Effect of riots on London's reputation in the balance, comms bosses argue

Senior communicators have suggested that London and the wider UK's international reputation depends on the police and authorities taking control of the situation immediately.

Third night of riots: destruction spreads
Third night of riots: destruction spreads
The third night of riots swept through the Hackney, Croydon, Peckham, Lewisham, Clapham and Ealing areas of London last night, along with other UK cities Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool.

David Cameron cut short his holiday in Tuscany to return to London last night, and is this morning chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra.

Coverage of the events has spread across the globe, with interest in the story intensified by London's hosting of next year's Olympics.

Porter Novelli EMEA head of corporate Alex Woolfall said that if the police and Government could quickly act to stop the riots, then long-term reputational damage ahead of the Olympics could be limited.

‘I was in Greece last month on holiday when pictures of rioting were flashed around the world,’ said Woolfall. ‘So were lots of other holidaymakers from the UK and elsewhere. People are able to put news - even these sort of appalling images - into context.’

‘But there's a need to act now and make this a "one week of summer madness" story. If it drags on, it's more likely that people thinking of coming to the Games will question how safe London is and whether they still want to come.’

Visiting professor of PR for Westminster University Trevor Morris said that London’s reputation has been damaged, but whether this becomes a longer-term issue depends on factors such as how quickly it is stopped and whether there are copycat riots in other European cities.

He added that the city would need to launch ‘showpiece and grassroots activities to show that London is back’.

Scotland Yard said 334 people had been arrested, 69 people charged and two cautioned so far in connection with the rioting and looting across London.

West Midlands Police arrested about 100 people in Birmingham after youths hit the city centre's retail area.

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