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Cameron vows to confront 'moral collapse'

British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a broad review of government polices to reverse what he called the "slow motion moral collapse" of British society, which he blames for last week's riots.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (center) meets with senior officers from the police, fire and ambulance services in Wolverhampton

The riots are a wake-up call, the prime minister said

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday announced a broad review of government polices to reverse what he called the "slow motion moral collapse" of British society, which he said was behind last week's riots in London and other major British cities.

Cameron's comments came as England struggled to respond to its worst civil disorder in decades. "This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face," said Cameron in a speech delivered in his affluent Witney constituency in central England.

In the past week, the Conservative premier has boosted police numbers in London in an effort to prevent further violence and rioting. More than 2,300 people have been detained across England.

Cameron said, however, that the "security fightback must be matched by a social fightback."

"Do we have the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations?" he asked.

Opposition challenge

In a rival speech on Monday, opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband accused the prime minister of proposing "knee-jerk gimmicks."

Miliband said the government had to help young people who felt they would face tougher lives than their parents or grandparents.

"Are issues like education and skills, youth services, youth unemployment, important for diverting people away from gangs, criminality, the wrong path? Yes. They matter," Miliband said in a speech at the London state school where he was educated.

Miliband blamed the riots on a "values crisis" across society. He said a lack of morality was not confined to a "feral underclass" but had also been displayed by risk-taking bankers, lawmakers who fiddled expenses claims and newspaper reporters who hacked into phones for stories.

"When we talk about the sick behavior of those without power, let's also talk about the sick behavior of those with it," he said.

Crackdown on gang culture

 A building burns as a riot police officer watches in Croydon, south London

There was widespread damage to cars, homes and businesses

Last week's four-day frenzy of looting, arson and violence left dozens of homes, cars and businesses gutted by fire and five people dead.

A day after controversially hiring US "supercop" Bill Bratton, who tackled gang violence in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, to advise the government, Cameron said there should be a "concerted, all-out war on gangs and gang culture."

"Stamping out these gangs is a new national priority," said Cameron, describing them as "a major criminal disease that has infected streets and estates across our country."

Harsher measures to come

The prime minister said Britain would use its current chairmanship of the Council of Europe to try to push through changes to the European Convention on Human Rights, saying it had "undermined personal responsibility."

The government is also reportedly considering the cancellation of benefits for people convicted of involvement in the riots and the reintroduction of compulsory military service. Cameron added that he was planning to introduce a program of "National Citizen Service" to get 16-year-olds to carry out voluntary work.

Britain's top police officers and the opposition Labour Party have called on the government to reverse plans to cut police budgets, saying the riots showed the need to maintain police numbers.

Author: Gregg Benzow, Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel

DW.DE