David Cameron clearly felt something extra was needed this morning to reassure Londoners and the British wider public that they would be safe in the wake of last night’s riots.
Having flown home early from holiday in Italy, the prime minister has just given a press conference outside Downing Street and did his best to sound tough and in charge, without actually giving us much of an idea what the police can do to stop a fourth consecutive night of violence.
The main tactic will be a major increase in the number of police on the streets, from around 6,000 to 16,000. That will help, but lots of those will come from outside London, so won’t know the cities as well as the locals they are facing. In addition, nobody quite knows in which boroughs violence is likely to flare next.
Cameron also said: “We need more robust policing.” This suggested enhanced police powers, but there were no details as to what that could mean. Theresa May, the home secretary, was earlier reluctant to advocate using water cannon. The civil emergencies committee, Cobra, is about to meet. Presumably police powers will be top of the agenda.
The other new development, as Jim wrote earlier, is that parliament will be recalled for a day on Thursday to discuss the riots. This is the second time this summer parliament has been recalled, and like with the phone hacking debate, is more likely to give MPs a chance to posture than offer any new solutions.
But the main priority for Cameron this morning was to strike the right tone, especially with May facing criticism for her response so far. He tried to do this with some tough sounding words:
But the real test will come tonight. Does the PM really have any new ideas about how the police can stop another night of looting and burning?