Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to fight the “the wrong-headed ideas, bureaucratic nonsense and destructive culture” that led to riots across England earlier this month.
Writing in the Sunday Express newspaper, Cameron said a sense of personal responsibility had been eroded over many years by a welfare system that reduces incentive to work and “the twisting and misrepresentation of human rights.”
“The British people have fought and died for people’s rights to freedom and dignity but they did not fight so that people did not have to take full responsibility for their actions,” he said. “So though it won’t be easy, though it will mean taking on parts of the establishment, I am determined we get a grip on the misrepresentation of human rights.”
In a separate article for the Observer newspaper, former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said “muddled-head analysis” of the riots risks producing the wrong policy prescriptions.
He dismissed the argument that Britain is in the grip of a “moral decline,” saying that problems lie with individuals and communities rather than society as a whole.
“Focus on the specific problem and we can begin on a proper solution,” said Blair, who stepped down as premier in 2007. “Elevate this into a high falutin’ wail about a Britain that has lost its way morally and we will depress ourselves unnecessarily, trash our own reputation abroad, and worst of all, miss the chance to deal with the problem in the only way that will work.”
Violence erupted in London on Aug. 6 and spread to other major cities over the following three nights in the worst unrest in Britain since the 1980s. A total of 3,296 crimes including two murders were committed in London during the rioting. Home Secretary Theresa May last week pledged to give police new powers to control future disturbances, possibly including the authority to place entire areas under curfew.
Cameron’s Conservative Party has gained 2 percentage points to 38 percent since the riots, according to an opinion poll published late yesterday. The ComRes Ltd. survey for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror newspapers puts the opposition Labour Party at 40 percent, unchanged from last month. The Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the coalition government, gained 1 point to 11 percent. ComRes interviewed 2,028 adults online Aug. 17-18.
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