It’s quite strange sitting here in Australia reading the BBC news website and seeing the disturbing images of riots that have swept across the UK, alongside an ad (yes ads appear on BBC outside the UK) encouraging me to visit the country. The ad reads ‘Britain. You’re invited.’ As my eyes look back at a picture of some looter walking out of an electrical store with his arms full, I think to myself, No you’re okay Britain, I think I’ll stay here.

Britain riots

This kind of violence could happen anywhere, of course. However, seeing video footage and images of masked ‘hoodies’ kicking in storefronts, setting vehicles and building ablaze, and looting shops, makes me wonder how such a situation has occurred.

Is Britain broken? I think in some respects it is. That was my opinion long before I got on a one-way flight to Australia. I had become increasingly alarmed by the nanny state, the breakdown of community, the widespread erosion of privacy rights, and the steadily growing reputation Britain seemed to earning across the world of being a nation of unruly drunks.

These riots will only add to that unpleasant and largely inaccurate generalisation, but do they tell a story beyond the headlines? Is there something fundamentally wrong with the UK, and if so can it be fixed?

On the BBC news website I listened to two girls talking about the riots, calling them fun. “It’s the government’s fault,” said one. “Yeah, conservatives, whatever, who it is, I don’t know,” agreed the other as she drank from a stolen bottle of wine at 9:30am.

On Australian TV news a reporter in the UK talked about how every shop in one shopping centre had been looted, apart from one, a bookshop.

Oddly enough, as I continued to look through the BBC news website, the Visit Britain ad dissapeared. Maybe it came to the end of its run, or perhaps someone in charge of the campaign realised that the timing was unfortunate, after all, it’s hard to sell the world on England’s green and pleasant land when its cities are on fire.