The Odd Blog

And when our cubs grow / We'll show you what war is good for

Rising levels of antisocial behaviour…

Posted by That Other Mike on 11/05/2008

… committed by the government in the face of the failure of its social polices.

FSM preserve us! The government has descended into full-blown madness.

Or at least, Jacqui Smith has1, with the latest call to exercise playground tactics on “problem” youths:

Youths who persistently misbehave and intimidate others in their communities should be “harassed themselves”, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said.

She said she wanted police in England and Wales to “turn the tables” on those who would not “live by the rules”.

This could include repeated home visits and checks to identify benefit fraud or council and road tax non-payment.

Ummm. What? What?! WHAT?!

This is possibly the stupidest idea that I’ve heard come out of the government in ages, and I’ve been paying close attention for a long time. It ranks up there with Blair’s plan to march yobs to cashpoints to pay on-the-spot fines to avoid “clogging” the court system and the Cones Hotline.

This is further evidence, were it needed, of the degenerating state of the government, although it has to be said that announcing meaningless soundbite policies as a means to distract the public in times of political crisis is not something new, either for Labour or anyone else.

The actual plan itself seems curiously devoid of even the slightest connection to reality, though, even for a Punch and Judy policy like this one. While it’s obvious that the policy is itself nothing more than a distraction from recent problems, like the credit crunch, local council election defeats and the rising backbench rebellion against the changes in the tax rates, it seems a spectacularly inept one, if only because it is so easy to dismiss as having even the slightest credibility.

The principle idea is absurd – it makes a mockery of the law and greater society by turning the reduction of youth crime and social problems into a playground activity. It becomes a push-me-pull-you situation, a Stooges model of politics. That is enough to condemn it, in my opinion; the law should not be getting into slap fights.

There are other reasons, though, to oppose the very idea – a very clear and obvious one being that it is a reactive policy. It addresses the symptom —youth crime and social ills—rather than its causes, and does so badly. It’s a sticking plaster on a decapitation. If we want to be reducing antisocial behaviour, we need to be looking to the root causes, like poverty, insufficient education and lumpenproletarian attitudes2. These three are all issues which the present government and its predecessor under Blair have failed to address: poverty and income inequality are on the rise; the education system is a confused and tangled mess, and getting worse with every misguided and ridiculous new scheme foisted on schools; and for some people, it pays more to be on the dole than in work, fostering an intergenerational ladder of the unwilling to be employed.

Policies by slogan like “harass the harassers” won’t do anything to fix the problem, and will simply create more problems in their turn – by forcing police and other public servants to engage in harassment tactics, the policy would put unnecessary strains on an already overburdened system and prevent them from effectively working in areas which actually need their presence. In essence, what it would be doing would be exacerbating the problems it would supposedly be fixing.

This strategy is ridiculous on its face; it won’t work and would in fact worsen the problem, which seems to be an ongoing theme with the present administration.

We need real policies which address the real causes of problems, not these preposterous feel-good schemes. We need options for change, rather than soundbites dressed up as strategies.

1Incidentally, has anyone else noticed the tendency of the Blairite regimes to use their women Ministers as lightning rods for ridiculous or potentially unpopular ideas? As evidence, I give you Ruth Kelly’s smirking policy blunders, too numerous to mention here; Harriet Harman’s proposal regarding the implementation of the disastrous “Swedish” model of prostitution legislation; and now this. Coincidence, or concealed misogyny? At least during the 1997 elections, Blair had some feminist credibility with the all-woman candidate shortlists in some constituencies, but this seems to have vanished.
2Ah, Marx; you weren’t a complete wash.


4 Responses to “Rising levels of antisocial behaviour…”

  1. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it also has another worrying aspect; it’s the kind of mental attitude you find at the root of vigilante behaviour, and it seems almost inevitable that some will find justification in this for hounding the paedophile (i.e. the retired paediatrician) who lives down the road.

    Barmy and dangerous.

  2. Lottie said

    Mike, this reminds me of something we were discussing the other day.

    When we condone and even encourage unacceptable and outrageous tactics by law enforcement, those tactics soon lose their shock value and eventually become normal, standard behavior. When we, as a society, become desensitized to something we once considered unthinkable, we have to wonder which boundaries will be sacrificed next.

    I know this sounds like a slippery slope argument, but I believe it’s valid in this particular context. As an American who is watching certain liberties, expectations of privacy and standards of behavior by those in authority slowly eroding, I hope you understand my position.

    You and Gary are both right. This is dangerous on many levels and I don’t see any good that come of it.

  3. Mike said

    Gary: Exactly. Under the veneer of civilisation, there’s a nasty streak of violence and yobbishness to a lot of British society, ready to riot at the slightest opportunity.

    Lottie: Community standards suck as a method of determining what should and shouldn’t be permitted; they allow for slow erosions as we said, and arguably don’t allow for increased rights.

  4. […] there’s a nasty streak of violence and yobbishness to a lot of British society, ready to riot at the slightest opportunity.

    Yup, and I’ll kick shite out of anyone who sez different 😉

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