John Woodcock: Riots reveal need for top leadership

The coming days and weeks will test all of us: whether ?our police forces can regain control of London and other metropolitan areas; whether communities can come together; and whether political leaders can get a grip on the immediate crisis and set out a credible route forward.

John Woodcock: riots reveal need for top leadership
John Woodcock: riots reveal need for top leadership

As this column was written, Londoners were waking up to the aftermath of a lawlessness rarely seen in modern times.

Elsewhere, people were wondering whether trouble would spread further after disorder broke out in other cities and ministers were hastily arriving back at their desks after cutting short their summer breaks.

Until the trouble on our streets mushroomed on the third night, the political discourse was focused on whether Number 10 showed inexperience or complacency by allowing a vacuum to be created with so many senior figures away at the same time.

People were questioning why the Government was not showing a sense of initiative as financial turmoil wiped billions off the stock market. They were asking why London Mayor Boris Johnson thought it was wise to claim that ending his holiday would be ‘rewarding’ the rioters, and debating whether the Prime Minister ought to return to Downing Street.

But what had apparently been a marginal decision became a no-brainer as the disgusting scenes of arson, looting and violence spread out of control.

Ministers need to show they will do whatever is necessary to restore normality to our streets.

But after a night of superb and brave reporting by journalists who got themselves among the trouble, ?the airwaves were needed for more basic, emergency messages: urging parents to know where their children are at night, trying to reassure people that ?the instruments for maintaining law and order are continuing to function.

Sat up at night watching disorder spread in real time on rolling news channels, people are frightened in a way they have rarely been before. They want to know there is someone in charge.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown

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