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London riots strain police force. Have spending cuts played a role in unrest?

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As police have struggled to contain the violence, Britain's conservative Tory government has come under fire for leaving the country vulnerable to such violence in the first place.

“The economic stagnation and cuts being imposed by the Tory government inevitably create social division," said former London mayor Ken Livingstone, blaming the government's austerity measures. "As when Margaret Thatcher imposed such policies during her recessions, this creates the threat of people losing control, acting in completely unacceptable ways that threaten everyone, and culminating in events of the type we saw in Tottenham.

“Tories will issue knee-jerk statements demanding support for the police but they are actually cutting the police," he added. "That amounts to pure hypocrisy.”

However Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics, played down police budget cuts or recent resignations at the top of the Metropolitan Police – including commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson in the wake of the Murdoch phone-hacking scandal – as factors.

He said: “There are still very able senior officers at the Met who are more than capable of dealing with disturbances like the weekend but perhaps on this occasion intelligence wasn’t what it could have been.

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