London riots 10 years on: Risk of unrest higher than ever, says Labour

Fire fighters attempt to put out a blaze in a building in Tottenham, north London as trouble flares (PA)
Fire fighters attempt to put out a blaze in a building in Tottenham, north London as trouble flares (PA)

A decade after the London riots wreaked destruction across the capital the risk of further unrest is “higher than ever”, a London MP warned today.

Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, made the comments as he unveiled a Labour Party report, ahead of the ten year anniversary of the riots on Friday, that found the social and economic conditions affecting communities identified at the time are “worse” now than they were in 2011.

He also claimed Boris Johnson had done “absolutely nothing” as Prime Minister to ensure recommendations of the original panel into causes of the violence were delivered.

Mr Johnson, who was Mayor of London at the time, was forced to return home from holiday before being booed on a visit to Clapham Junction which saw some of the worst rioting.

In an interview with the Standard, shadow communities secretary Mr Reed said: “You can’t talk in terms of ‘there will be riots, there won’t be riots’. All you can talk about is risk.

“What’s happened is that in the 10 years since the riots, since Tottenham and Croydon went up in flames and people lost their homes and their businesses, that risk has got bigger.”

His report, Ten Years After the Riots, says that as many as one million “forgotten families” are out of reach of support – double the number of a decade ago.

Steve Reed (PA)
Steve Reed (PA)

In 2011 the Riots, Victims and Communities Panel led by Darra Singh investigated the causes of the violence and highlighted “forgotten families” where many of the young people involved in the riots came from.

Mr Reed, who was the leader of Lambeth Council at the time of the riots, added: “I see this report as an alarm bell that we can’t afford to ignore.

“If we want to make sure we don’t see the rising levels of youth violence that we’ve seen over recent years, then we really need to provide support to the families that are struggling to bring their children up safely, so that those kids get the same decent chance of the good life that we expect for our children.”

The Labour report argues that many of the original panel’s key recommendations have still not been delivered with cuts to youth services and in-work poverty worsening since the riots.

Youths throw objects at riot police during the first night of the summer riots, in Tottenham, London. (PA)
Youths throw objects at riot police during the first night of the summer riots, in Tottenham, London. (PA)

Coupled with this, the report points out reoffending rates have remained at nearly the same high rate and public confidence in the police has dipped.

Mr Reed added: “The Government chose to ignore the lessons of the riots, so the risks we face today seem higher than ever.”

Days of arson attacks, looting and rioting were sparked by the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan in Tottenham Hale.

MP for Tottenham David Lammy said: “I will never forget walking up Tottenham High Road on the Sunday morning after the riots started 10 years ago.

“Cars were burnt out, shop windows were smashed in and the peaceful majority of residents were left consoling each other after a night of chaos.

“Boris Johnson was later heckled in Clapham for his failure of leadership.

“Those who caused this destruction across the country hold responsibility for their actions. However, it is very worrying that the government has ignored the lessons of the riots by cutting police forces, savaging youth service budgets and leaving us all vulnerable to the risk of this havoc repeating itself.”

A government spokesman said: “The events of August 2011 shocked the country, and the police and courts took commendably swift action to bring perpetrators to justice.

“We’re strengthening communities by levelling up opportunities and ensuring local people are at the heart of decision making - identifying what matters to them and the best ways to achieve this.

“We’ve allocated £12bn to councils since the start of the pandemic, with over £6bn not ringfenced in recognition that councils are best placed to decide on local needs.”

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