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Has Britain changed since the riots?

Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions, to answer the question


IT IS somewhat hard to believe that the August riots ever happened, as the memory of it seems to have disappeared relatively quickly from the minds of everyday British citizens today. Still, as a society we are stuck in the same predicament of rising unemployment.

According to the Office for National Statistics the number of 16-24 year olds unemployed is now at 949,000, and is set to rise to 1 million.

Moreover, further youth grievances with the police at being stopped and searched and benefit cuts have not been fully addressed by the Government.  After all the mindless looting, senseless burning down of long established businesses and downright anarchy, it is clear that these riots have proved futile in their nature – highlighting one thing that is certain for Britain: nothing has changed.  

In light of David Cameron’s speech during the riots in which he labelled Britain a broken, sick society tainted by looters and youngsters with no respect for authority, his clear lament for a more innocent era void of mass criminal activity seems to miss the fact that looting has gone on in Britain for centuries. In fact, through the grim days of 1940 and 1941, during the Blitz, looting was prolific amongst some Londoners even as young as 11 years old.

With such activities already embedded in British history, the London riots certainly did not mark a significant shift in attitudes amongst the public. History repeats itself. The so-called ‘underclass’ are still divorced from political discourse, the working-class and middle-class still live on opposite spectrums, youth cuts have not been fully addressed, and educational and parental ruptures in our society still exist.

For a brief moment in August the youth had a voice, but clearly in hindsight it was a voice with no direction and impact on our society going forward.


Eva Baker

I BELIEVE that the riots have changed Britain. But they certainly haven’t changed it for the better.

Though it’s hard to pinpoint all the individual factors that may have led to the explosion of violence and theft that broke out over the summer, there are a few key ingredients that helped push ‘Broken Britain’ to boiling point. Widespread unemployment, suspicion and resentment of the police, and cuts to public and youth services, in particular, are a few of the reasons that led to this mass lashing out, as thousands of people across Britain took their grievances to the streets.

As far as I’m aware, not a single one of the enormous socio-economic problems referenced above has been resolved since those days in August. As the leaves start to fall and we move into autumn, youth unemployment sticks stubbornly at 20 percent, our society is more unequal than ever, child poverty is at a worrying high, and the NHS may be about to be brought to its knees.

What has changed in Britain since the riots, I would argue, is the perception of the communities where violence broke out. In poorer communities across Britain, the riots have added insult to already serious injury. Now areas like Tottenham, in north London, and Hackney, in east London, find themselves further stigmatised, haunted by images of masked youths on the rampage; with unemployment and apathy being defining features of these environments today.

What the riots have done is criminalise an entire class of people who had multiple reasons to fight back. During the media outcry in the days and weeks following the disturbances, our screens were shamelessly plastered with images of ‘hooligans’, ‘vandals’ and ‘looters’ committing dastardly deeds. The extreme lack of debate and analysis around why so many young people chose to be such enthusiastic participants in this carnival of crime was mind-blowing, with the emphasis instead placed on banging-up the baddies.

Demonising an entire class of people, particularly young people, instead of tackling the deep-rooted social problems that led to this mess in the first place seems like a very lazy way to go. If Britain really wants to move into a post-riot era and change for the better, we need to put our efforts into addressing the long-term causes that created such anarchy, rather than idly denouncing the ‘wrongdoers’ in the short-term.

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