It seems that, every day, our Boris led government (if you can call it that) is achieving new standards for selective memory. I can’t work out if the ministers and spokespersons who are put front-and-centre to explain away the latest change in policy really believe the utter crap they spout. Do they really think our memory, and attention span, is so short that we can’t remember who has been in charge for the last 9 years? It takes a special kind of liar to keep an earnestly straight face while talking up some patently bankrupt bit of logic. In fact often there is no logic. However, there is no escaping the conclusion: either they are lying or they simply lack the mental capacity to understand.
The present Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has now got to sound bullish about a policy of more police, zero tolerance of crime, bigger prisons and longer sentences, defending a broken system that her government has been in charge of for 9 years. Her predecessor, Sajid Javid (now Chancellor of the Exchequer), when Home Secretary, had the brass neck to stand in front of cameras saying that the government will think about and consider all requests from police for additional funding in the face of the crisis of knife crime in our country. At the same time his predecessor as Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said there was no shortage of funds for the police – they just had to be ‘smarter’ about how they spent what they had! The then Prime Minister, Theresa May, denied that reduced police manpower has anything to do with the rise in crime. In case you have forgotten she was previously the longest serving Home Secretary, so this was happening on her watch then too. It would seem, then, that Boris is ‘cracking down’ and spending billions (from where?) to fix a problem that apparently has only just appeared. Where were you Theresa, Boris, Sajid, Priti when the cabinet were deciding these policies? Down the pub?
It’s true the rise in crime (and criminality as a mindset) has many, many causes. But do they really think we will forget that they, the Conservatives, have been responsible for policy in every area that bears on these causal factors?
They don’t seem to understand that knife crime (the use of knives in violence) is a symptom of something wider: the police clamping down on that (one type of) crime will only ever be a short term gain unless the underlying causes are dealt with – and that’s not a purely policing issue. I contend that the underlying causes are almost all rooted in austerity: the deliberate policy of the Conservative party (and governments since 2010) to eviscerate public services, and privatise them, under the guise of restoring the public finances. Where they could they shifted the burden, and responsibility, into the voluntary sector under the grandiose title of “The Big Society”. They want us to forget, too, that the financial crash which preceded austerity was itself the direct result of greedy capitalism.
When young, disadvantaged, people have reduced educational opportunities (because education for many has been stripped of all but the core subjects), when their only sense of belonging is that of a gang member, when rites of passage into their peer group involve crimes from mugging right up to murder, what can we expect? When there are too few police to respond to any but the most urgent and high value crimes, when there aren’t enough doctors and nurses, teachers, youth workers, social workers, meaningful jobs with long term prospects, and access to support and state benefits ever harder to achieve, what do we expect? When we have rising levels of homelessness, what do we expect? When we have the ever increasing use of food banks, what do we expect?
When aggression and violence (verbal or physical) is promoted as an acceptable way to behave, whether in film, music, computer games, sport, employment, personal relationships, why should we be surprised when people reach for violence as the way to express and empower themselves?
How dare they, HOW DARE THEY, say they are listening NOW, as if all these crises are new? Why weren’t they listening last year, the year before, in fact every year since the slash-and-burn Conservatives came to power? They were told. We told them. Common sense told them. How dare they act as if “We didn’t see that coming, but we’re listening now”? In what looks increasingly like a run-up to a snap election they, the government, may not want us to join the dots. I think we’re better than that, at least I hope so.