LONDON (AP) — Former Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday rejected the British government's claim that this month's riots were caused by the country's moral decline, and said talk of "broken Britain" would unfairly tarnish the nation's reputation.
Prime Minister David Cameron has blamed Britain's "slow-motion moral collapse" for the riots which raged for four nights in London and other English cities.
Blair wrote in The Observer newspaper that the violence was not caused by social rot, but by "alienated, disaffected youth," who are found in most developed nations.
"The key is to understand that they aren't symptomatic of society at large," Blair wrote, adding that "Britain as a whole is not in the grip of some general 'moral decline.'
"The truth is that many of these people are from families that are profoundly dysfunctional, operating on completely different terms from the rest of society, either middle class or poor."
He said the only way to start finding a proper solution was to focus on the specific problem.
"Elevate this into a high falutin' wail about a Britain that has lost its way morally and we will depress ourselves unnecessarily, trash our own reputation abroad, and worst of all, miss the chance to deal with the problem in the only way that will work."
Blair left office in 2007 and rarely comments on domestic politics.
The riots, triggered by a fatal police shooting in north London's Tottenham area on Aug. 4, were the worst civil disturbances to hit Britain since the 1980s, and left a trail of looted stores, torched cars and burned-out buildings in many areas. Five people died in the violence, including three men run down by a car as they protected stores from looters in England's second city, Birmingham.
As politicians debate the causes of the mayhem, British authorities have promised harsh punishment for the rioters.
Police in London said Sunday that they have recorded almost 3,300 separate offenses connected to the riots, including 1,100 burglaries and 400 cases of criminal damage.
More than 1,300 people have been charged nationwide.