Report From UK: Shock and Awe as London Burns -- Is America Next?

London's burning... is America next?

The voice on the other end of the phone was excited but shocked. ‘Christ, they have smashed up the Lock Tavern pub. I love the Lock Tavern.’ It was the voice this morning of my youngest daughter Lydia walking through Camden, her favourite part of London, after being told by her bosses at the public relation company where she works, not even to THINK of venturing south of the river.


Lock Tavern, London/Lydia Morton

They had good reason. On Monday the deli at Clapham Junction, south London where Lydia went on the sandwich round, was torched hours later by an angry mob of looters, thieves and ne’er do wells.

As London experienced its third night of rioting yesterday following the shooting of Mark Duggan, 29, in Tottenham, north London, the inhabitants of the nation’s capital felt genuine shock and awe.

Shock that a local disturbance had spread so rapidly - courtesy of the social networks like Twitter and Blackberry BBM that have served the Arab Spring so effectively - and awe that the police proved so ineffective against a highly-mobile mob intent on doing as much damage as they could to their communities.

As Lydia walked along Camden High Street towards Chalk Farm - about a mile from where I live - she pointed out the looted windows of J.D Sports which supplied ‘chav’ running shoes and the wrecked frontage of Evans Cycles where looters had tried unsuccessfully to take away a haul of bicycles. What they couldn’t take they wrecked. Political it wasn’t, unless nicking a bike is a political act.

This morning as forensic scientists pored over possible clues to the perpetrators, most Londoners, young and old, were making plans to avoid the gangs of looters roaming the city.

In Hackney, in London’s East End, a family friend was evacuated from her building for fear it could be torched by rioters. Other young girls, living on their own for the first time, packed up their scant belongings and headed home to their parents’ homes ‘just in case.’

The alarming speed at which the rioting has spread and the seemingly impotent response of the police has angered many, understandably those whose homes and businesses have been burnt or ruined.

The Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson have belatedly returned from their overseas holidays to take charge of the crisis. Given the fact that London hosts the Olympics next year, many potential American and other tourists will be thinking twice about whether or not it is safe to venture over here.

Here though is my predication. By 2012, this flash mob unrest will probably have spread to the States. It will be an interesting and unwanted reverse. Normally what is cool in California becomes hot in London and the rest of Europe some months later. Not this time.

A prescient article in the Financial Times the other day pointed to the fact that the richest Americans are getting richer and paying less taxes whilst the overwhelming majority are becoming poorer and yet paying more. It is a plain fact which the mainstream media has ignored of the body politic in the United States whilst happy to point out the disparities in wealth in less developed nations.

With America facing up to stagnation, inflation, little if any government intervention to help ease the crisis, higher taxes and fewer benefits for the poorest, it won’t take much to spark the same kind of rioting as is now consuming London.

Batten down the hatches folks. We are in for a bumpy ride.

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As one of the world’s best-known biographers and a leading authority on modern celebrity, Morton has been called "the king of celebrity biographers." He became an overnight sensation with the publication of his groundbreaking 1992 biography revealing the secret world of the late Diana, Princess…

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