Riots could happen again, warns Tottenham MP

  • @NigelpMorris

The MP for Tottenham, where rioting triggered this summer's eruption of looting in English cities, has warned that conditions are ripe for trouble to break out again next year.

David Lammy said joblessness, poverty and poor housing allied to a lack of male role models, crumbling community links and simple greed had combined with "toxic" results in his constituency four months ago. He said that the deep-seated social and economic problems facing inner-city areas could get worse and called for a fresh effort to reach out to disaffected young people.

In an interview with The Independent, he said: "We need politicians of all political parties to attend to these issues or it could happen again." He said this year's mayhem differed from the violence that hit Tottenham in 1985 in that it was not a race riot. "What we saw in 2011 was not just a battle against the police: it was a battle within and across community," he said.

But Mr Lammy, who grew up in Tottenham, added there were also chilling parallels between the disturbances. "For any area to have two riots in a generation is a catastrophe," he said. "It is with tremendous sadness that 25 years later you see some of those individuals' children caught up in these disturbances."

Mr Lammy also disclosed that he considered challenging Ken Livingstone to become Labour's candidate in next year's elections for the London mayoralty. "I did think about it, but in the end my community needs me," he said.

Despite his eight years as a minister, he also turned down a place on Ed Miliband's front bench. The reason, he said, was he wanted to focus on writing a book detailing the pressures building in his constituency. The violence on Tottenham High Road and its rapid spread meant the book, Out of the Ashes, had to be rapidly rewritten.

Mr Lammy said there were legitimate criticisms of the police over the shooting of Mark Duggan, which sparked the trouble, and over officers' slow response. But he added: "The rioting was not just about police numbers – it was about selfishness and greed... [The rioters] were helping themselves to Xboxes and DVD recorders – that had nothing to do with Mark Duggan."

He said the young rioters had grown up in "hyper-individualised times" where they felt entitlement to consumer goods, but little responsibility to fellow citizens. He said: "We have to ask why so many people felt they didn't have a sufficient stake in society."