We can expect politicians of all parties to avoid the real reasons behind the weekend's violence in London.

By Alex Stevenson

You might think politicians' strangely sluggish response to the rioting was because half of them are on holiday. In fact, their motivation is more problematic than that.

MPs began by being condemnatory, articulating the average families’ breakfast table opinions on the national stage. The youths engaged in the looting and vandalism were doing so purely out of opportunism. They're criminals, pure and simple.

Of course they are. But simply stating so deflects attention from the bigger issues which are now in play, whether those in power like it or not. This violence isn't happening in a vacuum.

A big part of politicians' sluggish response is that they're scared. Scared that by trying to explain the violence, they risk being seen as attempting to excuse it.

Some awkward, heavy-handed attempts have already been made. Chris Williamson, the Labour backbencher for Derby North, tweeted: "Why is it the Tories never take responsibility for the consequences of their party's disastrous policies?"

He appeared to be suggesting the coalition's policies were responsible, prompting a furious online backlash from some right-wing quarters.

Playing politics with something as big as this doesn't quite work. The coalition has only been in power for slightly more than a year. We need to look to a broader perspective to understand this.

Claudia Webbe offered an attempt to sum up the bigger issues in play this morning. She's the chair of the Metropolitan police's Independent Advisory Group for Operation Trident, which tackles gun crime in London's black community.

She told the Today programme: "It appeared to me that those who were attacking the police directly… and seeking to attack anything they sought to regard as an institution were venting out issues to do with issues of inequality, decades of generational unemployment, poverty, stop and search – being over-policed if you like. That quickly disappeared into a thuggish, violent criminality that we have to condemn."

A lot more complex than just blaming the government, in short.

Her interpretation offers three distinct phases. The peaceful vigil; targeted anger against authority; and then, in the febrile atmosphere this created, a rapid escalation towards the mindless disorder of opportunism.

Choosing to condemn the latter, while ignoring that critical middle stage, just doesn't get to the heart of the matter.

Britain is not the country it was just a few years ago. At a fundamental level, the state has been weakened. Confidence in its guardians – the politicians, the police and the press – has been eroded, most notably by the expenses and phone-hacking scandals. First recession and then an uncertain recovery haven't helped. Finally, dissent against the coalition's bold austerity agenda is creating a culture of gung-ho anarchy. The bonds of law and order, and the social ties on which its maintenance rests, are weaker in Britain today.

There is a chance politicians will ignore the opportunity to address this problem. It is not in the interests of any of the main parties for this to be assessed. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, in government, will want to downplay any such negative talk. Labour, who have spent 13 of the last 14 years in power, are as culpable – if not more so – in the deep-set social problems underpinning the violence.

Those who attempt to offer an explanation risk being shouted down. They shouldn't be deterred from issuing warnings about Britain's fragility.

In 2007, then leader of the opposition David Cameron famously claimed Britain was "broken". That wasn't true then. Nor is it now. But as events like those this weekend show, we're getting there.

It's critical that Britain takes a long hard look at itself and seeks to work out how these setbacks can be reversed. Confronting the scale of the problem we face would be a good place to start. What a shame, therefore, that politicians will be doing everything they can to ignore this burgeoning crisis.

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