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Riots : Boris Johnson Says Violence 'A Massive Own Goal' For Authorities

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The Mayor of London has described the rioting which has swept England over the past five days as "a massive own goal" for the authorities.

Speaking on Today on Radio 4, Boris Johnson said: "When you look at what happened on Saturday night... you've got to ask yourself, 'Could the police have gone in harder'... and let's face it... what happened in our city and our country has been a massive own-goal."

Without being prompted, he also suggested the cuts to the police budgets in England and Wales had to be reconsidered in light of the rioting. He told Today: "If you ask me whether you think there is a case for cutting police budgets, my answer to that would be no. The case was always pretty frail and now it's been substantially weakened."

His comments place him in direct opposition with the policies of the national coalition government.

He went on: "Even though we've been able to boost numbers in London, I think it would be good if the government had another look."

The police budget in England and Wales is being cut by 4% this year and 5% next year. The cuts have caused a serious breakdown in relations between rank-and-file officers and the Home Office. Police Federation officials issued repeated warnings earlier this year that the cuts would increase the chances of unrest. These claims were rejected by the home secretary, Theresa May.

Boris Johnson rejected claims that rioters in London had 'gone to ground' and would evade the law. He says the operation to catch them will continue. He said the root causes of the riots were complicated and had developed over many years.

He said: "Over 20 or 30 years we have got into a situation where young people have a massive sense of entitlement...there is an absence of boundaries and an absence of respect. Give adults and give teachers the right to impose authority. Parents feel apprehensive that if they impose any kind of discipline they will fall foul of the authorities."

However he rejected any suggestion that the cane or other forms of corporal punishment should be restored.

Responding to Johnson's comments, Labour's candidate for London Mayor next year, Ken Livingstone, said: "Johnson's budget of 2010/11, published in 2009, first proposed a cut of 455 police - before Cameron was elected. This was so damaging that he since sought to argue that there are no police cuts in London.

"Just a few weeks ago Boris Johnson's Campaign Director Lynton Crosby sent an email saying that on police, 'we are heading in the right direction.' His deputy mayor for policing Kit Malthouse last month called the HMIC estimate of police officer cuts 'cobblers'. Johnson and his team have both carried out cuts and denied they are happening."

In a statement released on Wednesday morning the Home Office said: “The urgent action to reduce our budget deficit is clear from events across the world right now, reductions in the police budget for the spending review period are manageable.

“The Police will still have the resources to do their important work at the end of the spending review period. The police will still have enough officers to deploy in the kind of numbers seen in the past couple of days.”