LONDON – Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to address the “moral collapse” that led to widespread looting and violence across English cities last week.
In a speech to his Oxford constituency today, the prime minister outlined plans for a shake-up of social policy as he seeks to assure that he can “take on and defeat” the nation’s social problems.
He has pledged to “review every aspect of our work to mend our broken society, on schools, welfare, families, parenting, addiction, communities, on the cultural, legal, bureaucratic problems in our society; from the twisting and misrepresenting of human rights that has undermined personal responsibility, to the obsession with health and safety that has eroded people’s willingness to act according to common sense.”
The government has already promised to crack down on the criminal gangs blamed for last week’s looting spree.
Rejecting the Labour’s call for an inquiry into the violence, Cameron said: “We know what’s gone wrong.”
"These riots were not about race," he said. "These riots were not about government cuts ... And these riots were not about poverty."
"No, this was about behavior ... people showing indifference to right and wrong; people with a twisted moral code; people with a complete absence of self-restraint."
The prime minister acknowledged that some may dismiss his comments as a lecture from a politician. But he noted that “politicians shying away from speaking the truth about behavior, about morality” has “actually helped to cause the social problems we see around us.”
“We have been too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong. We have too often avoided saying what needs to be said – about everything from marriage to welfare to common courtesy,” he said.
He listed irresponsibility, selfishness, fatherless children, reward without effort, crime without punishment and behaving as if one’s choices have consequences as some of the problems contributing to a “slow-motion moral collapse.”
“What last week has shown is that this moral neutrality, this relativism – it’s not going to cut it anymore,” he stressed.
“[B]ad behavior has literally arrived on people’s doorsteps. And we can’t shy away from the truth anymore.”
He called the riots a wake-up call for the country and called for “the restoration of responsibility.”
“Now, just as people wanted criminals robustly confronted on our street, so they want to see these problems taken on and defeated,” Cameron said. “Our security fightback must be matched by a social fightback.”
And the “social fightback” starts with families. “[I]f we want to have any hope of mending our broken society, family and parenting is where we’ve got to start.”
“We are all in this together, and we will mend our broken society – together.”
More than 2,800 people have been arrested and 1,300 charged following the disorder.
Courts sat through the night last week and there were unprecedented hearings on Sunday to deal with the volume of cases.
In Birmingham, around 2,000 people took part in a peace rally yesterday in memory of three men run down and killed by a car as they protected their property. Three men have been charged over the murders.
On Sunday, churches across Britain joined in praying for the restoration of the nation. Individual Christians and organizations like Youth for Christ have been part of the response in affected communities, helping to clear up the mess and providing practical assistance to victims.
In London, hundreds gathered at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster for a prayer vigil on Saturday organized by Premier Christian Radio.
“We need to see Christians uniting to pray for peace and an end to the turmoil,” said Premier's chief executive, Peter Kerridge. “And, with young people bearing the brunt of the media wrath, we also want to send a message of hope to our youth.”