“A Broken Britain”: England’s novelists and filmmakers saw the riots coming. Why didn’t its politicians?

Tom Rachman in Slate:

London After days of rioting during which thugs often appeared more confident in the streets than the police trying to stop them, Britain was in a state of shock and trauma at this astonishing loss of control. A lockdown Tuesday night in London involving 10,000 additional police officers appeared to have restored order to the capital, but violence flared in other cities. By Wednesday morning, the authorities had reported a total of 1,335 arrests, including more than 750 in London and 300 in Manchester.

…The political class may have been caught out, but the culture betrayed signs of problems earlier, telegraphing anxieties of the law-abiding citizenry that a brutal underclass might at any moment elbow its way into their homes. Ian McEwan's 2005 novel Saturday tells of a London neurosurgeon who crosses paths with a demented thug, only to have the man invade his life and threaten his family. The book's resolution is rather optimistic, with the surgeon's daughter—forced to strip before the thug—managing to subdue him by reading poetry. Another example of these lurking worries appears in David Abbott's 2010 novel The Upright Piano Player, in which a lonely retired London ad executive is harassed by a violent sociopath, also after an unfortunate chance encounter. A more cathartic resolution came in the 2009 film Harry Brown, in which Michael Caine plays an aging military veteran who served in Northern Ireland but now finds himself in a miserable housing estate ruled by young criminals. Bloodshed ensues and the old man emerges triumphant. While novels and cinema expressed the fears of establishment Britons, pop culture was taking inspiration from the underclass, as in the comedy-drama series Shameless (now remade in a U.S. version), about a dysfunctional family in Manchester.

More here.