Reuters Editor Chrystia Freeland Blames David Cameron's 'Really Radical Austerity Program' for UK Riots

As rioters in England set buildings aflame, hurl stones into local shops, and rip flat screen TVs off of store walls, Reuters editor-at-large Chrystia Freeland viewed Prime Minister David Cameron's fiscal policies as the "really radical" culprit.

"I think that this is the result of – directly the result of – the really radical austerity program that the Cameron government is imposing," accused Freeland on the August 10 edition of MSNBC's "Dylan Ratigan Show."

Empathizing with the throngs of hooligans tearing cities across England into pieces, Freeland waged some class warfare of her own: "You know, the people who are out there on the streets are responding to the fact that the government is shrinking and it's not shrinking for everybody. It's shrinking for the poor."

This is far from the first time Freeland has fanned the flames of social unrest: several months ago, she lamented that people who are part of the "lucky sperm club" don't pay higher taxes and fretted that a "landed gentry" could emerge if the government doesn't confiscate the earnings of wealthy Americans.

Public radio host Matt Miller, filling in as anchor for Dylan Ratigan, also stoked the fire: "It's hard not to have a kind of class edge to this when you've got the prime minister, an Eton graduate, coming back from his villa in Tuscany to try and manage the crisis."

Moments earlier, MSNBC contributor Imogen Lloyd Webber implored the world to "get to grips with the social and economic inequality happening" in both the U.S. and the UK.

It's worth pointing out the backgrounds of these "class warriors": Freeland is an Oxford-educated Rhodes scholar, Miller is an Ivy League graduate, and Imogen is the daughter of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

A transcript of the segment can be found below:

MSNBC
Dylan Ratigan Show
August 10, 2011

4: 19 p.m. Eastern

MATT MILLER, anchor: Well if we segue from a fight in an American state to a town like London where there's really flames burning, you know, continued rioting. David Cameron calling short his vacation at his Tuscan villa. A real concern about whether their going to use water cannons now. This is a country, Imogen, where the bobbies tend not to carry pistols and this kind of riots have not been seen in many, many, many years. What's your take as you look at what's happening on the ground?

IMOGEN LLOYD WEBBER, MSNBC contributor: Well it certainly is in Great Britain as a whole. I was covering the royal wedding just less than four months ago. I stood on the mall, which is the road leading up to Buckingham Palace, amongst a million people, and it was all very peaceful. What is happening here, of course, is absolutely shocking. It's down, to me, to really three reasons. First of all, the police messed up on Saturday. They didn't take control of the peaceful protests that then went wrong. There was a lot of opportunistic looting and so forth. But most importantly, there is social and economic inequality in the UK that must be addressed. And we're seeing this here in the U.S. as well. Let us not forget that now the poverty rate here in the U.S. is now 1 in 7 Americans, which is the highest since records began. Yet the number of millionaires went up by 8 percent last year. So I see a mirror image of actually what's going on in the UK here in the U.S. And we need to get to grips with the social and economic inequality happening on both sides of the Atlantic.

MILLER: Well Chrystia, what do you make of that? Because I see a debate emerging already to frame the debate about what's happening in London. You've got the conservative side I think that's making the argument this is just hooliganism and criminality, you know. Folks who are taking advantage of opportunities to, you know, to loot stores and get cell phones and flat screen TVs. But then you've got others making exactly Imogen's point, which is this is the inevitable result of the kind of radical inequality we're seeing develop in the West. Which is it, Chrystia? Tell us.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, Reuters editor-at-large: Well I'm on the radical inequality side, but I think it's more than that. I think that this is the result of – directly the result of – the really radical austerity program that the Cameron government is imposing. You know, the people who are out there on the streets are responding to the fact that the government is shrinking and it's not shrinking for everybody. It's shrinking for the poor. Having said that though, I think that the response we're already getting from Cameron is going to be actually to push even harder in the direction he's already going. This is going to be framed as, you know, Cameron saying, "these are hooligans, these are the bad guys, and I am the man who's going to stand up for middle class England." Not to anticipate too much sort of the rest of our discussion, but you know I think that what we're seeing in Britain which I think we're going to see in the United States is times of economic recession, times of high unemployment that last for a long time, create a politics which is not about compromise, which is not about the nation coming together. They create a politics which is very mean and very nasty. And I think we're going to see that more and more in all of the Western developed world.

MILLER: And Jonathan, it's hard not to have a kind of class edge to this when you've got the prime minister, an Eton graduate, coming back from his villa in Tuscany to try and manage the crisis. Tough couple of weeks for David Cameron by the way between Rupert Murdoch and now London in flames. But the class edge, you know, it's even a question about whether that can happen in the United States, what's exploding in London. And we're going to be talking about that in the days ahead right here on the Dylan Ratigan Show.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.