Austerity and the roots of Britain’s turmoil

Britain Riot

“There’s going to be riots, there’ll be riots.” Less than a week before a police shooting in the North London neighbourhood of Tottenham triggered the worst social unrest to hit Britain in decades, these were the words of a young man predicting the effect of youth club closures on his community. While the wanton violence and destruction still occurring in London and other places within Britain has shocked the world, it has not been as much of a surprise to many UK residents who have been warning of growing anger and alienation within British society, especially among youth.

While the rioters have come from backgrounds which cut across lines of race and social status, in the broadest sense what most of them have in common is that they are young men from economically deprived parts of the country. While many individuals have rightly pointed out that much of the violence appears borne of opportunistic criminality, this does not address the observable correlation between lack of economic opportunity, cuts to social services and the attraction of engaging in these types of destructive behaviours. Not only does Britain have one of the highest violent crime rates in the European Union, its unemployment rate for those between the ages of 16-24 currently stands at 18%. As Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor at the University of Nottingham, explained to Forbes:

“There’s income inequality, extremely high levels of unemployment between 16 and 24-year-olds and huge parts of this population not in education or training…there’s a general malaise amongst a particular generation.”

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