Tottenham riots – a result of Tory spending cuts?

Brixton looting

First reaction: London has seen two nights of rioting, but is there more to it than the shooting of a man by police?

LAST UPDATED AT 10:33 ON Mon 8 Aug 2011

Two nights of rioting and looting have left Londoners asking questions about the underlying causes of the unrest. Saturday night's violence in Tottenham followed a peaceful vigil outside a police station by the family of Mark Duggan, who was shot dead on Thursday night by officers during a planned arrest.

It was initially claimed that Duggan was armed and had shot at police officers, hitting a radio. However, it has been reported that ballistics suggest this bullet was police issue.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating Duggan's death, but the Met has been criticised for failing to talk to his family earlier, with some suggesting the violence in Tottenham could have been avoided if a senior policeman had talked to them at the vigil on Saturday night.

In pictures: London riots

However, many commentators are clear that there is much more to the violence than the shooting. In Tottenham, it it thought that many of the looters came from other areas of London when they heard about the riots on Twitter.

Last night, a wave of what the police described as "copycat criminal activity" saw rioting and looting in the London districts of Enfield, Walthamstow and Brixton. Much of this is said to have been coordinated on social media.

This was no race riot. The riot in Tottenham has destroyed 26 years' of work in building trust between the police and the community, says David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, in the Times. He was there in 1985, when young black men rioted on the Broadwater Farm estate over the death of a woman during a police raid.

"The 1985 riots were race riots: black youth fighting the police. The weekend's violence was not a race riot, it was an attack on the whole of the Tottenham community, organised on Twitter. That's why so many of the people arrested weren't from Tottenham. The grief of one family must never be hijacked to inflict grief on others."

A result of Conservative spending cuts? Nothing can excuse the riots and looting in Tottenham, writes Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for nearby Hackney North and Stoke Newington, in the Independent. But she sees a link between the unrest and spending cuts by the Conservative government.

"Haringey Council has lost £41m from its budget and has cut youth services by 75 per cent. The abolition of the education maintenance allowance hit Haringey hard, and thousands of young people at college depended on it… with these and other cuts in jobs and services, it is difficult to see how areas like Tottenham can become less flammable soon."

A Guardian editorial agrees: "There is every indication, as unemployment climbs and as cuts are made in youth clubs and other services, that the sense of alienation will burgeon...

"It will need much careful management to ensure that what was enacted in the turbulent streets of north London over the weekend is not going to spread."

Unrest will make the Tories stronger. In the Daily Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan takes issue with those who, like Abbott, have pointed the finger at the Conservatives.

"The Tories will not be damaged," he writes. "Civil disorder tends to strengthen the hand of authority, and harm those who challenge it: last year's student protests virtually evaporated after the Parliament Square riot, and the antics of the Black Bloc in the West End undermined the TUC's peaceful anti-cuts protests."

Where are our leaders? Sam Bungey, writing for Australia's ABC news, believes Britons will be unimpressed by the "determination of the nation's powerbrokers to cling to the sun bed".

"London burned and meanwhile prime minister David Cameron fiddled with the foil on a bottle of pinot grigio in Tuscany; deputy prime minister Nick Clegg quietly recovered at home from his getaway in sunny France; and chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne remained ensconced at a hotel somewhere in Beverly Hills." · 

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