Tottenham riots: the morning after

A shocking night of anger, violence and looting on the streets of north London.

From the BBC website:

Emergency crews remain on the streets of Tottenham, in north London, after rioting saw police attacked and buildings and vehicles set alight.

Overnight, eight officers were injured in the violence which erupted following a protest over the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan on Thursday.

Police said there were still "pockets of criminality" on Sunday morning and residents reported more looting.

The Guardian's award-winning Paul Lewis was on the ground in Tottenham last night and filed a report in which he wrote:

Looters turned up with cars and shopping trolleys to carry away stolen goods. Nearby, large groups of youths congregated in the surrounding streets with sticks, bottles and hammers.

Some wore balaclava masks, preventing cars from accessing streets as buildings were broken into. Others used large rubbish bins to form burning barricades across the road.

However some of most dramatic looting took place further west, in Wood Green, and continued into the early hours of the morning.


. . .there was still no police presence at Wood Green high street at 4am, even after dozens of stores had been smashed and raided, setting of multiple alarms.

Around 100 youths sprinted around the highstreet, targeting game shops, electrical stores and high-street clothe chains such as H & M.

Glass windows were smashed and the looters, mostly young men masking their faces, swarmed in.

They emerged with handfuls of stolen goods. "I've got loads of G-Star," said one teenager, emerging from a clothes shop. Others came out clasping shopping bags stuffed with goods.

Three teenagers ran down the street with suitcases filled with stolen clothes. Around ten young men stood outside a smouldering Carphone Warehouse, the windows smashed. The theft was casual and brazen, with looters peering into broken shop windows to see if items of value remained.

There were shocking scenes in the suburban back-streets, where residential front-gardens were used to frantically sort and swap stolen goods.

A teenage boy, who looked aged around 14, drove an stolen minicab erratically down a side-street. On the adjacent street, a man who emerged from his home to find his car burnt-out remonstrated with other young men, who ran past carrying clothes.

Passersby, including people returning home in the early hours from nights out, were stunned to discover the lawless mayhem on the streets.

Official Responses

A Downing Street spokesman said:

The rioting in Tottenham last night was utterly unacceptable. There is no justification for the aggression the police and the public faced, or for the damage to property.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

I condemn utterly the violence in Tottenham last night.Such disregard for public safety and property will not be tolerated, and the Metropolitan Police have my full support in restoring order.

David Lammy, the local Labour MP, said:

The Tottenham community and Mark Duggan's family and friends need to understand what happened on Thursday evening when Mark lost his life. To understand those facts, we must have calm.

Kit Malthouse, London's deputy mayor, said:

I cant see any excuse for the kind of behaviour we saw last night. It's absolutely outrageous to see it on the streets of London.

Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne, of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said:

I understand the distress that the shooting of Mark Duggan has caused to his family and in the community and that people need answers about what happened to him.

And a local resident, examining the gutted interiors of a betting shop and post office, remarked:

They are shells, it's like the Blitz.

Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.