Parliament has been recalled today. Most of those commenting on this seem to be saying that it is gesture politics, and that MPs cannot do anything about the riots, so why have them there sounding off, it only serves to put the public off politicians even more, etc, etc. Rob Marchant and many others take this view, across the political spectrum. I disagree. The public may take a dim view of politicians, but why then was there so much condemnation when Cameron did not interrupt his holiday straight away? He couldn't do anything on the spot, after all. My own take on the events of recent days, such as it is, is that it was an #epicfail on the part of the police. They just weren't there, and from Saturday evening they should have been. People saw this and came out on the streets and helped themselves from shops. Some of those who spoke to camera said as much. Police presence on the streets deters stuff. This is a fact. The Robocop principle - the first broken window will spawn more unless there is instant zero tolerance. This is what has never existed on the streets of the UK. Now there is a massive police presence and the rioting has stopped. At the time of writing. There are those too who say they are ashamed/embarrassed to be British because, variously, of the conduct of some of those on the streets, of the fact that the looting was acquisitive (is there any other kind?) and not political, because an injured young man was robbed by people pretending to help him, blah blah blah. No. People took stuff because they could. It is crime. That's it. We are all capable of committing it, even the Dalai Lama is, and Mother Teresa often did. Just most of us don't, most of the time. It's not "complicated", as so many have tried to persuade us it is. And it is RIGHT that MPs should have a special session to talk about this. Of course MPs need and deserve a holiday, as everyone does. But MPs who go to constituency events during the parliamentary recess, especially in summer, usually get accosted with the remark "How are you enjoying your long holiday then?" and have to bite back the riposte "If I were on f***king holiday I wouldn't be here listening to you, you tedious self-important w***er".
On 9/11 ten years ago I was on a flight to Australia, found out just before Singapore that it had happened, and on arrival in Sydney that parliament had been recalled. I called the whips' office and said I would come back, but would need someone to buy me a ticket. They said it would not be necessary. There are never votes on these occasions. But given the complexity and the numerous calls on the parliamentary calendar, does it not make sense for an extra opportunity to be given for MPs to debate policing and urban areas, especially if their constituencies have been affected by rioting? Does it not make sense for Cameron and Clegg (the later has a conviction for arson, ha ha, he set fire to a neighbour's cactus collection, nice chap) to gauge the mood of their backbenchers, the more so as they are in coalition and could easily lose a vote on a crucial matter? The government may wish to bring in legislation, or police measures. The Home Secretary should be making a statement to the House. This is an opportunity for MPs to inform themselves, to contribute to a debate on policing and public safety, to speak up for their constituents who have been affected by, or who have a point of view on, recent events. They , and the public, deserve this opportunity. It would be irresponsible to wait possibly until after the early autumn party conferences to resume the business of the House. Apart from anything else, some of the dimmer and more opportunistic MPs of any party, given enough time, will sell themselves to vested interests.
Some bloggers and twitterers say that "we" do not want to hear from MPs today. My answer to that is - if not now, when?