Letter from Simon Kelner


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The Independent Online

I leave you in charge for one week, and look what happens...

When I was last here, life seemed so much more simple: the Prime Minister was packing his Vilebrequins for Tuscany, and the continuing saga of who was hacked by whom, and who knew, was still dominating the news agenda. And I come back, seven days later, to survey a very different landscape. The European economy is on the verge of collapse, a new credit rating has turned America into the Arthur Daley of global finance, and there's violent disorder on the streets of London. You might think you wouldn't be able to switch on a TV or radio without seeing or hearing a front rank politician explaining, warning or condemning.

But no. It was left to Lynne Featherstone, a home office minister who happened to be on duty at the weekend, to address the London riots. The PM, his deputy, the Chancellor and the Mayor of London were all in their respective time zones. Of course, everyone needs a holiday (and I'm hardly one to talk, having just had a week off myself) but you have to question the sensitivity of all our senior politicians being away at the same time. Haven't they got a planner on the wall at Downing Street to avoid clashes? (I'm sorry, George, I know it's half-term and you've got VIP passes to Disneyland, but Nick's already booked it to go to the inlaws, and you know what Miriam's like if she has to change her plans.)

And the juxtaposition yesterday of the pictures of London suburbs on fire and David Cameron posing with the waitress he'd forgotten to tip was unfortunate to say the least. As for the rush to be the first one back in Blighty, that was almost as unseemly. Another noteworthy aspect of the riots is the role played by social media, and in particular the way in which some of our traditional media have discussed its influence. From much of the coverage, you would get the impression that the activity on Twitter was responsible for fanning the flames, or, as one newspaper put it, "helping to fuel the mayhem". But not very long ago, wasn't Twitter lauded as a force for good, unleashing people power and democracy in the Arab world? Which goes to reaffirm what we've always known: one man's glorious revolution is another man's bloody sedition. See you tomorrow.

Simon Kelner is Editor-in-Chief of The Independent, The Independent on Sunday and i