ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Angleterre : Cameron dans la fuite en avant répressive et sécuritaire
by Rosa Moussaoui
Translated Friday 19 August 2011, by Bill Scobleand reviewed by
London: Special Report
Covered in soot, a gutted building awaits its turn. Over the last few days diggers and bulldozers have worked flat out in Tottenham to erase all trace of the riots which flared up there, and then across the country, following the death of Mark Duggan - a 29 year old father of four, who was killed by police on the 6th of August.
Everywhere you look, boards are covering up the damage. It seems at least that peace has returned, but only after the deployment of excessive and repressive security. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in the House of Commons and with the approval of the Labour Party, committed to showing no leniency with regard to the "criminals" who, in his opinion, were behind the riots. He has kept his promises. CCTV, police operations and calls for denouncements have led to the questioning of 1,700 people. Day and night, the courts have seen these "criminals" file through, most of them barely out of childhood. The immediate appearances in court, the harshness of the sentences, the absurdity of some of the charges, and the brevity of the hearings have painted a picture of justice being summarily meted out. For example, in Manchester, a 24 year old mother of two was sentenced to five months in prison for having accepted clothing stolen by someone else during the riots.
In a country under close police surveillance since the attacks of July 7th 2005, this outbreak of violence in the poorer areas of the big cities is the opportunity for a new security clampdown. To that end, David Cameron is going to take on the services of Bill Bratton, ex chief of police in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. The objective, according to the Prime Minister, is to bring "the gangs" under control, and to "communicate the language of zero tolerance better". The decision isn’t to everyone’s taste, even in the upper ranks of the police, who are already quite annoyed by the government’s criticisms over their management of the crisis.
This show of force is accompanied by promises of a double social punishment, with threats of suspending the benefits paid to parents of the troublemakers. As for the residents of social housing suspected of having taken part in the riots, David Cameron wants simply to evict them. All these populist measures are feeding the controversy and tensions even within the coalition. "Even within the Commons, more than one MP has committed theft, without ever having been subjected to a punishment" says an indignant John McDonald, a left-wing Labour MP, referring to the Expenses scandal which indelibly marked the reputation of the politicians.
Even the Liberal Democrats, members of the ruling coalition, are warning against "hasty measures". "We want a society where everyone understands and accepts their responsibilities. This means that we must stop allowing tax exemptions for the rich at the same time as taking benefits away from those who need them" reiterated Simon Hughes yesterday, a Lib Dem politician. Some editors aren’t hesitating to denounce the "hypocrisy" of a discredited political elite - an elite which refuses to see the deep social split the country is suffering from. "What we’re experiencing is the logical result of the policies followed by successive governments, Labour included, since Thatcher", explains John McDonald. "These events are the result of a deeply unequal society."