Riots are never good for the Left, but Labour has done pretty well in its response to them. On the morning after the first violence, David Lammy, the Tottenham MP, set the tone the rest of the party followed. He and others articulated public anger, reserved the right to talk about socio-political causes in future but recognised that while the streets were still smouldering was not the time to play politics.
There was just one terrible exception to the rule. Here is a selection of responses from the left to Ken Livingstone’s statements about the riots last week.
Dan Hodges, New Statesman:
“A measured response to the riots could have been the making of his mayoral candidacy. Instead, he sullied it.
“It wasn’t just the cheapness and transparency of his politicking…nor the tasteless way he used the London bombings to frame his suitability for tackling the London riots. It wasn’t even the crass stupidity and simplicity of his analysis; blame the bankers, EMA, the fact that 14 and 15 year old rioters are enraged at their inability to provide for their wives and children.
“London needs unity. And Ken Livingstone is divisive.”
“Ken Livingstone was misguided in his attempt to link the disorder to the coalition’s programme of cuts. The closure of libraries and youth centres in Haringey did not cause hundreds of young men to hijack a peaceful protest at the police shooting of Mark Duggan, leading to hours of mayhem.”
Michael White, The Guardian:
“As so often, Ken Livingstone couldn’t resist jumping in with an attack on coalition spending cuts. Truly, he is the Boris Johnson of leftwing politics, opportunist to a fault.”
New Statesman leader:
“It is too simplistic to blame the coalition’s cuts for these riots.”
Heidi Alexander, Labour MP for Lewisham East (whose own constituency office was looted):
“Some argue that this week’s riots are the direct product of Government cuts. I do not buy that; it is too simplistic.”
George Galloway, Saddam Hussein apologist:
“Well done Ken Livingstone on Newsnight; first Labour leader to speak truth about London riots.”