- Associated Press - Monday, August 15, 2011

LONDON (AP) — Britain must confront its “slow-motion moral collapse,” Prime Minister David Cameron declared Monday, following four days of riots that left five people dead, thousands facing criminal charges and at least 200 million pounds ($326 million) in property losses.

Mr. Cameron said his coalition government would outline new policies designed to tackle a culture of laziness, irresponsibility and selfishness, which he believes fueled Britain’s unrest.

He also pledged to toughen rhetoric from ministers and officials, who he claimed had too often had shied away from promoting strong moral standards.

His government no longer would be timid in discussing family breakdown or poor parenting, or in criticizing those who fail to set a good example to their community.

“This has been a wake-up call for our country. Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face,” Mr. Cameron told an audience at a youth center in Witney, his parliamentary district in southern England.

“Just as people last week wanted criminals robustly confronted on our street, so they want to see these social problems taken on and defeated,” he said.

Mr. Cameron insisted that racial tensions, poverty and the government’s austerity program — much of which is yet to bite — were not the motivations for the riots across London and other major cities.

Criminality and a lack of personal responsibility were at the roots of the disorder, Mr.  Cameron said, pledging that the government would intervene to help 120,000 of the country’s most troubled families before the 2015 national election.

“One of the biggest lessons of these riots is that we’ve got to talk honestly about behavior and then act — because bad behavior has literally arrived on people’s doorsteps. And we can’t shy away from the truth anymore,” he said.

Standing before a backdrop of graffiti, Mr. Cameron said Britain’s damaged society for too long has been one that “incites laziness, that excuses bad behavior, that erodes self-discipline, that discourages hard work.”

Amid recklessness by bankers, the lawmakers’ expense-check scandal, and media phone-hacking saga, the leader also acknowledged that all sectors of society had a share of the blame.

“Moral decline and bad behavior is not limited to a few of the poorest parts of our society. In the highest offices, the plushest boardrooms, the most influential jobs, we need to think about the example we are setting,” Mr. Cameron said.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Monday that he already was examining whether those involved in the riots should have their welfare payments cut. Mr. Cameron has said those in government-subsidized homes could be evicted.

In a rival speech, main opposition Labor Party leader Ed Miliband criticized Mr. Cameron’s plans and demanded that lawmakers focus less on blame and more on delivering better opportunities for young people.

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