Friday, August 24, 2007

Precatory words

I don't know who killed Rhys Jones. But I do know this: no child in this country should be riding around on a BMX bike with a gun shooting other children.
Well, quite. But is this sort of thing from Cameron particularly helpful or enlightening? Can we learn anything useful from the death of an 11 year old in Liverpool? Probably not, to be honest. Looking back to the reactions to the death of Jamie Bulger two things stand out. The first is the shameless use of the crime for political advantage by the Labour Party, the second is that very little substantive changed as a result. Rhetoric on crime, anti-social behaviour and 'anarchy' has been ramped up, but policy has not. What, in practical terms, can a Government actually do to fight crime and restore/retain public order?
The public must not rely on the government to prevent gang culture, but take more responsibility itself, David Cameron has said.
Again, fine. There really is no such thing as society - if you want something done, you shouldn't just sit back and wait for 'them' to take care of it. We are them (grammar). If you want a return to a society where kids misbehaving were routinely upbraided by adults - then upbraid misbehaving children. They can't all have knives after all. And there's the nub - it is perceived that a critical mass of people are now armed, and perfectly happy to use extreme force in trivial circumstances. What should Cameron announce as Conservative policy on crime? How about this:
"The Labour Party have introduced 30 Criminal Justice Acts in 10 years, creating 3,000 new criminal offences. Their priority seems to have been to make law abiding citizens criminals and not the other way around. Their mania for intricate meddling has left a criminal justice system that is unnecessarily complicated and a police force that has had initiative drummed out of it. If you carry a knife, there are now at least five separate statutes under which you can be penalised. The police pursue children throwing sausages, but not those wielding knives.
"The Conservative Party favour simplicity over complication. The correct response to a law being broken is not to enact a new law, but properly to enforce the existing one. The correct answer to a neighbourhood that is descending into lawlessness is not to erect Close Circuit Television cameras to help police identify the perpetrators, but to re-instate a visible and regular police presence in order to deter them altogether. The hallmark, after all, of a successful police force is not how many crimes they detect, but how much crime they prevent.
"Whenever the Labour Party is faced with a problem they reach to targets as the solution. But if targets were a successful way of running anything, the Soviet Union would still be a world power, and Vladimir Putin wouldn't have to take his top off to get the world's attention. Targets are no more effective for the police than they have proved for the NHS.
"Simpler laws, properly enforced. A police force directed less by central Government and more accountable to local opinion. Simplicity and decentralisation: two things that this Labour Government has been so spectacularly poor at delivering over the past decade."

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