That’s what Joseph Harker argues.
Over the last three decades we’ve allowed ourselves to be fooled that, with greater integration, plus a few black faces in sport and entertainment, things have improved. People gush about the growing mixed-race population, supposedly Britain’s “beautiful” future. Well, Mark Duggan had a white parent but it didn’t make much difference to his prospects.
Today, Cameron could stick to his comfort zone, talking of tough action against gangs and social media, of punishing offenders and welfare spongers. This is destined to fail: as in Iran or Syria, a crackdown won’t solve the problem. It will just bring more people into conflict with the law, seeing officers as the enemy. Once that happens, the impact on communities can be devastating.
So no, this is not 1981. In many ways it’s worse. Those riots were in their own way aspirational – people thought things could get better. This time all the indicators seem to be pointing downwards.