Cameron pledges 'all-out war' on street gangs

Updated: 2011-08-16 08:41

(China Daily)

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Cameron pledges 'all-out war' on street gangs

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks at a youth center in Witney, his Parliamentary district in southern England on Monday. Britain must confront its "slow-motion moral collapse", Cameron declared, following four days of riots that left five people dead, thousands facing criminal charges and at least 200 million pounds ($326 million) in property losses. [Photo/Agencies] 

LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Monday a sweeping review of government policy to reverse a "slow-motion moral collapse" that he blames for last week's riots that left five people dead.

He also pledged an "all-out war" on street gangs as Britain struggles to find answers to its worst civil disorder for decades, which tarnished the country's image abroad just a year before London hosts the 2012 Olympic Games.

"This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face," Cameron said in a speech at a youth club in his affluent rural constituency in Witney, central England.

"Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations?" he asked, against a backdrop of colorful graffiti at the club.

Cameron pledges 'all-out war' on street gangs

Children as young as 11 joined in the four-day frenzy of looting, arson and violence which spread from London to other major British cities including Manchester and Birmingham, leaving dozens of homes and businesses in flames.

Experts said inadequate parenting and social inequality is behind the astonishingly violent riots.

"(One explanation) is the lack of authority and discipline in families, whose children are out of control," said Robert Hazell, director of the Constitution Unit of University College London.

"Another may be a very unequal society, and strongly capitalist economy, in which children are led by advertising to believe that they only gain worth and respect through the possession of material goods, rather than from what kind of people they are," Hazell said.

The Conservative premier has flooded the streets with police to prevent further unrest while more than 2,300 people have been arrested, but Cameron said that the "security fightback must be matched by a social fightback".

He said the coalition government - which came to power in May 2010 promising austerity measures to cut a record deficit - would in the coming weeks review "every aspect of our work to mend our broken society".

A day after he controversially hired US "supercop" Bill Bratton to advise the government on tackling street gangs, Cameron said there should be a "concerted, all-out war on gangs and gang culture".

"Stamping out these gangs is a new national priority," Cameron said, describing them as a "major criminal disease that has infected streets and estates across our country".

Cameron said the government would look at toughening conditions for those who receive unemployment and other benefits, trying to improve parenting skills and schools in deprived areas.

He said Britain would use its current chairmanship of the Council of Europe to seek to push through changes to the European Convention on Human Rights, saying it had "undermined personal responsibility".

Zhang Haizhou contributed to this story.