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‘Society is indeed broken’—and we all know who broke it

An IWCA take on New Labour’s latest law and order gimmick.

When submerged under a veritable deluge of ideologically-driven ‘reforms’, it takes something especially imbecilic to provoke a double-take. Louise Casey, the mouthy former head of the Government’s ‘Respect task force’, is set to spearhead the latest New Labour gimmick on law ’n order. Among the 20 proposals that fade from the merely banal to the truly asinine here are three that provoke a modicum of analysis.

Anonymous evidence

Elderly and disabled crime victims – as well as people at risk of reprisals— should be allowed to give evidence in court from behind screens. Ministers are sympathetic to the idea, which already happens routinely in cases involving sex offences and gangs.

Fine, in one way, except that ‘anonymous evidence’ does not allow the defence to cross-examine witnessess or indeed raise questions as to any previous relationship the accused might have had with the accuser that might have lead them to offer evidence (not to mention the possibility of witnesses being coerced as a result of a police vendetta) against the accused in the first place.

Internet crime maps

Online maps with crimes plotted on them to be published every month so people can see how dangerous their area is and how well the police are doing. Gordon Brown has backed the move in principle, but areas could be stigmatised if the maps are street-by-street.

The truth is many working class areas are already operationally stigmatised. ‘Control and contain’, whereby crime in one area is ignored by the police the better to protect a ‘nicer’ middle class area nearby, is commonplace. Online maps would merely give what is custom and practice an air of routine formality.

Youth clubs

Friday-night youth clubs to be set up in 50 of the most deprived areas.

Youth clubs for the the 50 most deprived areas? There are a number of delirious aspects involved in the proposition. Ever notice how New Labour ministers and the media are happy to talk blithely about ‘deprived communities’ without any mention to how they came to be ‘deprived’ in the first place? In the absence of any such analysis it takes a remarkable level of political remove to imagine that thirty years of the deliberate stripping out of the grassroots infrastructure in working class neighbourhoods can be remedied by organising ‘a youth club on Friday nights’. What about the other nights? Or ‘deprived area’ number 51? Or indeed 151?

The media who should be asking the serious questions don’t do so. The Independent’s response, for example, was almost unbelievable. ‘Funding for youth services is already being boosted with poorer communities targeted. But should high-crime areas be rewarded?’ it asks. It is true that poorer communties are indeed being targeted and not in the benign way The Independent likes to pretend. But more than that, as even government statistics demonstrate, it is self-evidently working class people in the high crime areas that are most likely to be the victims of crime. Why punish the community further? But as far as The Independent is concerned—Why not?

Former Tory leader Ian Duncan-Smith blathers on about ‘a broken society’ in a similar way. But rival parties never ever challenge him on who broke it. That is because the beginnings of a solution are staring them all in the face. But why bother going to the root of the problem (the callous and systematic destruction of a youth club infrastructure and the selling-off of school playing fields, and so on) when under existing neo-liberal orthodoxy the unthinking dribblings in the Casey formula work just as well?

2 Responses to “‘Society is indeed broken’—and we all know who broke it”

  1. Alex Says:

    Aww bless those well meaning liberal sorts at The Independent… yes, unbelievable is right.

  2. Dan Says:

    The giving of anonymous evidence is a necessary evil if we want to get the anti-social elements on our estates prosecuted and convicted. It’s a ‘catch 22′ scenario: but when witnesses are known to these scabs, retribution is almost ALWAYS inevitable.

    What other alternative is there?

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