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Reflections on today's emergency debate

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 17:28 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011

The collective posture of Westminster in August tends to border on the horizontal.

The pace slows, the volume of debate quietens, the place all but empties.

But this week has provided a jolt to the summer slumber.

One low cost airline says it was inundated with calls from MPs trying to get back to Westminster at the last minute.

There has been a political exodus from the beaches of the Mediterranean and the villas of Tuscany.

The hasty return to Westminster has led to the occasional sartorial faux-pas. I was interviewing one of the country's most senior policemen the other day, who admitted that underneath his uniform was a rather incongruous pair of bright white socks, and the shoes he was gamely walking around in weren't even his. His trainers would have looked a bit odd, so he borrowed a suitably chief police officer type pair of black shoes from a colleague.

Robert Flello, a Labour MP for Stoke, raised eyebrows further. It doesn't always take much in these parts: it wasn't as if he turned up in bermuda shorts, a string vest and a pair of tacky sunglasses.

But he did break with tradition by addressing the Commons wearing a shirt and tie, but without, shock, horror, the customary jacket. Alas, a gargantuan wardrobe malfunction to some. There were a few murmurs of disapproval. Mr Flello's response? "Some of us don't take suits on holiday to Cornwall!"

You can hear, see and read plenty from the BBC elsewhere about the substantive content of the debate. But having watched it all, here are a few observations.

MPs of all parties have cranked up the rhetoric of condemnation. "Disgraceful," "criminal," "appalling." The adjectives of disgust were exhausted, and then used some more.

There appears to be a real sense that the overwhelming national mood at the moment is intolerant of any indulgence in armchair sociology, and more interested in nailing the yobs.

But both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have begun to frame what has happened in the language they each use to articulate the problems, as they see them, in modern Britain. For the Prime Minister it's his notion of the "broken society," which he's extended to suggest some people are nothing but "sick." For Mr Miliband, it's his notion of the threat to the so-called "British promise," - the idea that each generation expects to have better prospects than the last.

As we head towards next month's party conferences, expect to hear plenty more where those arguments come from.

In the meantime, many in the political classes will be heading back to that beach towel.

Chris Mason is 5 live's political reporter. You can follow @ChrisMasonBBC on Twitter.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Recent London Riot and some other national and international events have pushed me to ask some serious questions about British politics. The date of events was so consecutive and quick that I could not help asking myself those difficult questions. These are as follows:
    1. Why were two leaders of our country, including the Mayor of London in holiday when the incident occurs?
    2. Why did the incident happen in London just after the share market debacle in America?
    3. Why were less number of police officers deployed in such an emergency situation?
    4. Why weren’t the police in robust position in first two days of incident? Does it indicate something else?
    5. Why wasn’t social networking channel disconnected for the time being before it has contributed a substantial damage?
    6. Why will not the incident be termed as “protest”? What is the problem if we defined the incident as “protest”?
    7. The tune and body language of the members of the Parliament while they delivering the speech; Do these signs indicate something different?
    8. Why didn’t such a big number of young people consider the danger of consequences of their actions? Is there anybody behind the background?
    9. Why didn’t Government deploy army to tackle the situation? Was there any departmental issue involved or anything else?
    10. Why did the Government get ready army for Northern Ireland?
    11. What will be the future of those who were just a follower of events?

    Definitely time will give the right answer; but can that answer satisfy the conscious mind of the patriotic citizen of Great Britain? If the present politics cannot clarify all those questions outwardly, then our politics is defective, and dangerous for future generation. I am sorry for sharing my feelings publicly.

  • Comment number 2.

    Don't be sorry for sharing your feelings publicly, it's what this blog is for. I think that the initial protest spun out of control and no one was prepared for it. The politicos and the police were taken completely off guard and ran around like headless chickens for the first night hoping it would all die down but it just got worse. They then realised that it was serious and they started to get their act together. I don't know that we can ever be fully prepared for these riots - unless we constantly have the country in a state of permanent alert or the looters/rioters book their riots with the government before hand!

  • Comment number 3.

    I am not defending the action of rioters and believe they should be severely punished but worry when the likes of Eric Pickles jump on the bandwagon with the knee jerk reaction of kicking rioters out of their council houses and stopping their benefits. It should be for the courts to decide on a suitable punishment for the crime. Also why should poor rioters be punished twice through a prison sentence/ community punishment and again by losing their home and benefits but better off rioters are only punished once by the courts. Not all rioters are poor and making families homeless is not going to solve the problems in our cities.

  • Comment number 4.

    An emergency session of Question Time just because of the riots was a gesture just like the recall of Parliament. All the panel were useless, there was nobody from the left and that's including Lord John Prescott. Pity he couldn't have adopted the same type of rhetoric he used on the programme when he was 'citizen' John in the Commons but like all New Labour bigwigs who built their careers on the left he dropped everything once the prospect of being the capitalist ruling class's caretaker government beckons!

    If there's no mainstream political party challenging widespread market failure and obvious political corruption within the top layers of society and which provide some cushion for discontent then there will inevitably be riots in some form or other at the bottom!

    In the light of the riots, many presumably always 'well behaved' people have been given ample opportunity to lambast the rioters through medians like the radio where the use of adjectives like 'scum' and 'morons' are commonplace! Yet this access is only granted because it's cerebrally unchallenging and invariably avoids addressing the underlying economic and social root causes behind the riots whilst of course being a convenient opportunity to expound all the usual type of apathetic prejudices and stereotypes that suit the ruling political elite!

    Nobody in their right mind want's riots but to put in a broader perspective; those people who are getting so much pleasure in seeing the 'miscreants' being sentenced in the courts, having their benefits and council houses withdrawn etc, might ask themselves how they might have reacted if the government and Bank of England hadn't bailed out the banks to the tune of £1.4 trillion of taxpayers money resulting in the loss of all their savings, their house, job and livelihoods!

    The real rioters are at the top of British society but their actions are stealthily concealed from the tabloid front pages, TV and of couirse not a suitable topic for discussion on Your Call.

    Indeed 5 Live if you carry on with this continual blanket coverage of the aftermath of these riots putting on air all these deluded 'hang em flog em types your'e likely to kickstart the riots again. Do such callers realise they're being screwed all the time by failed economikc policies whilst they vent their vitriol against poweless rioters!


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