15 Aug 2011

Cameron and Miliband clash on riot recovery

Prime Minister David Cameron says “criminality” was at the root of many of last week’s riots but the Government will review policy to tackle other causes, as Labour’s Ed Miliband calls for an inquiry.

In what has been called as a “fightback” speech after riots gripped Britain last week, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to tackle the “moral collapse” of the nation to stop further disturbances.

He said the Government would review every aspect of its policy with this in mind – applying a “family test” to all domestic policy – but dismissed suggestions that the Coalition’s austerity measures were linked to the violence.

He said that in large parts of the country the rioting “was just pure criminality” but added: “The broken society is back at the top of my agenda.”

More from Channel 4 News: why the rioters are just 'ordinary people'

Labour leader Ed Miliband took a different approach, criticising “knee-jerk” responses and calling for an inquiry to be established to look into the causes of the disorder and the “values crisis” in society.

He said that if the Government failed to launch an official investigation, he would.

“The people leading this inquiry must include young people, those with experience of being in gangs, people from across the community. It is right for the victims, it is right for the country. It is right to build the society we need,” he said.

Blame game

Mr Miliband also attacked the Government for claiming credit for tougher policing, saying Mr Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May had undermined police chiefs. He said their behaviour had been “so wrong”. On policing, the Prime Minister rejected calls to abandon police cuts, saying that dealing with bureaucracy in the police force would actually see more officers on the streets.

Mr Cameron also pledged action to “turn around the lives” of the 120,000 most troubled families in the country by the next general election, stressing the role of families in helping young people stay on the right track. He also declared an “all-out war” on gang culture.

We know what’s gone wrong: the question is, do we have the determination to put it right? Prime Minister David Cameron

Speaking at a youth centre in Oxfordshire, Mr Cameron said: “What we know for sure is that in large parts of the country this was just pure criminality.

“So, as we begin the necessary processes of inquiry, investigation, listening and learning, let’s be clear. These riots were not about race…These riots were not about Government cuts…And these riots were not about poverty.

“No, this was about people showing indifference to right and wrong, people with a twisted moral code, people with a complete absence of self-restraint. In this risk-free ground of moral neutrality there are no bad choices, just different lifestyles…Well, actually, what last week has shown is that this moral neutrality, this relativism – it’s not going to cut it any more.”

Mr Cameron went on: “We must fight back against the attitudes and assumptions that have brought parts of our society to this shocking state. We know what’s gone wrong; the question is, do we have the determination to put it right? 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?”

Speaking at his old school, Mr Miliband linked the “sick behaviour” to cuts, inequality and a lack of responsibility, including during the scandals at the top of society, including phone hacking and MPs’ expenses.

He said: “Our whole country is held back by irresponsibility, wherever it is found. It can only be solved by addressing the issues right across our society, from bonuses to benefits.”