Leading article: An unedifying blame game

As ministers and police chiefs try to paper over their differences over the handling of the riots, motes and beams come to mind. Each side has blamed the other for slowness to react, while insisting that its initiative was crucial to restoring order. Both exaggerate the fault and the credit.

It is disingenuous for the police to insist that they went on to the offensive all of their own accord, while chiding ministers with their absence. The original misjudgements are theirs; when a man was shot dead during a police operation in a sensitive part of the capital, they failed to anticipate the likely aftermath. When riots erupted, they seemed ill-prepared. Ministers, and the mayor of London, for their part were slow to appreciate the gravity of what was happening, not least because so many were on holiday at the same time. Police ranks may have been depleted for the same reason. Once back, ministers went overboard to show they were in charge.

A blame-game between politicians and police over what went wrong is as unedifying as it is futile. Each side needs to examine why its initial response left so much to be desired and work out how to avoid a repetition.