Composed upon Westminster Bridge
Earth has not any thing to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
Composed 2nd September, 1802
It has been heartbreaking looking at the scenes of rioting in London while I am thousands of miles away in New York, but it has been equally heartening to see the response from Londoners:
– I loved this photo of Philippa Morgan-Walker, 25 and her husband, Jonny Walker, 31, making tea for the police who were protecting their street (London News Pictures) ;
– and this one of people gathering their brooms to clean the streets ( lawcol888) ;
– or people writing messages on a boarded-up shop window (alokhja) ;
– while this article Britain’s Riot Rating Raised to AAA demonstrates that nothing can destroy the very special English sense of humour.
There has been plenty of attempted analysis on the cause of the riots, best summed up by Mary Riddell in the Daily Telegraph:
The failure of the markets goes hand in hand with human blight. Meanwhile, the view is gaining ground that social democracy, with its safety nets, its costly education and health care for all, is unsustainable in the bleak times ahead. The reality is that it is the only solution. After the Great Crash, Britain recalibrated, for a time. Income differentials fell, the welfare state was born and skills and growth increased.
One of the most tragic aspects of London’s meltdowns is that we need this ruined generation if Britain is ever to feel prosperous and safe again. If there are no jobs for today’s malcontents and no means to exploit their skills, then the UK is in graver trouble than it thinks.
The London Review of Books points to a paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research: ‘Austerity and Anarchy: Budget Cuts and Social Unrest in Europe 1919-2009’:
The results show a clear positive correlation between fiscal retrenchment and instability. We test if the relationship simply reflects economic downturns, and conclude that this is not the key factor.
Patrick Dunleavy at the LSE writes :
What ministers need to realize is that modern government, in Britain more than almost any other western state, runs on fine margins. Everything that government does, everything, relies on the active consent of the governed. Decades of ‘new public management’ (NPM) policies implemented by Conservative and Labour governments have left us with an administrative machine that is fine-tuned to run at minimal cost, so long as things go on as expected. But as soon as that ceases to be true, an NPM state is incredibly fragile – it can grind up very swiftly in the light of new events for which there is no reserve of slack resources, no defence in depth.
We have been warned.