I spoke to my daughter in Hackney earlier; she's OK, but they're rioting round her way and she couldn't get to her placement. She's horrified by what she's seeing; as she said, the damage will only make things worse. After rioting here in 1985, and looting in 1993, I'm a bit more used to it, but destroying your own community isn't going to solve anything.
It seems to be the old problems all over again; police behaviour towards black people, plus deprivation. There was hope in the air in the late 1980's, with both the government and the church taking an interest in the inner cities. That evaporated, and history is repeating itself. This time, we need to avoid dependence on outside funding - that runs out and whatever you're doing evaporates - and build sustainable projects which can last, and give people real help. Our church shop is one; we run it outrselves and it's been going for about thirty years, and the food bank we're planning may be another. Trouble is, these only put sticking plaster on the wound.
We need to build a society where people are treated properly, have real opportunities, and when things go wrong, redress is available to all, not just to those who can afford legal fees. That's going to take a better response from the church than the superficialities of last time.
Correction: the looting in Handsworth occurred on 2 September 1991, after a fire led to a power cut across the entire area. I'll never forget walking down Soho Road through the middle of it. I never felt threatened, despite the fact that every shop in the entire road was being looted all around me. Another thing I'll never forget is the patronising attitude of one or two ministers who thought it was all right for them to check out what was going on, but not for me to do the same thing!