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Riots ‘cannot be allowed to fade into memory’

DAMAGE: David Lammy with Nick Clegg in Tottenham

LABOUR MP David Lammy was on holiday when Tottenham witnessed the second riots in a generation.

As the violence and looting spread across London and beyond, many were left speechless by the scenes of devastation.

Now the dust has settled, the MP has penned his first book, Out of the Ashes: Britain After the Riots, published by Guardian Books.

Though the riots started with the shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by a police officer, Lammy claims he spotted signs of social unrest a year earlier when he started writing the book.

In the book Lammy offers his opinion on the riots; why they happened, what they tell us about Britain and where the country goes from here.

All proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to charity.

Below is an edited extract from Out of the Ashes: Britain After the Riots.

‘In the weeks following the riots I barely slept. The atmosphere in Tottenham was incredibly tense. Shops were boarded up.

‘The rubble of the old Carpetright store, the Aldi supermarket and the post office were weeping wounds for the community.

‘The rest of the summer was punctuated with potential flashpoints. The wake for Mark Duggan and then the funeral a month later seemed to have the community on a cliff edge. Even the weekend of the Notting Hill carnival became something to anticipate, as opposed to look forward to.

‘The minute I let myself believe that stability, if not normality, had returned - a walk up the High Road or a fractious public meeting would be a jolt back to reality.

‘Then was not the time to dig too deeply into the “causes” of what were criminal acts. But, while the events of the August 2011 are still fresh in the mind, this remains a conversation we must have, not just in Tottenham but across Britain. Four nights of lawlessness and violence cannot be allowed to simply fade into the memory.

‘Tottenham has now had two riots in a generation. The first was a disaster, the second felt utterly catastrophic, and it is hard to fathom the consequences of this. Lessons must be learnt.

‘Having that discussion does not mean making excuses for those who revelled in the mayhem. Everyone made their own moral choice - each looter, each rioter, each arsonist has their own conscience.

‘What my constituents want most of all is that those people be held to account. However, as the Prime Minister once said, “Understanding the background, the reasons, the cause it does not excuse the crime but it will help to tackle it.”

‘This book is my attempt to offer an explanation for the riots. It explores why they happened, what I think they tell us about Britain and where we should go from here.'

* Out of the Ashes by David Lammy is published by Guardian Books today (November 24), price £9.99.

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