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David Cameron and the London Riots

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Takes a Hit

Courtesy Reuters

The riots that caused five deaths and millions of dollars in damage in London and several other English cities earlier this month will prove a test for British Prime Minister David Cameron and his one-and-a-half-year-old Conservative-Liberal Democratic administration.

At the start of the summer, Cameron's economic policy was already on shaky ground. In mid-2010, his coalition government had enacted austerity measures aimed at eliminating Britain's budget deficit -- currently more than 150 billion pounds (roughly $248 billion) -- within five years. It introduced a plan to cut public spending by 81 billion pounds ($134 billion) over four years, leading to sharp reductions in welfare benefits and social services in Britain's poorest neighborhoods. The cuts affected social housing benefits, particularly in high-cost London, and policing, with an estimated reduction of 16,000 officers across the country. It is no surprise that most of August's riots took place in areas with high poverty, unemployment, and dependency on welfare,

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