He briefly recounted the events of the last week, which
began when a 29-year-old black man was killed by police in Tottenham last
Thursday during an ongoing police operation to crack down on gun use and gang
violence. The police said the man had fired on police, which turned out to be
The killing led to peaceful political protests, but by Saturday
these had degenerated into marauding and looting. (One of the best looks at the
face of the looters was an article in the New
York Times on Thursday, "London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled,
Unemployed Youths in Britain," by Landon Thomas, Jr.)
Already, some 1,500 individuals have been arrested, many
after their faces were caught by CCTV. There are some 4 million CCTV cameras
throughout the country, or one for every 14 residences, making Britain the most
monitored society in the world, surpassing even Singapore.
Questions have been raised whether the publication of the
CCTV images, as a kind of "wanted" posters, violated Europe's human
rights act. Cameron was adamant that the pictures would continue to be
broadcast: "No phony human rights
concerns about publishing photographs will get in the way of bringing these
criminals to justice."
In his opening statement, Labor leader Ed Milliband commended the prime minister. His
criticisms focused on the government's planned budget cuts, particularly a planned
six percent cut in police budgets. Cameron said the cuts would not affect
Milliband also called for a commission of inquiry to look into the underlying causes of the
violence -- though he was quick to add, "to seek to explain is not to seek
to excuse." Cameron rejected this as not necessary at this time.
After Milliband finished, Cameron stood at the lectern as members of parliament threw questions at him, many of them quite pointed. A Conservative member called on the prime minister to repeal the "insidious human rights legislation." Another member,
referring to Washington's round up of demonstrators against the Vietnam War,
suggested holding rioters here in the sports stadium at Wembley. Mr. Cameron
From Conservatives also came calls for the police to use tear gas, plastic bullets, and water
Most questions from Labor concerned budget cuts. There was a noticeable lack of any concern that any of the tougher measures announced by Cameron would infringe on human
rights. One Labor member even called for more CCTV cameras in her district.
The session lasted more than two hours. Then the country's top economic official, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, addressed the parliament about the world's