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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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

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