Riots damage UK reputation

Elizabeth Fournier
RIOTING gave way to recrimination in the capital yesterday, with the first wave of alleged troublemakers appearing in court.

Among them were teaching assistant Alexis Bailey; Laura Johnson, the grammar school educated daughter of a rich businessman and an 11-year-old child.

While violence was largely contained across London, fresh clashes broke out in Eltham, where bottles were thrown at police.

Tensions also rose in other major cities, particularly in Birmingham, where recriminations were feared over the killing of three Asian men by suspected looters.

Meanwhile, shadow business secretary and MP for Streatham, Chuka Umunna, said yesterday he was “incredibly concerned” by the economic cost of the disruption to the UK’s business sector during the riots.

“A large proportion of GDP in the UK comes from spending and consumption,” said Umunna. “With shops shutting ... and businesses not able to operate that will have been massively dented, which is going to have a large effect on the overall economy.” Several banks said they have introduced emergency measures to help business customers recover as quickly as possible.

Though no firm estimates have been made of the total cost to UK plc of the riots, insurance companies are expecting to receive claims in the “tens of millions,” according to the Association of British Insurers.

Eighty-three per cent of London businesses believe that riots have damaged the capital’s reputation as a place to do business, with many still worried that unrest could have an effect on their operations.

According to a ComRes poll for the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), a quarter of London firms say they have been affected by violence and looting in the city over the past five days, while almost half (48 per cent) remain concerned that riots could still spread to their area.

“This could not have come at a worse time for London’s business community,” said LCCI chief executive Colin Stanbridge. “At the peak of the tourist season and with only a year to go until the London 2012 Games, this really isn’t the image we want to present to the world.”