Lazy and selfish culture must be confronted, says Cameron
Published 16/08/2011 | 05:00
David Cameron yesterday warned that Britain must confront a culture of laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness that fuelled four days of rioting.
The unprecedented violence left five people dead, thousands facing criminal charges and resulted in hundreds of millions in damages.
As the blame game intensified yesterday, rival political leaders staked out their response to the rampage.
Mr Cameron pledged to deliver a raft of new policies by October aimed at reversing the "slow-motion moral collapse" which he blames for fostering the disorder.
"This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded," Mr Cameron told an audience at a youth centre in Witney, his parliamentary district in southern England. "Just as people last week wanted criminals robustly confronted, so they want to see these social problems taken on and defeated."
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he was checking whether those involved in the riots should have their welfare payments cut, while London mayor Boris Johnson said young people convicted in the disorder would lose their right to use public transportation for free.
Mr Cameron resolved to end a culture of timidity in discussing family breakdown or poor parenting, or in criticising those who fail to set a good example to their children or community.
In a rival speech, main opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband criticised Cameron's response as overly simplistic, and demanded that lawmakers focus on delivering better opportunities for disaffected young people.
"The usual politicians' instinct -- announce a raft of new legislation, appoint a new adviser, wheel out your old prejudices and shallow answers -- will not meet the public's demand," said Mr Miliband.
He spoke at his former high school in Camden, north London, half a block from the scene of the August 8 rioting.
The differing approaches to Britain's most serious riots in a generation are likely to dominate the country's annual political conventions, which begin next month.
Mr Cameron insisted that racial tensions, poverty and the government's austerity programme -- much of which is yet to bite -- were not the primary motivations for the riots.
Instead, he pointed to gang-related crime, and a widespread failure from Britain's leaders to address deep-rooted social issues, including the country's generous welfare system.
"Children without fathers. Schools without discipline. Reward without effort. Crime without punishment. Rights without responsibilities. Communities without control. Some of the worst aspects of human nature tolerated, indulged -- sometimes even incentivised -- by a state and its agencies that in parts have become literally demoralised," Mr Cameron said.