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“This is not about poverty, this is about culture”
And with those words, Dave ‘hug a hoodie’ Cameron set the tone for the debate in the House of Commons on Thursday on what went from being called the ‘London Riots’ to the ‘UK Unrest’ in the media. To be fair to Dave he did manage to perfectly capture the public mood when he eventually returned from holiday in sunny Italy, even if it seemed too late for many of his detractors on both the left and the right. I admit, his speech on Tuesday in which he promised to track down and find every rioter sounded George Bush-esque. But by that time things looked so severe, with the country on the brink of what seemed like internal civil war, that part of my left wing self prayed for a George Bush type Prime Minister, complete with cowboy hat and pistols drawn, to fly down from the skies and take out the rioters one by one.
All in all, however, it appears that Dave did well. He managed to sound both tough and understanding at the same time, although his refusal to admit that police cuts are having an effect on the morale and capability of the police is akin to Arsene Wenger claiming that Arsenal do not need to spend money. They do. And the police need extra resources to ensure that something like this does not happen again.
But what about my main man Ed Miliband? Well after coming out with the predictable soundbites that the riots were ‘shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’ (no shit!) Miliband seemed to find his feet during the week and unlike Cameron actually attempted to find a cause for the riots. As Miliband correctly stated, to seek to explain the riots is not to seek to excuse them. And unlike his Labour counterparts Harriet Harman and Ken Livingstone, he wisely avoided blaming cuts to EMA or youth clubs for the disturbances and correctly sought to identify other underlying long-term issues such as social inequality and a lack of ethics in our society. He also correctly identified that this lack of ethics is not just rampant amongst the ‘underclass’ section of society that most people blamed for the riots, but also amongst the upper echolons of society; from irresponsible bankers to expense fiddling politicians.
In my opinion, Miliband actually came across during this crisis better than Cameron and Boris (who bumbled his way through our town of Enfield on Wednesday). Unlike the other two, he was not heckled as he visited affected towns in South London. And his performance during the debate on Thursday was principled, controlled and impressive.
Cameron said that it wasn’t about poverty, but about culture. Although he caught the public mood right with his speeches, he was wrong on this account. As Miliband has rightly pointed out, it is about both.