Theresa May’s comments over police cuts mocked

Theresa May

‘The British public don't resort to violent unrest’ home secretary told police last year while defending cuts

BY Jonathan Harwood LAST UPDATED AT 13:45 ON Tue 9 Aug 2011

Home secretary Theresa May has found herself in the firing line in the aftermath of the violence and rioting in London and other cities. She has come under fierce attack because of the police's apparent inability to take action against looters and has been mocked for appearing on TV and radio this morning begging people to turn in anyone involved in the disorder.

But the biggest millstone hanging round her neck could be an article from the Guardian written last September that began circulating on social networking sites as the violence spread on Tuesday, and which could become her political obituary.

The piece, written by the Guardian's home affairs editor, Alan Travis, was a report of a speech that May gave to the police Superintendents' Association last year shortly before the spending review, in which the police budget was cut by 20 per cent.

It began with the words: "The home secretary, Theresa May, has dismissed fears that deep spending cuts could undermine the ability of the police to tackle possible civil unrest, and insisted the British did not respond to austerity by rioting on the streets."

It quoted her as saying: "The British public don't simply resort to violent unrest in the face of challenging economic circumstances."
Whatever the actual reasons for the rioting and the failure of the police to prevent it, the story was gleefully trotted out on Twitter and by bloggers as proof that May was out of touch and at least partly to blame for the chaos across the capital. Amid all the other coverage, the story became one of the top 10 most-read articles on the /Guardian/ website on Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, another eerily prescient Guardian piece has been doing the rounds of social networking sites. The video of interviews with teenagers in London was posted only 10 days ago under the headline "Haringey youth club closures: 'There'll be riots'". It began: "After Haringey council shuts eight of its 13 youth clubs, local teenagers fear boredom will fuel violence between young gang members on the streets of north London."

Tottenham, where the rioting began on Saturday night, is in Haringey. · 

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