Nigel Morris: Cameron's response raises doubts over his competence

 

Share
Related Topics

The pictures of blazing buildings in Tottenham, Hackney, Croydon and Ealing look likely to become the defining images of David Cameron's early days in Downing Street.

Now he faces a massive test of his leadership qualities as the Government and police attempt to bring the lawlessness under control. If the violence continues, Mr Cameron's reputation will suffer a blow from which it could be impossible to recover.

Mr Cameron always knew he would have to push through spending cuts, attempt to rebuild the economy and cope with opposition to widespread job losses.

For all his warnings about "broken Britain", what he could not have prepared for is the biggest wave of criminality in living memory – just as the police service faces swingeing cuts.

In the first 48 hours of the crisis, the Prime Minister appeared behind the curve, despite Downing Street's insistence that he was being updated hourly in Tuscany.

As late as 8pm on Monday night, No 10 was arguing that there was no need from him to return. By that time trouble had broken out in Hackney and Lewisham and shops across the capital, from Barnet to Croydon, were closing early in anticipation of violence.

There was an air of panic as Mr Cameron was finally scrambled yesterday on to a military aircraft back to Britain and a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee.

He decided to throw resources at the problem – more than doubling the capital's police presence. It was a move that would have been welcomed 12 hours earlier in areas such as Clapham, Woolwich and East Dulwich, where looters went unchallenged much of the night.

He will hope that the sheer force of police numbers will ensure the disturbances are short-lived.

The Home Secretary Theresa May also faces her first severe challenge. She has been praised for her cool efficiency, but seemed rattled and defensive in interviews yesterday. If their attempt to get a grip on the emergency succeeds, the questions will turn to the causes of the violence, with the Tory Right pressing for tougher punishment of the law-breakers. If they fail, Mr Cameron will face searching questions over his competence.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there