ONLINE ONLY: A Confrontation in London

Most of us, thankfully, still have relatively little direct experience of violent crime, although everyone but the most sheltered now suffers death by a thousand anti-social cuts, and the implicit threat they carry.

Most of us, thankfully, still have relatively little direct experience of violent crime, although everyone but the most sheltered now suffers death by a thousand anti-social cuts, and the implicit threat they carry. A few days after the Standpoint launch party last month, and just yards from its offices in leafy Manchester Square, I was paying for drinks in a local pub when a group of quite obviously under-age teenagers swaggered in. The pub is the sort most regularly used by local office people having an after-work drink, and these kids looked distinctly off the beaten track. After being asked to leave for being too young by the landlady, they started to make a noisy fuss. Then one of them raised an unopened glass Coke bottle he was carrying and challenged her, ‘So am I too young to smash this in your face?’

I was standing right next to this boy; the adrenaline rush caused a hundred thoughts to run through my mind in a matter of seconds. Would I have enough time to do something if he broke the bottle on the bar with the intention of ‘glassing’ her? It was one of those old-fashioned, thick bottles and so might not break. What if I pushed him? There were three or four of them, and although they looked so young it was almost impossible to feel physically threatened, all it needed was just one of them to have a knife.

They retreated, and it was all over in less than a minute. But it was their general demeanour which so struck me. They appeared utterly fearless, as though right were on their side. Francis Gilbert, in his book Yob Nation, observed that ‘a yob is not like most criminals who wish to be secretive in what they do. Yobs like nothing more than to be seen and heard…a yob will publicly humiliate his chosen victim in the streets, calling for all his mates to have a look…time and time again when I interviewed yobs they all said that they loved watching the fear on people’s faces as they stood around doing absolutely nothing.’

The streets are ruled by the unruly; the show is run by the show-offs.

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