wonder Tony Martin, the farmer who shot a member of a gang who came to raid his isolated farmhouse, was a national hero. What would ordinary people feel if someone injured a looter taking advantage of the floods or if a crowd were to give a rough handling to those defiling their water supply and the indignant citizens were the ones then prosecuted and not the original offenders? It would once again demonstrate that Britain is not a democracy, and that the outlook of those who hold political and legal power is utterly different from that of the citizens they are supposed to serve.

The most comic expression of this was when a Labour MP who had a good chance of introducing a piece of new legislation from the Back Benches said he would be guided by what ordinary people wanted most. He abandoned his promise when he was flooded by requests to amend the law, so that people could, without fear of prosecution, properly use force to repel domestic burglars. So much for democracy. Flooding repeats itself, first as farce, and then as tragedy.

Dr Christie Davies is the author of The Strange Death of Moral Britain.


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Why on earth do you want to bother about the place. Do what I have done and move to low crime scandinavia - swedish or norwegian are easy languages for english people. Britain is a complete DUMP run by throughly nasty greedy bunch of bastards - simply a mirror image of your 10% underclass at the opposite end of society.

Ian Gurney Tampere Finland

Posted by: Ian Gurney at August 17, 2007 10:39 AM
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