Last Tuesday night, the Klan rode again. Not in Alabama or Mississippi, but in South and West London.
In Eltham and Ealing, hundreds of self appointed defenders of white society took to streets. They were not vigilantes but “patriots”. There not to intimidate but “to protect”.
“These are local people, not EDL, these are patriots who have come out to defend their area”, explained the eponymously named Jack England, the EDL’s south-east regional organiser. He then slightly gave the game away by adding, “The EDL has come down, about 50 of us, to manage them and control them, and to sort of guide them to make sure they don’t move out of order.”
Jack’s definition of “out of order” is unclear. According to the Daily Telegraph‘s report of the scene, “as the number of people swelled, the mood became increasingly violent as suspected looters were chased and set upon.”
What constituted a “suspected looter” is unclear. But I can guess.
A local cab driver I know spoke warmly of the night’s events. “There were some naughty boys up there,” he said, “Some Millwall. Some EDL. It all got a bit tasty.”
It got tasty all right. A bus carrying black youths was set upon. Then, not content with targeting “suspected looters”, the defenders of white decency turned on the police with bottles. Eventually hundreds of officers from eight different police forces dispersed them.
All of this took place in Eltham. Approximately five minutes walk from where it had all turned tasty for Stephen Lawrence.
Those currently urging against an “overreaction” to the events of last week should pause to consider what happened in Eltham. Personally, I find it sickening.
As I see it, a group of racist, political opportunists joined with a slightly larger group of broadly unpoliticised football hooligans, who in turn joined forces with an even larger group of beered-up, south London corner boys to indulge in a bit of old-fashioned black and paki bashing.
But I’m not deluding myself. Because I know that, in thinking that, I’m in the minority.
Some say the English Defence League was active in Eltham. But whether this is true or not, surely white communities are allowed to protect themselves too?
Who wrote that? Nick Griffin? EDL leader Stephen Lennon? Nope. Daily Mirror columnist Tony Parsons.
The mainstream political class is already moving on. Demanding enquiries. Seeking the reason why.
And moving in behind them are our very own feral political underclass. The EDL. The BNP.
Those who have a long history of smashing and looting and assaulting their way into the public consciousness sense an opening. Actually, not so much an opening as a gaping chasm.
As Britain burned, Nick Griffin’s Twitter feed could hardly contain its glee:
Well I did say that the police failure to get tough in Tottenham would lead to more trouble. Should be all over TV that, just as Nick Griffin foresaw the London bombings with what the Crown Prosecution Service called “uncanny accuracy”, I called this one too.
Stephen Lennon boasted of 1,000 EDL members patrolling the streets, and claimed, “We’re going to stop the riots, police obviously can’t handle it”.
Meanwhile, Members of Parliament have been groping for answers, David Cameron from his new US super-cop, Ed Miliband from his DIY public enquiry.
But the rest of Britain isn’t. It knows what lay behind the riots. Go into any pub. Stand at any supermarket check-out or any bus stop. The riots were caused by rapacious, predominantly black youths with a bag of crack in their pockets, gangster rap on their iPods, and hate and contempt for authority in their hearts.
There are underlying causes, of course. And again, Britain knows what they were. Our rampant benefit culture. Wastrel parents. Idle teachers. And, of course, immigration.
Mainstream politicians are wringing their hands over the wisdom of spraying water at rioters or evicting them from their council houses. Meanwhile one in three Britons would endorse firing live rounds at them.
Of course Britain is wrong. But Britain isn’t interested in hearing that at the moment. It’s scared, angry and disillusioned. And the focus of their fear, anger and disillusionment is not the BNP or the EDL.
We are in a dangerous place. A horribly dangerous place. Enquiries and soul searching are luxuries we cannot afford. Now is not the time for nuance or abstraction.
The political class needs to get ahead of the curve. It needs to park the liberal angst and the calls for understanding.
If we have to promise water cannon, promise them. If we have to threaten to use baton rounds, threaten. If we have to prepare for troops on the streets, prepare them. Demand exemplary sentences. Reverse the police cuts. Pledge to look at curtailing the use of social networking sites.
Above all, demonstrate that the state does not need to subcontract its obligation to ensure order on our streets. Because if the state doesn’t do the job, others will. People do not like vigilantes. But nor are they prepared to stand back and see their communities handed over to those who beat and burned and looted with apparent impunity.
Last week, in Eltham and Enfield, the Klan rode again. And much of white Britain cheered them as they passed.