Theresa May would not speculate on the cause of the riots whilst giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee today but she did throw her full support in front of David Cameron, in a marked contrast to Boris’ evidence on Tuesday.
It may be wrong to call the riots a product of ‘feral youth’, but ‘it was criminality that was taking place on our streets’ during the riots, according to May. Beyond this statement she was reluctant to speculate on the causes of the riots, stating that it was wrong to do so when arrests were still taking place. Whether this was actually why she would not discuss the cause of the riots, or whether it was actually because the government itself have not yet made their minds up themselves about the cause was impossible to tell. May’s constant batting away of cause related questions would suggest the latter.
May would not accept that the shooting of Mark Duggan was definitely the trigger for the riots, although she did strongly allude to the role of gangs. It emerged that May would be hosting an international conference on gangs in October, in order to see how other countries were dealing with gang violence.
Aside from speculation on the cause of the riots it was interesting to note the clear difference in the tone of May’s evidence, which was fully in support of the government, and Boris Johnson’s evidence on Monday. Boris often disagreed with the government, and particularly David Cameron himself.
In contrast May defended how the government had dealt with the riots. When asked about Cameron’s criticism of the police in dealing with the riots May said that it was ‘absolutely right’ that the government should make the public’s view on the situation known.
The splits between the government and the Mayor were played upon by Chairman Keith Vaz, who was perhaps overly keen to know who would make the final decision on who the new Met Commissioner would be, and when the announcement would be made.
He continuously pressured May into revealing who would make the final decision; herself or the Mayor. May stood her ground and would not be forced into saying that she would overrule Boris if necessary, as Vaz appeared to want her to.
Boris had said that the decision would be announced on Monday, whereas May said this was not necessarily true. Vaz appeared to probe this discrepancy in a way which alluded to a split between the Mayor and the government, whilst May insisted that it was simply a matter of timing.
It is clear that there has been a marked difference in the government’s and the Mayor’s response to the riots. The appointment of the new Met Commissioner will perhaps give more indication on how deep the split runs.