Those responsible for tonight's violence must be brought to justice - and they must not be allowed to win
I was at the AGM of the South Norwood Residents Association this evening. As I drove home, I saw several plumes of smoke rising from Croydon town centre. Given what's happened elsewhere in London over the last two days, I feared the worst and sure enough when I got home and turned on the TV I saw the shocking pictures of Reeves, a family business that has been in Croydon for generations, burning to the ground. My heart goes out to the residents whose homes and businesses have been devestated by this mindless criminality.
Tomorrow morning, I will have to explain what has happened to my eight year-old son. He will ask why. What can I tell him?
The initial information I have received is that those who started the trouble weren't from Croydon. They have no stake in our town's future, though that hardly explains their actions. But we have to face the sad fact that some Croydonians joined in. We have to ask some tough questions about why it is that some people quickly resort to criminality when public order breaks down - questions about parenting, family breakdown, education, respect for authority, peer pressure but also about our divided society, about what life is like for many young people in our city.
However hard times might be though, whatever grievances people feel they have, there is no justification whatsoever for looting and arson. I have heard unconfirmed reports that some people were throwing stones at firemen who were trying to save people's lives. People who behave in this way aren't protestors, they are thugs pure and simple. They must be identified and brought to justice. There are lots of CCTV cameras in central Croydon so there will be plenty of pictures. I hope those who recognise someone will contact the police. And I hope that when the courts sentence those who are found guilty they will reflect the public outrage about what has happened in the severity of the sentence.
The Prime Minister is right to cut short his holiday. I am a big supporter of his. I want him at his desk co-ordinating the Government's response. And I want reassurance that the Metropolitan Polce and the London Fire Brigade have sufficient resources to ensure that this criminality stops tonight.
Croydon is the only home I have ever had. For the last 13 years, I have devoted much of my life to trying to make it a better place for people to live, working alongside politicians of all persuasions, public servants, businessmen and women and members of Croydon's vibrant community and voluntary sector. Tonight, in just a few hours, a few hundred people did their worst to undo that work. They must not be allowed to win.