On Monday UK prime minister David Cameron (photo, from aljazeera.net) said that in order to prevent last week’s several nights of riots from happening again his government will work to mend the country’s “broken society” as well as fight against its “moral collapse”.
Last week the UK went through its worst riots in decades in London and other cities. These events were prompted by the fatal shooting of a suspect by police. Five people died in the riots which caused at least $326m in property losses and on Monday morning 2,772 people have been arrested and 1,406 charged.
To do that, the PM pledged an “all-out war” on gangs and announced that his coalition government would define new policies, saying that for too long Britain’s damaged society had been one which “incites laziness, that excuses bad behaviour, that erodes self-discipline, that discourages hard work.”
He also said that he would accelerate plans to deal with “problem” families and improve parenting and education.
“This has been a wake-up call for our country,” Mr Cameron added.
“One of the biggest lessons of these riots is that we’ve got to talk honestly about behaviour and then act – because bad behaviour has literally arrived on people’s doorsteps. And we can’t shy away from the truth anymore.”
In a list of what he believes has gone wrong, Mr Cameron included children without fathers, schools without discipline and communities without control.
“The broken society is back at the top of my agenda,” Mr Cameron said.
Gangs and families
Britain’s PM announced several actions regarding gangs and families.
Mr Cameron described gangs as a “major criminal disease that has infected streets and estates across our country”, adding that “stamping out these gangs should be a new national priority.”
To the senior police officers who worry about the PM’s plans to get advice from US “supercop” Bill Bratton, he explained that since the US had been dealing with the problem of gangs for longer, it was right to learn from “inspirational” police chiefs.
On Monday afternoon Home Secretary Theresa May will chair a meeting with ministers and Acting Met commissioner Tim Godwin in order to discuss tackling gang culture.
Regarding families, the prime minister said the plans to improve parenting would be accelerated. By the next general election in 2015, the government would “turn around the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in the country”.
Mr Cameron also said he wanted “family test” applied to all domestic policies to make sure they did not “stop families from being together”.
The PM also said that ministers would look at the Human Rights Act as well as health and safety legislation, arguing that they had been “twisted” by some in a way that diminished personal responsibility.
‘Shallow and superficial answers’
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband also gave a speech on Monday, from his former school in Camden, north of London, half a block from where intense rioting took place on August 8. He said politicians should focus less on blame and more on delivering better opportunities for young people.
“The politician’s instinct – reach for new legislation, appoint a new adviser, wheel out your old prejudices – will not meet the public’s demand for real answers and deep rooted, lasting solutions,” Mr Miliband said.
“We’ve heard it all in the last few days, water cannon, supercops, a daily door knock for gangs and today, more gimmicks. A prime minister, who used to say the answer was to hug a hoodie, now says the answer is to reform our health and safety laws.
“Day by day the prime minister has revealed himself to be reaching for shallow and superficial answers, not the lasting solutions the country needs, based on the wisdom and insights of our communities.”
Arguing that in the past commissions had been set up after major disturbances to look into the causes, Mr Miliband asked for a “national conversation”.
He also accused ministers of undermining police forces with “an unseemly attempt by government to take credit for operational decisions that went right and blame the police for those that didn’t work out”.
Still on Monday, the Police Federation said the prime minister was “wrong” to suggest that “back office” police officers could be freed up to increase police numbers on the streets. The Federation explained that many of them played important roles in child protection and domestic violence units.
Concerning the decision of cutting benefits for rioters and looters given non-custodial sentences, Downing Street said officials and ministers were “looking at a whole range” of options. The idea was raised earlier by cabinet minister Iain Duncan.