Read the full text of Cameron's speech here
Cameron’s speech was effectively yet another relaunch of the ‘big society’ agenda. Speaking in Oxfordshire this morning he was determined and clear, with focusing primarily on responsibility. The riots across the country last week were placed in a wider context of social ill; young people were painted as angry and alienated, and the causes of this, according to Cameron, were numerous. He referenced schools, families, gangs, popular culture and the welfare system as factors that caused the behaviour seen last week, and promised action in all of these areas and more with an urgent review of all government policies to be conducted in the coming weeks.
Any excuses that might be offered in defence of the rioters were discounted when Cameron restated that the action was “pure criminality”. There was a complete absence of a moral code in these young people, Cameron said, and he knew why. According to the prime minister, politicians and the public alike have been too scared for too long to talk about the issues that matter; family values are ignored for fear of upsetting single mums, the welfare system is avoided in case politicians are branded middle class. Tackling these thorny issue areas, introducing tougher discipline and values, and ensuring that no area is off-limits is Cameron’s solution to fixing broken Britain.
In a way, Cameron seemed glad to have an excuse to use strong rhetoric and address those areas that previously would have branded him a Thatcherite throw-back. As with his statement to Parliament Cameron’s promises to get tough on welfare, instil strong discipline in schools and increase the value placed on the family unit were classically conservative. More than this though, the way that the prime spoke came across as a personal mission, something he was determined to address, and there was nothing that could stop him.
The riots therefore seem to have (in a phrase he used himself) put a rocket-booster up Cameron and his mission for the UK. The much heralded ‘big society’ agenda that seemed largely forgotten post-election has been granted a new lease of life, with super-man Cameron the one to lead the charge against those who embody broken Britain. Looters, watch out.