...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 2752: Government Knife Policy has an Accident and Emergency


We're in the middle of this year's MORAL PANIC and it's about knives. So OBVIOUSLY the person you want in charge is our half-human half-potato half-baked Hopeless Secretary, Ms Jacqui Spliff, the one-woman Corporal Jones tribute act, with her catchphrase:

"Don't Moral Panic! Don't Moral Panic!"

On Sunday she's all ready to reveal that her BIG PLAN is to start wheeling horrible hoodies (no offence, Mr Jonny) through casualty on a Saturday evening… whether the patients getting stitched back together want her to or not. Then Mr Huhney-Monster shows this is bonkers, so on Monday it's "deny everything" time.

There is no reason to be COMPLACENT – everyone must realise that knife injuries are VERY HORRID, even when not fatal. And we should take all reasonable measures to try and reduce crime.

But we also should not get carried away on a TIDE of FEAR.

A DISPASSIONATE look at the statistics would tell us that violent crime is at an historically LOW point. And, terrible though it is for ANYONE to be murdered, the number of murders is not actually wildly increasing. In fact, what SEEMS to be happening is that there has been a big rise in knife crime (that is making all the papers) and an equally big FALL in GUN crime (which is mysteriously omitted from the headlines). This suggests that ACTUALLY, the police have been making successful progress against LAST YEAR'S big moral panic (i.e. guns, remember those) and are now getting a kicking because this year's "weapon du jour" is the more-obtainable knife. It seems like the poor bobbies can't win!

The OTHER thing to remember is that there are about four million teenagers in Great Britain, and – according to the Prime Monster himself – about 0.11 million are responsible for most of the "youth crime". So that's about 98% of young people who are NOT violent psychopaths roaming the streets in gangs of one or two… (©The League of Gentlemen)

Young people are DOUBLY the victims here: not only is it mostly young people getting wounded and horribly murdered, they then get BLAMED by all the adults too. How fair is THAT?

Of course, it's not as SIMPLISTIC as just saying kids would be "OK" if only we all got off their case, but constant vilification of the hard-working majority of young people who've DONE NOTHING WRONG can only add to the alienation of those on the margins.

And speaking of SIMPLISTIC, if the Labour's plans for gimmicks and shocks are in DISARRAY, what about the Conservatories?

Well, Mr Balloon's new policy is to chop their goolies off bang up anyone caught carrying a knife.

How STRANGE to find him echoing the Sinister Minister of Justice Mr Jack Man O'Straw, who also announced a new policy to chop their goolies off bang up anyone caught carrying a knife.

(I particularly like that Mr Balloon wants a special exemption for angler's penknives, people bringing kitchen knives home from the shops and – presumably – the ceremonial silver dagger carried by all Conservatories for BACK-STABBING.)

So, remembering that even though crime is at pretty much an all time low, our prisons are now fuller than ever before …and before some right-wing nut suggests that those statistics are related (a) they aren't, crime is low throughout the Western world, regardless of the level of prison population, it's much more to do with economic success, better education and lower birth rates; (b) the jails are now stuffed full of more people on trivial charges like not paying their TV licence, things that should be dealt with by community sentencing not prison time; and (c) do we really WANT to be competing with Iran and China in the "most people held in prison" Olympics… where was I? oh yes… in spite of all that, Mr Balloon wants to send EVEN MORE young people into a system that is already too stretched to cope resulting in them getting into more violence and drug abuse IN prison!

So THAT was well thought out, wasn't it?

Apparently this is called "saying the things other people wouldn't dare to". I call it Mr Balloon jumping on the nearest and most populist band-wagon and flapping his lips in time to whatever he hears.

So is there a better answer? As it happens, there IS.

Liberal Democrats recognise that there are TWO SIDES to this problem: yes, we need a justice system that can catch and punish criminals, and we want to put ten-thousand more policepeople on the beat to help make people FEEL safer. But we also realise that most kids don't WANT to get into crime, and the way out of that is to help them to help themselves, with encouragement and resources for young people to work in their own communities to make things better.

You might almost call this being TOUGH ON CRIME and being TOUGH ON THE CAUSES OF CRIME. Or you could if some fatuous fibber hadn't already well and truly burned THAT soundbite.


Alasdair W said...

I have been particulary annoyed with David Cameron talking of locking anyone up with a knife (or 'Bang Up'). If you are in the situation where you feel you need a knife, a short prison sentance (because you'd need lots of money for long ones) would just make your angrier and feel more isolated. All you have to do is look at reoffending rates to realise this.

Steph Ashley said...

Sometimes it seems to me that you and I are supporters of the only party who sees people under the age of twenty-two as people at all. It doesn't surprise me that the two main parties and the media are happy to make them the scapegoat for yet another of society's ills - these are the same people who don't even think that young people should be paid the same amount of money for the same kind of work as older people.