Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What's the agenda behind the Respect Agenda?

If one belives the government's own statistics (the recording methods for most of which have been changed since Labour came to office to make them look successful for electioneering purposes increase accuracy), since a peak in 1995, crime in this country is now back to roughly the same level it was 25 years ago.

Take criminal damage - an antisocial form of behaviour if ever there was one, including as it does graffiti, petty vandalism and the like - current figures show that we're currently experiencing less of this than for 25 years. It's the same for non-vehicle-related theft.

Meanwhile, violent crime - which with all the reports of "happy-slapping", armed robberies and the like one might assume to be through the roof - has declined to its lowest level in 15 years.

Assuming one takes the government's figures seriously (which, considering they must be the same figures our overlords are working with to determine which policies to pursue, we pretty much have to, even though minor "antisocial" crimes often go unreported), it looks like - despite my protestations the other day - this "Respect" thing is a meaningless PR stunt - an attempt to reassure the public could be all that is really needed.

Could it be the case that it is actually only the fear of crime which is the problem? Certainly the last 25 years have seen a massive boom in public access to news, with 24 hour news channels and the internet all jostling to attract audience attentions with ever more shocking stories. And we all know that horror stories are often the most compelling - what better than peadophiles and teenage muggers to take the place of the bogeyman of our childhoods?

But if this is the case, then why is dear Tony, in launching this "Respect" nonsense, telling us that

"The scale, organisation, nature of modern crime makes the traditional processes simply too cumbersome, too remote from reality to be effective."
Has he not been reading his own government's crime statistics that show a decline in criminal activity over the last ten years? Has he gone mad, and decided to ignore statistics (accurate or otherwise, but official nonetheless) that could easily be used to show that his government has actually been quite successful on the crime front - as a commentor on my piece earlier today contended.

Or is Blair merely deliberately adding to the public's apparently misplaced perception that crime is out of control in yet another attempt to extend the power of the state?

We already know that Labour want to get rid of Jury trials, so it's no surprise that Blair also mentions "a jury utterly bemused". He also catagorically admits that his legal reforms have "reversed the burden of proof". His government has tried to dictate to judges how to try cases. His government have scrapped habeas corpus. But "now... we want to take these powers further."

I thought this Respect thing was meant to reduce our fear? Personally, the more I think about it, the more terrified I get.

3 Comments:

Blogger etybolik said...

I couldn't agree with your post more. The Respect agenda caught my eye and forced me into making a post on the same topic.
Blair seems to float ideas without really thinking them through, while simultaneously passing measures that decrease respect for individuals, the law, teachers, and government, amongst others. Wasn't he the man who would not tolerate the sleaze evident in the latter years (or maybe all the way through) the Conservative governments of the 1980s and 1990s. Instead he turned the Nelsonian eye to failings of his closest colleagues.
The terrorist actions have led him to disrespect the civil rights of the people and their wishes when going to war.
Blair is a strange person to launch a Respect programme.

1/11/2006 04:06:00 pm  
Blogger Ken said...

Surely the figures can't be taken that seriously unless the statistics have been retrospectively altered (I know you accept this at the start, but taking the figures at face value does seem to be implicit in the conclusion).

There was an article in the Economist early last year, about the time Blair started banging on about respect, where it had a very interesting graph showing that public fear about anti-social behaviour went up whenever fear about crime went down. Seemed to me like there's a requisite amount of fear the public has, and it will always get channelled somewhere.

Not that this justifies Blair exploiting that fear, of course...

1/11/2006 06:55:00 pm  
Blogger Phil said...

Actually most of the adjustments to official crime figures have made them go up. The problem is attrition: many crimes aren't reported to the police, many of those that are don't get followed up, and so on. The end result is that if you ask people what's actually happened, to them, in the last year, you get a far higher figure than the police record. I can't see any way of bridging this gap - and, that being the case, I'm not sure there's much point trying to narrow it. Nevertheless, that's what they've been trying to do, with the result that police crime figures have shot up twice in the last eight years.

But that's not what any of this is about. This is about anti-social behaviour, which (almost by definition) isn't a crime. Anti-social behaviour has no objective definition: it exists whenever and wherever people complain about it. The case Blair is trying to put across is that this kind of low-level, non-criminal disorder is such a serious problem that we've got to let the police be judge and jury. Either he's completely lost his mind or he's been spending much too much time talking to cousin Ian.

1/11/2006 07:55:00 pm  

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