I'm a born and bred Londoner and at times like this it's almost a cliche to say that we are at our best when our backs are against the wall. Two incidents stick out in my mind; the 1990 London Stock Exchange explosion and, of course, 7/7. Both times I remember this undefinable feeling that there was a unified London response to the riots. You were scared, you were sad, but there was leadership and you were defiant. There was a sense that we would stick together and would come back stronger. Last night however I just felt lost.
Now I'm not one of those idiots who demands a recall of Parliament every year and believes our politicians should under no circumstances, ever, take a holiday, but leadership matters. Those in authority should have been all over our screens last night telling us what they are doing to stop it happening, trying to articulate the reasons behind it and attempting to empathise with the majority of Londoners who were in their homes, scared and feeling alone. No one even tried, the story that "no one from was available" was pathetic.
The closest anyone has come was Diane Abbott. Now I'll admit I'm not a huge fan, but she was on the streets of Hackney talking to residents and the press surrounded by neighbours, Labour members and passers by. On the brink of tears she told the story of Hackney and how she was worried that the businesses won't come back, taking the jobs and the futures of thousands of law abiding Hackney youngsters with them.
In truth. The story of the locality is perhaps the story of the riot. Round the corner from my house Turkish shop owners fought back and held the line against a group of looters. Local residents cheered them on and stood in solidarity with them, all over London social networks whirred and kept people informed of trouble spots ensuring people got home safely. For the police, it was a nightmare with hundreds of decentralised cells across London quickly forming, disbanding, then rejoining and moving to new targets at the speed of a text. Fourteen hundred policeman were simply unable to cope.
No one is telling the story of London. No is one leading us, showing us they care, there is no message to rally behind. The only vague thing I picked up is that we were to keep our children indoors, it's not enough. Last night I was thinking do I go to work tomorrow? Will transport be working? Will I be able to get home at the end of the day? I had no idea. Some online are crying out for a tough on crime message, it's a start but nowhere near enough.
Today Boris Johnson will return, so will Cameron (and Miliband and Harman for that matter) and there will be attempts to try and articulate what we're going through but they'll probably get lost in the ether. Ken Livingstone tried, but despite his dignified response to 7/7, he was too charged with the past and an upcoming election to really cut through. It'll be up to Cameron, Boris - or if they fail - Miliband to try and give voice to this horrible mess.
I know London will recover - initiatives like "riotcleanup" show that the blitz spirit remains alive and well - but London asked for leadership and were told to take responsibility and sort it out ourselves. Maybe sixty Turkish business owners carrying metal poles is Cameron's vision of the Big Society? Who knows, but what I'm certain of is that in the past couple of days our elected leaders could have risen to the challenge and become more than just career politicians, but they put their holidays first and they failed London.