Our part in the riots
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Date: 27th September, 2011

Andy Walton

'It's the politicians' fault. It's the media's fault. It's the parents' fault. It's Twitter's fault.'

  Andy Walton reflects on the aftermath on this summer's riots in the UK and considers whose to blame

The Met Police say more than 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with the London riots.

Given that the riots hit other English cities too, by the time all the investigations are complete, we're looking at hundreds more people having been in some way 'blamed' for the damage and destruction.

But that figure pales into insignificance when you consider the number of people who should bare some responsibility according to various newspaper and online commentators:

'It's the politicians' fault. It's the media's fault. It's the parents' fault. It's Twitter's fault. It's the working class that's to blame. It's the rich who are to blame. Labour is to blame. The Tories are to blame. Rick Astley is to blame.' Actually, I just made that last one up.

On and on it goes with little sign of ceasing even weeks later with the fires out and the rebuilding process under way.


Journalists, columnists and other 'experts' all seem so certain that their detective work has led them to the person, people or organisations responsible.

In fairness some of the reasons given by commentators have been wise and should be heeded. Some of the solutions suggested have been innovative and inspiring and should be looked into.

And some of the criticisms levelled at those involved in the riots and at our political class have been valid.

However, despite the various panaceas offered in the media, there's actually a gaping hole in their analysis.

Thousands of column inches, hours of radio debate and everyone from David Cameron to Kelly Osbourne to Melanie Phillips have had their say. But they've missed something that seems pretty obvious to me.

There actually is someone to blame, and no-one seems to have put their finger on it...

I was to blame for the riots.

There. I said it.


Now, admittedly I was 200 miles away from London visiting my parents when the riots happened, and I didn't smash a shop front, start a fire or loot a flat-screen TV.

But in a small way I think I've just said what most of the commentators couldn't bring themselves to admit.

Whatever the causes (and let's be honest, they were many and complex), the riots were a tragic fracturing of our local communities.

What is a community? It's not an abstract construct spoken about by sociologists. It's you and me, and the kid who stole a laptop from Currys. If we've got to a point where some young people (still a minority) feel rioting and looting is OK, what have you and I done to intervene and challenge that mentality?

If a young person doesn't have a role model, we can either complain that footballers should behave better or become that role model ourselves.

How many of those pontificating on the riots have ever sat down with a troubled teenager and simply talked to them. Because if they haven't, sad to say they are partially to blame here.


Jesus once warned us about criticising other people without looking at ourselves. The Message version of the Bible puts it beautifully: “Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticise their faults - unless, of course, you want the same treatment.

"That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbour's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.

"Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt?

"It's this whole travelling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part.

"Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a wash cloth to your neighbour.”

I couldn't have put it better myself...

Andy Walton is a freelance writer and broadcaster, and can be heard on Premier Christian Radio.


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