United Kingdom: Blamestorming Britain
10 August 2011
Leading all the British front pages on August 10 was news of the riots spreading across the country.
The Prime Minister announced that he was recalling parliament: meanwhile, as looting hit Manchester and Birmingham, 16,000 police officers were deployed in the capital and authorised to fire rubber bullets. But commentators struggled to agree on the reasons for the disturbances, and on who to blame.
Those condemning the events, wrote one commentator for the left-leaning Guardian, should consider that in Britain “the richest 10 per cent are now 100 times better off than the poorest” and “social mobility is worse than any other developed country”. Quite so, said another. “This is what happens when people don’t have anything, when they have their noses constantly rubbed in stuff they can’t afford, and they have no reason to believe they will be able to afford it.”
Not a bit of it, wrote Max Hastings in the right-leaning Daily Mail. These rioters “are essentially wild beasts” who “respond only to instinctual animal impulses.” They’re not victims, they’re a “dead weight on society” for which our “grotesquely self-indulgent, non-judgmental culture” is to blame. “Only education” can “force these feral humans to behave”.
Anger with the government is growing, reported a journalist for the right-leaning Telegraph, particularly among small business owners. Looting is dividing London, as multicultural communities who previously rubbed along now band into tribes to protect their livelihoods. “What we need now, immediately, is control of our streets” -- or there’s worse to come.
Britain has now experienced its “Katrina moment”,wrote the centre-left Independent. However, this is “not a political protest … nor a response to public-sector austerity”. Instead, it is the action of a minority who have been failed by “the great state departments of education, welfare, health and housing” for generations. If anything good comes of these riots, “it will be that we can finally face up to the shame of our excluded underclass.”