News / Europe

    Opinions Divided on Reasons for UK Social Unrest

    Smashed glass doors and windows and wrecked shutters of a betting shop and a jewelry shop in Enfield, north London,  Aug. 8, 2011
    Smashed glass doors and windows and wrecked shutters of a betting shop and a jewelry shop in Enfield, north London, Aug. 8, 2011

    Britain has been hit by two nights of riots taking place across London. Politicians say it’s been carried out by opportunistic criminals, but underlying social issues may also be playing a role.     

    "It was needless, opportunistic theft and violence - nothing more, nothing less, and it is completely unacceptable," said Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

    Last Thursday a 29-year-old died in London, allegedly shot by police.

    Two days later, on Saturday, a peaceful demonstration was held to mark his death. That turned into a violent riot with cars and buildings in north London set alight and shops looted.

    Police were injured and dozens arrested. But that wasn’t the end of the story. More riots took place Sunday, spreading to the south of London.

    Police called the further riots “copycat criminality”.

    Professor of government at the London School of Economics, Rodney Barker says that’s a simplification.

    "One will have seen across the world, quite recently actually, that whenever there is public unrest - whether it's in Iran, or Syria, or the United States, or the United Kingdom, the government says 'this is all the work of a small group of agitators, criminal elements, terrorists.'  Governments always say that. But it isn't a criminal conspiracy. Any crowd in civil unrest is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of motivations," said Barker.

    He says last week’s death was a trigger. The broader context, he says, is social and economic.

    He says spending cuts implemented by Britain’s current Conservative government have created a volatile situation.

    "It's a bit like high speed in motor cars," he said. "You can guarantee that in areas where people drive faster, there will be more accidents because accidents are more likely to occur and to be more dangerous in those circumstances."

    The riots come as Britain’s economy is suffering and the government is making deep public spending cuts and hiking up taxes.

    Neil Prothero, an economist at London’s Economist Intelligence Unit, says the austerity measures, aimed at reducing Britain’s debt, are taking their toll on a local level.

    “In real terms the actual spending reduction program is the most painful if it all came to fruition since the 1940s in terms of its actual squeeze on the levels of public spending," said Prothero. "It's something that the U.K. has not endured for many, many years.”

    He says austerity is only just beginning and in the coming years spending cuts will have an ever larger impact.

    "This is our slight concern is that the actual spending cut-backs, which affect vast swathes of the population in one way or another, whether it's  through benefits or just reduced public services in general - that is still to flow through over the coming years," he said. "It's a concern and it's a worry as to what may happen in terms of the social unrest and the general economic weakness going forward."

    Nearly 200 people have been arrested across London in relation to the riots.

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora