LONDON, (Reuters) – British Prime Minister David Cameron will face pressure today to soften his austerity plans, toughen up policing and do more to help inner-city communities after days of riots and looting laid bare deep social tensions in a depressed economy.
With the public seething over the looting of anything from sweets to televisions, Cameron has so far dismissed the rioters as nothing more than opportunistic criminals and denied the unrest was linked to the knock-on effects of deep spending cuts.
But community leaders say inequality, cuts to public services and high youth unemployment are also probably to blame for some of the worst violence seen in Britain for decades.
As the clear up continues, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government must find quick fixes to avoid further unrest while also addressing longer-term problems in what Cameron has called “broken Britain”.
“There are pockets of our society that are not just broken but frankly sick,” Cameron told reporters.
A surge in police numbers helped to calm streets in London and cities across England such as Manchester and Birmingham last night, but four days of often unchecked disorder have embarrassed the authorities, leaving communities ransacked and exhausting emergency services.
Police arrested more than 1,000 people across England, filling cells and leaving courts working through the night to process hundreds of cases. Among those charged were a teaching assistant, an 11-year-old boy and a charity worker.
It is unclear whether the peace will hold, but trouble on Wednesday night was limited to the odd skirmish. Businessmen and residents had also come together to protect their areas.
“Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community – why do we have to kill one another?” said Tariq Jahan, whose son was one of three young Muslim men run over by a car and killed while apparently protecting property in the mayhem in Birmingham on Tuesday night.