London: PM Cameron Says Generations Of “Slow-Motion Moral Collapse” Caused Rot In British Society

15 Aug

Cameron Blames State Of National Delinquency On – “Generations Of Creeping Moral Collapse”

Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir's brother Abdul Qudoos, center, is supported by friends as he speaks at a peace rally a peace rally in Summerfield Park, Birmingham, England Sunday Aug. 14, 2011. Community groups held a peace rally Sunday in England's second-largest city against the hit-and-run attack that claimed three lives during rioting in Birmingham. Scores of people gathered in Winson Green, where three Muslim men _ Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31 _ were mowed down and mortally wounded Wednesday when a car struck them at high speed. The trio had been with a larger group guarding a row of Pakistani-owned shops from looters.  (AP Photo/Rui Vieira/PA Wire)   UNITED KINGDOM OUT

LONDON (AP) — Britain must confront its “slow-motion moral collapse” Prime Minister David Cameron declared Monday, following four days of riots that left five people dead, thousands facing criminal charges and at least 200 million pounds ($350 million) in property losses.

Cameron said his coalition government would spend the next few weeks examining policies designed to tackle a culture of laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness.

He also pledged to toughen rhetoric from ministers and officials, whom he claimed had too often had shied away from promoting strong moral standards.

“This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face,” Cameron told an audience at a youth center in Witney, his Parliamentary district in southern England. “Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations?”

Cameron insisted that racial tensions, poverty and the government’s austerity program — much of which has yet to bite — were not motivations for the riots across London and other major cities.

“One of the biggest lessons of these riots is that we’ve got to talk honestly about behavior and then act — because bad behavior has literally arrived on people’s doorsteps. And we can’t shy away from the truth anymore,” he said.

Standing in front of a backdrop of graffiti, Cameron said Britain’s damaged society had for too long been one which “incites laziness, that excuses bad behavior, that erodes self-discipline, that discourages hard work.”

Cameron also acknowledged that all sectors of society had to share the blame, citing recklessness by bankers, a lawmakers’ expense check scandal, and the media phone hacking saga.

“In the highest offices, the plushest boardrooms, the most influential jobs, we need to think about the example we are setting,” Cameron said. “Moral decline and bad behavior is not limited to a few of the poorest parts of our society.”

In a rival speech, main opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband planned to criticize Cameron’s plans and demand that lawmakers focus less on blame, and more on delivering better opportunities for 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,” Miliband said in his own prepared remarks.

Miliband was to speak at his former school in Camden, north London, half a block from the scene of rioting on Monday night, when shops were attacked and police came under attack.

“Does it matter whether young people feel they have a future, a chance of a better life? Yes it does,” he said in the prepared text. “Are issues like education and skills, youth services, youth unemployment important for diverting people away from gangs, criminality, the wrong path? Yes. They matter.”

Rioting began in London Aug. 6 and spread to several other English cities. Police were criticized for responding too slowly, particularly in London, but eventually deployed huge numbers of officers at riot zones to quell the mayhem.

The Association of British Insurers has estimated the cost from wrecked property and stolen property at 200 million pounds, based on submissions so far from insurance brokers, but expects the total to keep rising.

Britain’s justice ministry says more than 1,200 people have been charged so far with riot-related offenses. Thousands have been arrested and courts are working overtime to process the riot cases.

NEWS UPDATE:

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a sweeping review of government policy in response to last week’s riots.

England - Riots last week

England – Riots last week

He also pledged an ‘all-out war’ on street gangs as Britain struggles to find answers to its worst civil disorder for decades, which tarnished the country’s image abroad just a year before London hosts the 2012 Olympic Games.

‘This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face,’ Mr Cameron said in a speech at a youth club in his affluent rural constituency in Witney, central England.

‘Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations?’

Children as young as 11 joined the four-day frenzy of looting, arson and violence which spread from London to other major English cities including Manchester and Birmingham, leaving dozens of homes and businesses in flames.

The government has flooded the streets with police to prevent further unrest. More than 2,300 people have been arrested, but Mr Cameron said that the ‘security fightback must be matched by a social fightback.’

He said the coalition government – which came to power in May 2010 promising austerity measures to cut a record deficit – would in the coming weeks review ‘every aspect of our work to mend our broken society.’

A day after he controversially hired US police officer Bill Bratton to advise the government on tackling street gangs, Mr Cameron said there should be a ‘concerted, all-out war on gangs and gang culture’.

‘Stamping out these gangs is a new national priority,’ he said, describing them as a ‘major criminal disease that has infected streets and estates across our country.’

Mr Cameron said the government would look at toughening conditions for those who receive unemployment and other benefits, trying to improve parenting skills and schools in deprived areas.

He said Britain would use its current chairmanship of the Council of Europe to seek to push through changes to the European Convention on Human Rights, saying it had ‘undermined personal responsibility.’

Addressing calls for the reintroduction of national military service, Mr Cameron added that he was introducing a programme of ‘National Citizen Service’ to get 16-year-olds carrying out voluntary work.

In a taste of harsher measures to come, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith separately told the BBC that people convicted of being involved in the riots could lose their benefits even if they do not receive a custodial sentence.

Mr Cameron’s speech came a day after he faced criticism from police chiefs who opposed his decision to hire Bill Bratton, who is credited for tackling gang violence in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Police chiefs say Britain needs home-grown policies.

Top police officers and the opposition have also called on the government to reverse its plans to slash police budgets.

Interior minister Theresa May chaired a meeting of the government’s COBRA security committee on Monday at which it is expected to decide whether to scale down the surge of officers on London’s streets, currently at 16,000.

Courts in England have been working through the night and, in a first, heard cases yesterday, a Sunday to clear the massive backlog of cases from the riots.

Yesterday, more than 5,000 people observed a minute’s silence at a peace rally for three men killed in Birmingham in a hit-and-run incident last Wednesday.

Tariq Jahan – who is the father of one of three – told the gathering that the display of unity gave him ‘strength in my heart’.

A 23-year-old man is to be brought before Birmingham’s Magistrates Court later this morning, charged in connection with the murder of the three men, who died as they protected a petrol station.

On Saturday, two other people were also charged with murder and are due to appear at Birmingham Crown Court later today.

Separately, a 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a 68-year-old man during the riots.

Richard Bowes died in hospital on Thursday after he was attacked while trying to put out a fire in Ealing in west London.

NEWS UPDATE:

Video: PM Unveils Post-Riot Fightback

Tackling gangs should be the “new national priority,” the Prime Minister said as he blamed the recent riots on selfishness and family breakdown.

The Prime Minister said a “social fightback” must follow the security response already announced.

He began by attacking “moral neutrality” and relativism, where bad choices were explained as merely “different lifestyles”.

“We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong,” he said from Oxfordshire.

“We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said – about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy.”

He blamed irresponsibility, selfishness and absent fathers for the riots as he and the Labour leader both delivered speeches offering their analysis of the nation’s social problems.

Describing the spate of disorder as a “wake-up call for our country”, Mr Cameron said there had been a “slow-motion moral collapse” in the UK.

“Irresponsibility. Selfishness. Behaving as if your choices have no consequences. Children without fathers. Schools without discipline,” he said.

“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 de-moralised.”

He called for an “all-out war” on gangs and gang culture, with tough punishments matched by a wider social agenda.

The Prime Minister said he believed many rioters came from families with no father at home and communities where that seems normal.

Policies will now have to pass a “family test” to ensure they support the values that keep people together, he explained.

Mr Cameron also said the recently-introduced National Citizen Service should be available to all 16-year-olds as a rite of passage.

He said the non-military programme “captures the spirit of national service” and can teach team-work to alienated youths.

But as soon as he finished his speech, Labour leader Ed Miliband delivered his own analysis of the social problems facing the country.

He restated his call for a full-scale inquiry into the riots and warned against knee-jerk policy responses.

Mr Miliband agreed parental and individual responsibility are factors but said looters have not been the only ones to demonstrate greed and selfishness.

“It’s not the first time we’ve seen this kind of me-first, take what you can attitude,” he said.

He said reckless bankers, greedy MPs and phone-hacking journalists all helped create this culture.

In an indirect attack on the Prime Minister, Mr Miliband said merely blaming others for the riots – the police, parents and a so-called underclass – was too simplistic.

He also challenged Mr Cameron’s view of family breakdown, arguing some single parents do a brilliant job while some two-parent families fail.

Speaking from his old comprehensive school in north London, he continued: “The small minority who did this are not one race, one community, one age group.

“They are British people from Brixton to Gloucester, Croydon to Manchester.

“And to answer what has happened, we have to state the most inconvenient truth of all: yes, people are responsible for their actions.

“But we all bear a share of responsibility for the society we create,” Mr Miliband added.

Shadow minister Tessa Jowell backed his call for an inquiry that engages with communities and listens to the wisdom of people with experience of tackling issues such as gangs.

She told Sky News the the opposition want “real change” that takes place “under the radar of screaming headlines”.

Now the immediate security concerns appear to have passed, both leaders want to seize the initiative politically.

But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said cross-party cooperation was key.

“We’ve got to stop nit-picking, playing games with this, pretending there’s some kind of political advantage to be gained,” he told Sky News.

“The truth is we are all in this one together and we’ve got to get out of it together.”

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