London's 'terrifying' riots: Can David Cameron restore order?

The British prime minister comes home early from his vacation, after days of violent rioting sparked by a police shooting

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with an officer in south London: Riots that began on Saturday are still raging across the city.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/pool)

As rioting, looting, and torching of buildings spread from London to Liverpool and other British cities, Prime Minister David Cameron cut short an Italian vacation to take charge of the "terrifying" situation. The damage is already in the tens of millions of dollars, and one person has died from gunshot wounds. The riots started in the poor, minority-heavy London neighborhood of Tottenham on Saturday, after peaceful protests against the Aug. 6 police slaying of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, who is black, turned violent. Cameron recalled Parliament to session and ordered 16,000 police to the streets of London. Can he stanch Britain's worst rioting in decades?

Cameron needs to step up the use of force: If Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson want to stop this deplorable rampage of "brutal thugs," says Niles Gardiner in Britain's Telegraph, they need to treat it like the crime spree it is. That means backing the police to the hilt and giving them every resource available to "hunt down these violent hoodlums," lock them away, and "make an immediate example of them" by punishing them to the fullest extent of the law.

"How long before the shameless Left starts blaming the Conservatives....?"

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The prime minister may have brought this upon himself: Let's look at the bigger picture, says Nina Power in Britain's Guardian. These riots are just the most violent in a chain of protests that have roiled Britain since Cameron's government gambled that its divisive, "brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures" wouldn't lead to "mass unrest." Well, if the burning cars and torched buildings are any indication, Team Cameron bet wrong, and is about to "enter a sustained and serious losing streak."

"There is a context to London's riots that can't be ignored"

All Cameron can do now is show up and hope: The prime minister doesn't have a lot of options, says Kiran Stacey in Britain's Financial Times. Of course, Britons expect their leader to try to tackle grave situations, and not be vacationing in Italy as London burns. But now that Cameron is back, "I certainly don't imagine his words will have the magic effect on rioters," as some think. And if the riots don't end soon, this will be "a much more serious situation for the government than phone hacking."

"Why David Cameron had to return home"

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