Monday, July 10, 2006

David Cameron is going to make a major speech on young people today, a move which has already been attacked by the Labour Party.

I’m glad he has decided to say something about this because I hate the way we tend to demonise all youngsters just because some groups of young men (and women) can seem intimidating.

One of the worst habits of modern politicians is to play up ‘threats’ in the hope of being seen as the white knight with the solution.

Blair and Bush have invested a great deal of time and effort to play up the threat of terrorism which, although real, is not really any greater here in the UK than it has been since the 1960’s.

It is true to say that we Conservatives have also been guilty; during the 2005 election I was unhappy with the tone of some of our crime posters.

Gangs of young people hanging around on street corners can appear threatening, especially to old or single people and even more so late at night.

But it doesn’t help if the press and politicians between them have worked the public into a frenzy of fear based on a handful of shocking incidents of violence being blown out of all proportion.

In the main we live in a safe place. Your chances of being mugged, robbed or violently attacked in Torbay by a stranger (hooded or otherwise) are absolutely miniscule. The Herald Express faithfully detail every incident and never have more than a handful each month - in a town of 140,000 people and 660,000 visitors.

You are probably more at risk of injury from an uneven paving slab than a hooded youth while walking round Torbay.


Anonymous said...

This was a daft speech IMO. I noticed a change in the tone of reporting on this yesterday, to begin with the Beeb were snorting with derision and publicising the 'hug a hoodie' line put out by Labour but later in the day they seemed to lose interest with the story and what coverage it did get was a bit more sympathetic.

However I would say cameron was lucky to get away with it and avoided more biting criticism only because of the Lord Levy story.

Barrie Wood said...

Agree 100% with what you say Marcus !
I think your recognition that the Tories shrill tone at the last election on law and order was unwise is to be commended.

At the momement Cameron's comments are long on observation, short on solutions. If it means the Tories, at least the Cameron Tories, moving beyond the 'Prison Works' philosophy maybe we can have a real debate on the issues of crime and criminal justice.

More notable has been the LABOUR response ! The 'Hug a Hoodie' response was desperate politics from a party in electoral decline and one having lost any sense of liberalism (with a small l). It seems like it is LABOUR that now hates modern society rather than the Tories. Strange days indeed !
Shame on you Labour for your crude populism !

You rightly point to the limited chance of being a victim of violent crime. IIRC some months ago Nick Bye and / or Torbay councillors went on a tour with the Police of the harbourside in Torquay one weekend evening. Whilst the atmosphere was boisterous, it was nowhere near as threatening or dangerous as popular perception would have you believe.

It is poor politics to help generate a fear of crime and to demonise sections of our community, with young people being an easy target. I remember Brendan Hanrahan running a 'bash the Hoodie' line in the Herald some months ago and, to your credit, you took a similar line then.

It is not easy seek approaches to crime that emphasise rehabilitation and prevention. As you can see from the pitiful Labour response you get misrepresented as being 'soft on crime' - as both Labour and the Tories did to the Lib Dems at the last GE. There are no 'easy votes' to be won by taking this position.

The test, once more for the Tories, is will the improved tenor of debate and thinking be realised in policy terms ?

Good positive post though Marcus !

Marcus Wood said...

Barry, you might note from a letter I had in the Herald a few weeks back that I also complained about the lamentable state of our sentencing regime whereby repeat violent sex offenders can be considered for parole very early while council tax protesters and TV licence fee dodgers are routinely banged up.

Crime and punishment is the most testing area of modern politics in my opinion. On the one hand we don't want mob rule and public lynchings but on the other we want proper protection from the few really dangerous people that there are out there.

At the moment we are in danger of getting the opposite.

A couple of good friends of mine are new JP's , one locally and one in Windsor. I would say that both are small L liberals and both are increasingly appalled by the ineffectiveness of our current law and order system.

They both say that time after time the same people crop up with the same problems; mostly drugs related.

Long drawn out and expensive court proceedings months after the offence has occurred are followed by pointless sentences that do nothing to deter or change behaviour, nothing for the victims and nothing to prevent reoffending.

We are long overdue for a grown up debate on how to deal with crime. Unfortunately I don't think we are going to get it.

Barrie Wood said...

Grown up debate and, I think there is a need to strive for consensuus on the way forward. This is one area where playing party politics is particularly dangerous.

I concur pretty much with your above response.

The influence that drug and alcohol dependency have upon crime means these areas are particularly ripe for education and rehab. Again, we ought to find as much consensus as we can across parties, especially on drugs policy and criminalisation.

Labour doesn't want to be part of any debate it seems. Whatever his motivations, I am prepared to be charitable and hope Cameron is signalling that he wants a debate with other parties and with the public. No one party has an easy answer, the Lib Dems included !

Marcus Wood said...

So much if it comes back to the drugs question, though, doesn't it?

At the moment drugs pushing is a kind of pyramid selling scheme whereby there is a real incentive for drug dependents to offset the cost of their addiction by hooking a few addicts of their own.

I used to believe that all drugs should be legalised, sold over the counter in Boots or whatever, and in doing so hope that demand would shrivel up.

As I have learned more on the subject including a couple of very instructive trips round the Shrublands rehab centre in Torbay, I have realised that this approach would fail - I have changed my mind.

Serious rehab provision and more prevention and education seems to be the only available answer.

I know alcohol dependancy is a bigger social problem, but it doesn't have quite the same direct link to crime, does it?

chris said...

Alcohol is legal.