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Daily View: What should be discussed in the emergency debate on riots?

Clare Spencer | 09:38 UK time, Thursday, 11 August 2011


Ahead of an emergency debate in the Commons, commentators give their suggestions for what politicians should discuss about the riots across England.

Seumas Milne says in the Guardian that politicians should tackle the underlying causes if they care about their long-term political lives. But he predicts they will say in public the riots have no cause beyond "feral wickedness":

"We'll hear a lot more of that when parliament meets - and it's not hard to see why. If these riots have no social or political causes, then clearly no one in authority can be held responsible. What's more, with many people terrified by the mayhem and angry at the failure of the police to halt its spread, it offers the government a chance to get back on the front foot and regain its seriously damaged credibility as a force for social order.
"But it's also a nonsensical position. If this week's eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago?"

The Times editorial urges politicians to think big:

"Every politician in the country now has the opportunity to experiment with the sort of radical thinking that, one must hope, drew them into politics in the first place. All of us must learn to scoff less at big ideas, from compulsory domestic National Service to huge infrastructure projects."

In the Telegraph John McTernan wants politicians to show more vision:

"Platitudes are no substitute for analysis any more than condemnation is for a sense of moral purpose. This, I think, is the nub of it: we have a politics which has replaced ideology with pragmatism, and as a result is unable to interpret events, let alone shape them. All we get is commentary."

"Boldness" is also called for by the Daily Mail's Stephen Glover:

"If Mr Cameron really does want to heal our broken society, he will have to embrace more robust - and more specific - policies than we have so far heard from him in relation to his 'Big Society'.
"He must insist that the lack of prison places is no reason to give light sentences to rioters who are found guilty of serious offences. If necessary, temporary prisons can be built. Mr Cameron must also think again about cutting police numbers."

The Independent's editorial warns against a "panicked" promise to increase police numbers:

"Now, of course, is not the time for any politician even to hint of cuts in police numbers; this would be political suicide. Equally, though, it would be wrong for ministers to yield to the clamour for new spending, whether on additional officers or equipment."

Looking at how the opposition should react, the New Statesman's leading article suggests Labour shouldn't concentrate on cuts:

"Labour and the wider left must pay greater attention to those cultural factors - most notably family breakdown - that they have too often downplayed. All of our politicians need to think deeply about how the urban poor have been disenfranchised by globalisation; how our culture has been coarsened and debased by life¬style libertarianism.
"If the Prime Minister still believes in tackling the causes of youth disorder, and not just the symptoms, he must now lead the thoughtful debate that the recent disturbances demand."

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