More than 70 years ago, German air raids turned London into an inferno. But as the ash settled after one of the most harrowing nights during World War II, St Paul’s Cathedral stood proud, saved by a resolute band of ordinary people.
Where was that defiant Blitz spirit when rioters took a wrecking ball to London last week? We saw pockets of it – the defiant single mother from Wolverhampton who told a mob to back off so she could open her hair salon for business. Then there was the shop owner in Croydon who, with the help of a group of locals, fended off a pack of looters. And, in Dalston and Hackney, Turkish shopkeepers and their families fought back against the looting youths, spending the night standing shoulder-to-shoulder to deter further attacks. They were hailed as being the force that saved the area from wanton destruction.
We value our communities. That much is clear from the astonishing wave of generosity that has emerged during the clean-up. But how much did we value our neighbourhoods when the rioting was kicking off? It was obvious from the start the police were woefully impotent, so why didn’t we come pouring out of our homes and our businesses, not to watch agog at the chaos as it unfolded before our eyes, but to stand together, to get behind the boys in blue and fight down the arrogant hoodlums? We would have outnumbered the rioters – and the police. Had we united, we may not be reading stories such as the death of Ealing man Richard Mannington Bowes, who was brutally attacked trying to extinguish a fire.
I’m not advocating vigilantism or the ‘community protection’ demonstrated by the hideous yobs who claim to be members of the English Defence League – they battled with police when it was the last thing they needed. I’m talking about solidarity.
While we are demanding answers as to how this mayhem was allowed to take place, and how to put the impressionable goons responsible on a path of morality and respect, we should also ask ourselves how we allowed it to happen. Where was our Blitz spirit?