Tony Blair has rejected claims that the summer riots are a sign of Britain’s moral decline, instead blaming gangs and feral families.
But his views put him at odds with others, including Prime Minister David Cameron, who say the nation is reaping the whirlwind of its moral slide.
Mr Blair believes that claiming Britain has lost its way morally 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”.
Mr Blair says the Government should intervene earlier in dysfunctional homes – family by family – while children are still very young, before they have turned to gangs or crime.
Writing in Sunday’s Observer, Mr Blair accepted that the riots were caused by feral youths, but he said: “The key is to understand that they aren’t symptomatic of society at large.”
“Britain, as a whole, is not in the grip of some general ‘moral decline'”, he added.
However, Prime Minister David Cameron has taken a different position. He said there has been a “slow-motion moral collapse”.
In a speech following the riots in English cities he said social problems that have been “festering for decades” have “exploded in our face”.
And said that politicians have been “too unwilling for too long to talk about what is right and what is wrong”.
The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge said: “The England riots are not just a breakdown of law and order, they are the consequences of a breakdown of morality in our society.”
A Daily Mail editorial said: “The spectre of nihilistic and feral teenagers, seemingly devoid of any semblance of morality, ransacking shops and torching homes and businesses for their own vile personal gratification has shattered the image of Britain as an ordered and civilised society.”