English rioters warn of more to come

truther December 7, 2011 0


An overwhelming majority of people interviewed about their involvement in this summer’s riots believe they will be repeated and one in three said they would take part in any future disorder, a study by the Guardian and the London School of Economics shows.

Of the 270 questioned in the Reading the Riots study, 81% said they believed the disturbances that spread across England in August “would happen again”. Two-thirds predicted there would be more riots before the end of 2014.

Despite more than 4,000 riot-related arrests, and harsher than average sentences in the courts, many of those interviewed said they did not regret their actions.

The research project, which is the only study to involve interviews with hundreds of people who rioted across England, found they were predominantly from the country’s most deprived areas. The downturn in the economy featured heavily in interviews, with many complaining of falling living standards and worsening employment prospects.

The findings come just a week after the chancellor, George Osborne, reduced economic growth forecasts, increased government borrowing and said austerity measures would be extended to 2017. The Office for Budget Responsibility is predicting 710,000 public sector job losses in the next six years.

Those questioned as part of the study were pessimistic about the future, with 29% disagreeing with the statement “life is full of opportunities” – compared with 13% among the population at large. Eighty-five percent said poverty was an “important” or “very important” factor in causing the riots. The general population largely agreed, with 68% saying poverty was a significant cause of the summer unrest.

In the aftermath of the August riots, the prime minister was quick to dismiss the idea that poverty was a factor in the disorder. “These riots were not about poverty,” David Cameron said. “That insults the millions of people who, whatever the hardship, would never dream of making others suffer like this.” However, last week the independent panel Cameron set up to take evidence from victims of the riots concluded that poverty was an important factor.

It found that more than half of those who had appeared in court proceedings relating to the riots had come from the most deprived 20% of areas in Britain. The report added to a growing body of evidence about the poverty and alienation that characterised those who took part in the England riots.

Only 51% of rioters interviewed by the Guardian/LSE said they felt “part of British society” – compared with 92% of the wider population.

Many said they were angry about perceived social and economic injustice, complaining about lack of jobs, benefits cuts and the closure of youth services. Just under half of those interviewed were students, and younger interviewees often expressed frustration over the increase in tuition fees and the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance.

Overall, the rioters questioned had lower levels of educational attainment, with a third of adults educated to GCSE level and one-fifth having no educational qualifications at all. Interviews with rioters typically took place in or near some of England’s most deprived estates.

Government data reveals that two-fifths of the young people who have appeared in court in connection with the riots were receiving free school meals – a key indicator of deprivation. Two-thirds have been identified as having special education needs – a proportion three times higher than for the population as whole.

For many of those not in education, unemployment was the norm among the rioters who were interviewed. They repeatedly complained about their struggle to find work – with some even saying they sought out and looted shops that had rejected their job applications.

Last week it emerged there are now more than a million unemployed young people in the UK. Youth unemployment – defined as the number of 16 to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training – currently stands at 21%.

Fifty-nine percent of the rioters interviewed in the study who were of working age and not in education were unemployed.

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