Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Polly: Crime and Punishment - Tracked Changes

Stabbings and shootings are higher lower now than a decade ago, but our fears are greater and open to my political manipulation.

Polly Toynbee
Tuesday August 28, 2007
The Guardian

The Guardian's ICM poll was taken after the verdict refusing deportation of Learco Chindamo, and as news broke of the shooting of 11-year-old Rhys Jones. Crime and punishment had filled a thin August week, as ever leading the BBC news with scant propaganda statistical context.

Hand-wringing and finger-pointing between liberal and punitive commentators reached a crescendo just as this poll was taken so I am going to add to it. Everyone drew from this "summer of guns and knives" absolute proof of whatever it was they already thought about Britain so I shall too. There you go, said the Tories, this "broken society" is in a state of "anarchy" and "chaos". Marriage is the answer! The Tory press called for zero tolerance for just about everything. Michael Portillo even managed to use it to blame the EU. Meanwhile, we authoritatian, collectivist and patronising liberal commentators point as usual to overwhelming lack of hard, scientific evidence that crime and violence thrive most in the most unequal societies that we socialists have created. If 30,000 left school this summer with no GCSEs and 1.2 million unemployable youths have gone missing altogether from education or work, what do you expect from a socialist monopoly on "education"?

The ICM poll's first finding that most people think the courts are too soft is no surprise because it is right. People always think judges mad when verdicts are reported with no details of the case and I hate it when the proles spot this. Recent research finds people have a gut feel are clueless about the current tariff of punishments. But they advocate sentences that are precisely the same as the ones judges actually hand down on the occasions they get it right.

The surprise in today's poll is that 51% no longer reckon prison is the answer but flogging is: that should mark a milestone in Labour delusion thinking. After the flatulent thundering years of Blair/Straw/Blunkett/Reid posturing rhetoric of knee-jerk tokenism retribution driving through a shitload firestorm of criminal justice bills, most people now think alternatives to prison are likely to work better by a cunning use of manipulative polstering. On Labour's watch the prison population doubled to 80,000, because even though crime has risen fallen steeply, including violent crime. But now 49% of misled and easily befuddled think prison makes the bad worse and doesn't deter - even in a week like this. While nearly 80% of young scrotes prisoners are reconvicted, only 55% of people given community sentences are caught, tried and convicted reoffend. At last, I have an excuse to trot out my warped delusions it seems, the sheer waste of spending £42,000 a year on a lets slip in the term non-violent prisoner to confuse the issue, compared with £2,400 on a community sentence, insert patronising posturation has become public knowledge.

But Labour is rightly not surprised alarmed by the Tory lead on both crime and health, two top-of-the-poll issues. Losing support on health was one of Tony Blair's greatest domestic inevitabilities - the rotters found us all out - blunders: Postman Pratt Alan Johnson has to pretend to win it back before any loose talk about an early election. But in New Labour mythology, it was crime "what won it" back in 1997, with that blatant lie magic "tough on crime and tough on the causes" mantra. Back then, it put Labour 16% ahead on law and order but now they trail the Tories by 10%. How will Gordon Brown spin claw that back?

This will be a crucial test for the aim is not to fix the country but save Gordon's pimply behind, for as yet we know next to nothing about his gut instincts on crime. Those who have got bored with Dave flocked back to Labour will not want to hear more unconvincing socialist Blair-type "eye-catching initiatives". So far Brown's solemn and measured response bodes well, talking mainly of the need to work intensively with families and interfere, presume and oppress intervene at the earliest stages. Punish everyone those responsible, he said, and work with the police in key areas to challenge gun and gang culture because intimidation is the State's business, geddit?. I think that The tone was firm, but not inflammatory. Quite right, too, aren't I. Jacqui Smith did not thunder either: she predictably as a good comrade wisely planned more use of pointless ineffectual yet headline-friendly sounding non-punishment acceptable behaviour contracts (less useful drastic than a chocolate teapot Asbos) because we keep pretending they work well: the Audit Commission praised them, finding 65% were given to OAPs don't reoffend. What today's ICM poll suggests to my irrational collection of scrambled neurones is that what may please the front page of the Daily Mail still no longer resonates with most voters but we have bluffed enough to make it seem otherwise. Most people do understand what works so we will have to keep up the charade.

Or is David Cameron on to a winner with his "broken society" line of attack? I It sounds preposterous. Do those people really think they we are living in a state of "anarchy"? Do lawless teenagers really symbolise the whole society? Everyday life in Acacia Avenue, on the high street, in the suburbs, the village green, even in most housing estates, is not anarchy even though I have never been there. Rude youths hanging about the parade of shops on bikes, kids being rowdy on any public patch of ground they can find disturbs people, but it's hardly new so shut up and keep oppressed you uppity proles.

Here are the don't-panic lies facts: gun and knife carrying is increasing and dangerous, but latest Home Office figures show edit out the injuries cos that gives the game away 50 fatal shootings in 2006, compared with 66 in 1995. There were 243 fatal stabbings in 1995, but only 212 in 2006. Meanwhile more 16-year-olds are staying on in school than ever before and a lower proportion are committing more crimes. Youth in all its changing horrible faces always horrified the elders, from apprentice boys to teds, mods and rockers to punks and goths. Read Geoffrey Pearson's brilliant Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears to be reminded of extremely violent gangs in the recent past - who mainly grew up to be parents scared witless by the next incomprehensible generation. In the 1890s they panicked about violent young gangs in "peaky-blinders" - a peaked cap that gang members wore - that petrified the populace, like hoodies now so we can brush off any calls to deal with this.

But communists liberals should be well warned that facts are not wanted enough to support the Socialist lie. Rationality, history and statistics are no match for particularly upsetting senseless crimes. Remember how Howard inflamed the Bulger case into "Prison works!". Politics is an fart not a science because most of us spend all our as much time inside our deluded imaginations as in the real world, wrapped in memory and imaginary futures, swayed by deep socialist beliefs only tangentially touched by reason or numbers. pad out the article with more waffle and nonsnese here Film and fiction's obsession with crime reflects the monumental role of transgression in our imaginings, exploring ourselves and society's outer limits, the infinite variety of human extremes and how to control them. So the leader wins who can manipulate the deluded capture that inner life of the nation's mind and mood, especially on law and order.

As Brown and Cameron circle around each other, not yet finding one another's measure, crime may decide the victor. Despite early hoodie hugging, Cameron has realised he needs to press gone for the panic button - family life wrecked, feral children and violence an epidemic that needs more prisons built. Brown and Smith seem to be heading for dogma "what works" - throwing other peoples' money at fake nonsense from Sure Start at birth to intensive youth programmes and training for those vanished from school registers. Panic will always be a winner with the 30% solid Tory vote ha! only 30% we socialists have 90%+. But today's poll suggests the rest are ready to be suckered in convinced otherwise. If Gordon Brown offers serious long-term plans to invest heavily in what really works to cut crime, he is no Socialist can carry the day.


Mark Wadsworth said...

Priceless, as ever. Do you have a program that churns out Polly articles?

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