Richard North, 02/06/2021  

I was born in the University College Hospital in London. My early life was spent in a council flat in Manor House before we moved to a private sector flat in Stamford Hill. My early schooling was at St Ignatius Primary School in South Tottenham and, after a period at St Aloysius prep school in Archway, I moved to St Ignatius College, back in South Tottenham, where I completed my secondary education.

During my early secondary school years, I roamed freely on foot throughout North London, sometimes with friends but mostly on my own. One of my favourite haunts was the River Lee, then a filthy commercial canal. The barges stacked with fresh timber, and the timber wharves lining the banks, made a fascinating playground for an inquisitive boy, as did the wild, uncultivated Hackney Marshes.

My best friends were in Tottenham and off Clapton Common, and I would walk to their houses without fear or the slightest concern for my own safety. In fact, never in the 18 years that I lived in North London was I ever to witness a fight or felt in any way threatened.

The idea of carrying a weapon would never have occurred to me, although I was once issued with a Lee Enfield rifle to take to Caterham with me for a drill course with the 2nd Battalion The Scots Guards. Getting on a crowded commuter train in Victoria, with pack and rifle, in full cadet uniform, was an experience to be savoured.

This was the London in which I grew up. Looking back, there was a sense of innocence. I still recall the one occasion when a policemen was murdered – my parents' utter sense of shock, the feeling that things like that didn't happen here. Terrorism was not something that happened in England – I do remember the Cyprus troubles though, and dimly recall an appalling drama when two British soldiers had been kidnapped by Eoka terrorists, later to be found dead.

One of my early jobs was a statistics clerk working for British Steel in their offices in Hyde Park corner and I would often go to the park with workmates on sunny days to eat our sandwiches, bought from an Italian delli in nearby Shepherds Market.

When I left the area, I never returned to live there. I did live in South London for a few years, training as a public health inspector in Croydon, before moving up to Yorkshire to work in Calderdale and then Leeds, before settling in Bradford. Nevertheless, I used to travel frequently to London, and even for a while I had a client in Tottenham, whom I would visit periodically.

Over the years, more than 60 years since the dawning of consciousness, I've seen London change – and not for the better. And in later years, it's taken on the aspect of a foreign city. I go in by train when I have to, do my business and get out. It is not the London I was born and bred in, and I spend as little time as I can there.

But even as we have gradually become inured to the constant tales of violent crime, with mainly black-on-black stabbings, we crossed a line last night. Posted after 10pm, we saw a video of a machete-wielding gang racing through a crowded Hyde Park, hacking down their victim in broad daylight, in front of terrified visitors.

This is something that might happen in the shanty towns of South Africa, but not London - not Hyde Park. And yet, it has happened.

One of the first media reports, and there are only few at the time of writing, speaks of a "stabbing", but that's now what the video shows. You don't stab people with machetes – you hack at them, and that is what seems to have happened – in Hyde Park.

Even as I was watching the video on Twitter, Pete was writing his own piece, which puts the incident in a broader perspective, which is more than I have a heart to do.

But it is all very well for me to write learned (and no-so-learned) pieces on Brexit and other matters, and loftily to pronounce on the political issues of the day, but there comes a limit to the degree to which I can isolate myself (and this blog) from the gradual deterioration of law and order in this country.

Undoubtedly, we are living in a more violent society, as we see from this report which records more than 3,500 attacks on emergency care staff last year, a situation now so bad that ambulance workers in England are to be given body-cameras.

That anyone should attack ambulance staff would have been unthinkable when I was young, but now we have 3,500 assaults recorded, up by almost a third in five years. What on earth is going on – what is wrong with us?

But, for all that, it is the knife crime that is most disturbing, not just in London but in other cities and towns. Amongst today's crop is a report of a 14-year-old boy stabbed to death in Birmingham. He had been was chased down by a group of men and stabbed on a busy road in Kingstanding, north Birmingham, at about 7.30pm on Monday and had died at the scene.

West Midlands police believe up to seven suspects ran off after the boy collapsed. Six males have been arrested on suspicion of murder. These include teenagers aged 13 and 14, and men in their thirties, with some of those detained known to one another.

As is so often the case in early reports of such incidents, we are not told of the ethnicity of the victim or the attackers – except in the rare cases when the attackers are white, when skin colour suddenly seems to become immediately relevant.

All too often, as with the report of the 18-year-old who has appeared in court in connection with the shooting of Sasha Johnson, the only time we get to know that the accused is black is from photographs or drawings from a court artist.

Furthermore, it would be idle to ignore the fact that much of the knife crime experienced is black-on-black. It is no coincidence that, in my younger, violence-free days in North London, the blacks hadn't moved in, in any great numbers.

No matter how much the race relations industry want to turn this back on the white population, brow-beating us with accusations of "systemic racism", not one of us white people ever made a black person stab another black person on the streets of London, or anywhere else for that matter.

But now we've crossed that line, it is time to recognise that the cause of black-on-black knife crime is black criminals, thugs who have no respect for the law and no fear of the police. And we've had enough of it. Restoring order to our streets and public places must become the number one priority of our politicians and the police.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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