Parliament is being recalled tomorrow to discuss the English Riots that have been unfolding in that last few days. Here is the speech I would like David Cameron to make.
Mr Speaker. The streets of this country are in uproar and people live in fear for their lives and property. Parliament has been recalled because people rightly look to us for leadership. I have come to this house today to make a personal statement and then to hear the views of others. I look for a constructive debate and as it begins I commit myself, as I believe we must all do, to eschew knee-jerk reaction and short term political gain. We must seek to mend what is broken and that is likely to take time, commitment and money – resources which lie within our common gift. The well-being of us all depends upon peace in our streets.
I begin by acknowledging that I know what it is to share in the excitement of lawless behaviour when young. My membership of the Bullingdon club whilst at University is well documented and a period of my life which I look back on with shame and regret. Of course, I came from a background where the distruction wrought by that club could be paid for from the immense priviledge that my friends and I had been received in life. My revulsion at my youthful association with a lawless (if immensely rich) gang leads me now to a determination to fight back at all gang cultures wherever they are found. Gang membership provides a narrative to youth – the task for us today is to outline a narrative for the nation that will capture the imagination of the country.
We will be able to do that only when we have acknowledged all that is wrong. A few MPs have stolen from the common purse and are perceived as having been treated lightly by the law. Our Metropolitan police force is accused of longstanding and deep-seated corruption at the top. Senior officers are believed to have taken bribes. This disrupts fundamentally the morale of the overwhelmingly vast number of decent police officers and undermines the ability of those aiming to police by consent the streets of our cities. Our newspapers are likewise tarnished by those who have engaged in lawless behaviour for the simple motive of making a fast buck. People rightly ask whether there is any difference between those in high office who break the law for financial gain and self interest and those who ransack shops for trainers, MP3 players and cigarettes. The truth is, Mr Speaker, I don’t believe there is much difference at all. We have been weighed in the balance of modern life and are found wanting.
Who is there left with the authority to speak the truth and establish the common good? People are asking who will restore our common life? That task must begin with us today.
Parliament has been recalled so that different members can give their views. Parliament should note the following principles which I would like to establish for this debate. I will then hear the views of others and where appropriate work with Honourable Members on a cross-party basis to implement the best ideas for dealing with the immediate crisis that we face.
Firstly we must learn again that the wellbeing of us all is enhanced by the prosperity of the many and not the few. There is no point in being rich and living in a street that is not safe to walk down.
Secondly we must look again at the question of access to education. I benefited from a free education, as did most Honourable Members of this house. We must face the possibility that by removing a pathway to eduction for those from the most challenging backgrounds we condemn people to remain within an underclass with no way out. We may well have got the decision on student fees entirely wrong.
Thirdly we must use the same technology that gives people the freedom to organise on the streets, to police the streets and keep citizens safe. (I will be meeting today with mobile phone companies to establish whether it is possible for them to provide the police, under current legislation, with a real-time recordable map of mobile phone use in areas, and only those areas, that have been declared as zones of major public disorder).
Fourthly, we must celebrate the tens of thousands of young people from all backgrounds who make us proud to be British and proud of their achievements.
Fifthly, I am glad to have received the prompt resignation of the Home Secretary this morning. She was right in saying that she simply was unable to retain her post whilst the streets of the capital were ablaze. I have invited Mr Kenneth Clark to take up this important post and am delighted that he has accepted this task and expect support from all sides of the house for him, the police, the courts and all who work in the prison and probation systems.
Sixthly, those who advocate the use of more violent methods of policing are speaking from their fears rather than their wisdom. We do not need a greater escalation of violence in our streets. My revulsion at seeing 11 year olds rioting and looting would be far eclipsed by the sight of police officers beating 11 year olds on our streets or the army shooting at the them.
Finally we must look again on a cross-party basis at the way in which we will face the difficult economic times that we currently face. We must live within our means and not extend further this country’s debt. At a time when money is short, we must each of us face the fact that this means less disposable income. We must establish a new economic narrative which seeks the common good and not only individual financial gain. Such uncontested craving for individual gain has brought us to this point where our institutions are corrupted and our streets are not safe. We are coming too late to the realisation that the country needs a more just and progressive economic system rather than a system whereby the great financial institutions face little penalty for gambling away the pensions of the country and taxation is based on how little we can justify as payment for paltry public services. There is change in the air and the challenge I offer the House today is the challenge to win the battle for hearts and minds in the struggle for fair and just taxation and not merely the lowest common denominator taxes which have been at the heart of our political debates for decades.
Mr Speaker – those keeping peace on the streets need the support of every member of this house and every citizen of this country. I now need the same support as I seek to lead the country in a new direction.
Change begins today.
Change begins here in parliament.
Change begins with me.