Cameron under fire from all sides

2011-08-10 17:56

London - Prime Minister David Cameron has stepped up his response to riots sweeping Britain as he struggles to contain the unprecedented violence, which critics say is partly due to his government's spending cuts.

Cameron cut short his holiday to Italy to return home on Tuesday, promptly ordering 10 000 more police on to the streets of London where looters and arsonists ran riot largely unchallenged for three consecutive nights.

The action calmed the capital's streets on Tuesday night, but fresh violence broke out in the major cities of Manchester and Birmingham.

Parliament will return from its summer break on Thursday for an extraordinary one-day session on the crisis, when Cameron must show he is in control in the face of public outrage at the worst civil unrest since the 1980s.

Some left-wing commentators are referring to this as the prime minister's "Katrina moment", similar to when the failings of President George W Bush's administration were exposed by the damage wrought by a hurricane in New Orleans in 2005.

Authorised water cannon

Cameron has been under fire within his Conservative party for not being tough enough, and he hit back on Wednesday by announcing that police will now be able to use water cannons, which have never before been deployed in mainland Britain.

Ramping up his rhetoric on Wednesday, he strongly condemned the violence, saying it was the result of a lack of responsibility and morals among young people, fuelled by a welfare system that "rewards idleness".

He left no room for claims that the riots were happening because youngsters are marginalised by unemployment, poverty and lack of opportunity, nor that they could be linked to his Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition's public spending cuts.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition Labour party, has not sought to make political capital out of the riots, saying there are "no excuses", but other members of his party have been more forthright.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman condemned the violence, saying it could not be justified, but she also argued that "there is a sense that young people don't think they are being listened to".

Government must rethink

She listed policies to treble university tuition fees and abolish a grant given to teenagers to stay in school, and plans to shut job centres to save money despite high unemployment, saying ministers "should think again about that".

Ken Livingstone, the left-wing former mayor of London hoping to take back the office in next year's elections, said: "If you're making massive cuts, there's always the potential for this sort of revolt against that".

Newspapers have been cautious about making the link, and Nick Wilkie, chief executive of London Youth, a network of 400 community organisations in London, agreed that the cuts should not be blamed for the unprecedented violence.

"We do not believe closing youth clubs has caused this. Blaming events on cuts risks letting violent criminals off the hook," he said.

"Equally, the fact that there are large numbers of unemployed young people with nothing to do this summer won't help."

Police budget cuts

Cameron is also under fire from his own side for slashing the police budget by 20% by 2014-15, which will result in an estimated 34 000 jobs axed.

The current mayor of London, Conservative Boris Johnson, has demanded a rethink of the cuts following the rioting, which police chiefs admitted had left them stretched to breaking point.

"That case was always pretty frail and it has been substantially weakened. This is not a time to think about making substantial cuts in police numbers," Johnson told BBC radio.

Cameron promised on Wednesday that "a fightback is underway", but commentators say his leadership will be judged on how long the riots continue.

"He has to show that he is bringing the situation under control," said an editorial in the right-wing Daily Telegraph. "If Mr Cameron gets it wrong and the rioting is still in full spate at the weekend, he may struggle to recover."

  • Martin - 2011-08-10 18:10

    Just 10 old Unit 19 riot SAP members + Caspir + couple of sambokke with rubber bullets will solve the problem in a day!

      frankm - 2011-08-10 18:27

      You are right on the mark there, well said

      Philip - 2011-08-10 18:48

      Well said. There is only one way to sort out violent mobs and that is to give them a good old fashioned solid wack on the head.

      Frans Smith - 2011-08-10 18:49

      that is the problem; the brittish citizens complained years ago about police violence etc, when it only hapended on a very small scale (and it does in most countries). they then overreacted and became to liberal. kids were nto allowed to get a slap on the backside etc... in the mean time, the emigration gate swere left open and now they find themselves having to deal with a "new kind of animal", that only listens to tough policing. these hooligans understand nothing else but hard line policing. just to add to that; had some good old mates in unit 19 and unit 9. yes, those boys would have sorted them out quick quick - maybe added a bit of teargas for the sweaty filthy will burn like hell!

      DougSeanWest - 2011-08-10 18:54

      Cameron and the royal family should go into exile asap since NATO and Europe must obviously recognize the rebels as the legitimate government of the UK. A little consistancy would be fair.

      slg - 2011-08-10 22:56

      You guys are part of the problem, not the solution that's for sure. Did you miss that wanton violence ignited the riots?

  • BOFFINBOB - 2011-08-10 18:10

    Damn...These Brits are a spineless bunch !!

      slg - 2011-08-10 22:57

      Are you recommending more violence?

  • VargVikernes - 2011-08-10 18:19

    Let loose the BNP, EDL and NF on the wigger chavs and their ethnic mates. That would be a 'fightback'. Nick Griffin for PM.

  • Hux - 2011-08-10 18:30

    The English will never admit that the problem is just basic theft. These do gooder human rights idiots can never see the obvious. Always have to be deeper meanings! Bul....t.

      slg - 2011-08-10 22:59

      It's deeper than that, Hux, although there are looters out there too. There's an oppressiveness in English society, a heartless lack of emotion that leads to cruel decision-making. This has no place in the world becoming new.

  • v3 - 2011-08-10 19:18

    I wonder how many of the rioters (some who were in their early teens) are university material, tuition fee subsidies or not.

  • EyesWideShut - 2011-08-10 19:57

    Agreed. London's slum youth have been a rough bunch since Roman times - all that's different these days is a past decade of hand-wringing, namby pamby interference in their upbringing and education, out of a sense of guilt for Victorian severities. They are accustomed to coming out on top in conflicts with teachers and parents who make no attempt to set boundaries for these kids, or teach them respect for their elders. One incident stands out from my time there: on boarding a bus, I barred the door with my arm to stop a loud pair of black school girls pushing in front of a queue. I was sworn at, shouted at for the duration of the trip - "That's f*** assault, that is! I'm going to 'ave you done f*** old man" etc etc. They must have been about 13 or 14. In the land of tea and genteel small talk, and heroic self-sacrifice....times are changing...

      slg - 2011-08-10 23:01

      I don't dream of more oppression when I think of England. I think of less. This is a breaking free of the rigidities in English society.

  • Jaimo - 2011-08-10 21:53

    The scourge of Liberalism has brought in the multiculturalism and interacialism that is plaguing England - and has caught them with their pants down. I don't think they will learn their lesson!!!! - just serve as a shocking example.

      slg - 2011-08-10 23:02

      I think you're racist. The world is moving towards greater integration, not less.

  • Brigitte - 2011-08-11 07:54

    David Cameron and his government have been in only for a year. this is not his fault and he is trying to get the idle wastrels off benefits by reducing and tightening up control of welfare payouts. the Labour Party has a lot to do with the current situation by kowtowing to ethnic and religious minorities - removing Christianity from our schools, allowing schools to teach in foreign languages instead of insisting that all immigrants learn to speak english, abolishing corporal punishment in schools, making smacking your child a criminal offence, removing teaching of morals, allowing 'rights' without 'responsibilities'. If you have a right to education, you have a responsibility to use that education. If you have the right to have kids, you have a responsibility to take care of your kids and only have those you can afford. If you have the right to choose not to work (as many do!)then you have a responsibility to not sponge off the hardworking taxpayer and so the list goes on. England needs urgently to address lck of ethics, morals and responsibility in its inner city areas. Charge the parents of minors arrested with neglect and dereliction of parental responsibility.

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