Showdown with the Mob: Cameron Fights for Law and Order

By Marco Evers in London

David Cameron has broken off his summer vacation and returned to England, where he has pledged to battle rioting mobs.The British Prime Ministeris deploying 16,000 police officers and has vowed to unleash the "full force of the law."But is Scotland Yard still capable of restoring order? Some Londoners are fleeing to the Continent on Eurostar.

Photo Gallery: Three Nights of Violence in London Photos
Getty Images

A burning capital city. Marauding bands stealing whatever they please. A police force that appears to be impotent. And a fire brigade that can't put out blazes because its rescue forces are attacked by a mob.

The television images dominating screens this week could be right out of Mogadishu. As difficult to imagine as it might be, the pictures aren't from Somalia, but from London, right in the center of Europe. And they will never be forgotten. They have even prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to break off has vacation in Tuscany. If he were to continue to enjoy the sun as London sinks into chaos, then his star would likely fall just as far as former US President George W. Bush's did because of his disastrous crisis management in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has also returned from his holiday early, as has Interior Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Ed Milliband. Parliament has been recalled from the summer recess, and on Thursday it is set to convene an emergency session. The scenes of violence that have unfolded during the past few nights could well be fateful for Britain's international reputation as well as that of Cameron's government.

How quickly can the orgy of thieves and plunderers be stopped? Can it be at all? So far, Cameron has cared primarily about one thing: Budget cuts wherever possible, including the police, come hell or high water. Thousands of jobs are to be eliminated.

Now, one year before the city is slated to host the Summer Olympic Games in socio-economically depressed East London, there are serious doubts as to whether the conservative-liberal government is still capable of enforcing law and order. Cameron's relations with the leaders at Scotland Yard have long been shattered. And the trench warfare between politicians and police has now contributed to a situation in which a few hordes of looting youths are able to disrupt the entire public order.

Following a meeting of Britain's national security council, Cameron talked tough, announcing that 16,000 police would be deployed on the streets. The prime minister said police would use the "full force of the law" to stop the violence, but people are so nervous that some worried Londoners have even taken off to Paris on high-speed Eurostar trains. It appears that the contingent of 16,000 police officers is the most the British state is currently capable of deploying in London. Will that be enough or will the electronically networked, mobile anarchist rioters be able to go on defying them?

UKIP Boss Farage Wants To See Army Deployed

All parties are demanding tougher measures. Left-wing Labor member of parliament Diane Abbott said Cameron should impose a night-time curfew for youths, a step France took in 2005 in response to the rioting in Paris and Lyon. Meanwhile, conservative member of parliament Patrick Mercer called for water cannons to be brought in. Until now they have never been used on the British mainland, only in Northern Ireland.

And Nigel Farage, head of the right-wing UK Independence Party, said troops should be sent in to help restore order on British streets. But experts warned that deploying the military would worsen the violence and revive memories of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Cameron has yet to reveal what concrete action he proposes to take, and what he wants parliament to decide on in its emergency session on Thursday. In recent weeks, he has set about fundamentally revamping Scotland Yard, as London's Metropolitan Police Service, which also has major counterterrorism duties, is known. The top job at the Met is vacant after its commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, resigned following the "News of the World" phone hacking scandal.

Cameron wanted to appoint legendary American "Super Cop" Bill Bratton as Stephenson's successor. Bratton is regarded as the creator of the zero tolerance strategy and was spectacularly successful in the fight against drug crime and organized gangs in New York and Los Angeles.

Bratton in London -- it would have been an interesting experiment. But the attempt failed. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, didn't want an American to head the British police.

She might yet change her mind. The police are widely expected to resort to tactics that were until now regarded as "un-British." The few officers who are entitled to carry firearms in England will now be issued with rubber bullets to keep the mob in check.

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1. Cameron and the Riots
Inglenda2 08/09/2011
A Peaceful Multicultural society continues to remain a lovely lost dream, as the flames of hate rage through England. Once more we see, how well meant fantasies miscarry when faced with reality. Not only the dreams of many native and migrant citizens die in this blaze, but also the hopes for a better life. Who can now trust his neighbour? Who would be ready to employ such trouble makers? The second World War saw millions who lost their lives and health, in the belief that Europe would be a better place when it ended. How bitterly disappointed they would be were they to see what came after their sacrifice! The wartime slogan "waste not want not" has for generations now been completely ignored, by governments which prefer to play on the stage of international prestige, rather than look at the needs of their own electorate. Europe's doors are being opened to all and sundry, without first the necessary conditions, of personal qualification, secure place of employment and a reasonable place of abode being met. Any constructive criticism of these unsound policies is quickly stifled (quite wrongly), with the false accusation of racial hate. Thereby the difference between, the voluntary understanding among people of various backgrounds, and the forced acceptation of other cultures, could not be better presented than within Europe's current policies. None of us can be held responsible for the country of our birth, the colour of skin, or the religion we learnt during our childhood. These are all influences over which we had no power. But we all can learn to respect the national values held, by the people in the country where we reside, this is possible even if we do not always necessarily agree with them. Respect is the very least that can be rightly be expected by the host. Now once more, in this wave of insane criminal hate, it is the ordinary citizens who must pay the price, while at the same time, the leaders responsible remain sheltered and aloof, behind a wall of bodyguards.
2. s
mae 08/10/2011
Despite all the problems in London, the British have just given 100 million for famine relief in Somali, the suffering in Somalia is currently big news in the civilized world except in the pages of Der Spiegel where it merits one or two articles. Has Germany given anything?
3. Where was Boris Johnson ? none can tell with certainty where he was
Norberto_Tyr 08/10/2011
Where was Boris Johnson ? none can tell with certainty where he was holidaying. The Times omits that interesting piece of information (interesting due to the vagueness) and the Guardian mentions "reportedly in North America".
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