Today, together with MPs from the across the country, I arrived back at the House of Commons to debate the horrific rioting of the last week.
On the radio at lunchtime, debating with Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, I made my views very clear. Up and down the country – and especially here in Birmingham – our police officers have performed real heroics. But they weren’t confronting daylight robbery – this was flash mob robbery; and it needed new tactics. In this country, we still believe some-one’s home is their castle. And when our fellow citizens are forced to flee their own homes in fear or watch their businesses wiped out, then we have to take a stand and say quite bluntly; we are not having this.
I know lots of people watching the images we’ve seen on the TV will be saying; ‘Good grief; what has our country come to?’ Well, the real answer came from one man; Tariq Jahan, the father of one of the murdered young men in Winson Green who today was a hero saluted by MPs on all sides of the House of Commons. In what must have been one of the darkest hours of his life, he spoke with incredible calm, compassion and composure about his love for his lost son – and his determination to see our city stay calm. In my book, Mr Jahan is the real spirit of our country – and our city should be immensely proud of these boys’ families.
I know lots of people will want to debate the long term issues, next steps and underlying causes. But I’m afraid nothing excuses the criminality we saw this week. Hodge Hill has the highest youth unemployment in the country – and my experience is that the overwhelmingly – and I mean overwhelming – the majority of our young people aren’t turning from unemployment to crime; they’re just trying as hard as they can to get a job despite the odds. That’s because they’re right-minded citizens as disgusted as everyone else about what has happened.
So let me just make one point about the next steps; this has got to be the wrong time to make cuts to our police that so fast and deep. Our Chief Constable Chris Simms has done a magnificent job this week; but he was amongst the first to say we can’t protect visible policing with cuts on this scale. You can’t defeat gangs with policing by surge. We need visible policing day in day out, round the clock and round the corner. That’s why I’ve campaigned every week since I was elected for more police teams in Hodge Hill.
Over the next few weeks, I want to offer my evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee about what Hodge Hill residents see as what we need to do next as a country. So if you’ve got views, I’d like to hear them.