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EGP statement on the riots

Enfield Green Party wholeheartedly condemns the violence, destruction and looting carried out in the last few days in Enfield and in many other parts of the UK. We recognize, however, that these crimes emerge from specific social circumstances. These explain – though they do not excuse – the crimes. To focus exclusively on the need to restore public order and to prosecute the criminals would be to lose sight of the causes – causes which must be addressed if we are to avoid repetitions of these appalling events.

In the last 30 years we have seen a transformation from a society in which people largely looked out for each other and aimed – in general – for fairness, into one in which the pursuit of wealth and of personal gratification are the only things that count.

We have also seen the rapid widening of the gap between rich and poor and the creation of an underclass which can never hope to enjoy the things which society sees as most desirable. While violence and robbery can never be condoned, the alienation of the 'have-nots' is understandable. Less understandable is that many of the looters have not, in fact, been members of that underclass. That points to an even more worrying conclusion: that the disintegration of society has reached the point where even the 'haves' see gratifying their own selfish desires as justifiable, even at the expense of others. The only restraint they recognise is "Can I get away with it?".

We see this moral failure in both this week’s riots – leading to chaos on the streets – and in the banking crisis of 2008 which produced the current recession and therefore also contributed to that chaos. It is past time for all of us to recognize that a society based purely on self-interest is unworthy of the name. It is destructive of morality, social cohesion, family life and individual well-being.

We do recognize the few pieces of good news – the courage of all our emergency services in responding to unprecedented chaos and the self-organised groups that have appeared either to clean-up our streets or to defend them. For the future we need to find more local initiatives – we should not rely on Whitehall or even New Scotland Yard to defend us. This evolving failure has been apparent to many people – politicians, leader-writers, religious leaders and ordinary citizens – for many years but most have offered only warmed-up political or religious orthodoxies – the intellectual equivalent of fast-food.

In the absence of solid analysis and the presence of vested interests and a tabloid press that sees no further than the end of its nose there has been no effective action. Enfield Green Party believes that we need a thorough review of the factors that gave rise to the riots. But that is not enough. We also need a broad social process that will engage the people of the UK in both understanding the problems and in formulating the changes that are needed. This is democratically appropriate and also essential if we are to reach a genuine consensus on the far-reaching changes that are likely to be necessary. The riots are a wake-up call. We have heard. Will our leaders also hear and respond?

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ