July 19, 2004

The Liberal Consensus

I missed it, but over the last 40 years there's been a liberal consensus that says its ok to commit crime - well at least according to Tony Blair. The government is now rolling out policies to end this evil conspiracy once and for all!

I must have been watching a different government these last seven years. Haven't Jack Straw and David Blunket paraded one 'tough on crime, tough on criminals' policy proposal after another? This was from the government that promised to be tough on the causes of crime. The rhetoric and policy changed as soon as Labour came into power - we've seen little of their promises, and much of their headline grabbing assault on "yob culture" and now "1960s liberalism", whatever they are. Blaming some mythical culture for our social ills is the very definition of Labour's failing crime policy. It's doubtful whether the latest rhetoric and headline grabbing policies will have any affect on crime at all.

Today's speech by Tony Blair smacks of a PR stunt to get a front page headline in the Daily Mail. The apparent policies behind this initiative are:

  • Community policing
  • Targeting the offender, rather than the offence, including more probation work and tracking criminals
  • Giving local communities the power to "enforce respect on the street"
Let's delve a little deeper. Don't those policies really mean:
  • Cheap pseudo police
  • Pigeon-holing past offenders as guilty
  • Vigilantism
Maybe we should just introduce marshals who roam the council estates on horse back looking for anyone who doesn't look right so they can drive them out of town? Fortunately for Tony satellite technology has come to his rescue. We can now tag these 'criminals' permanently - so we know where they at all times. Nice. The Thought Police are only one step away.

The essential problem with these policies is that it creates fear by criminalising low level offences. If the government are to target anti-social behaviour by criminalising whole classes of people, they also need come up with the cash to ensure the offenders don't repeat and kids don't offend in the first place. What next prison for litterers? Wait there, littering *is* on the list of offences the government is targeting! Personally I can live with a bit of litter if Labour stop invading third world countries. How about a swap Tony?

There's a promise for more money for "youth projects" but no hard figures. There's been lots of promises in the last seven years but very little action. You can criminalise drunks and "yobs" but I suspect it'll do very little to actually get to the real root of the problem.

I despair of this government sometimes. It's no longer a question of when Tony Blair became Margaret Thatcher, but how she gets that face mask looking so realistic. I'm off to smoke pot and sit in a circle chanting ommm with my liberal friends!