Category Archives: Crime

Riots: Always an Economic Cause

The recent riots are not capable of a simplistic explanation and I do not intend to add to any of them. What is lacking in media comment, however, is the absence of any historical perspective and what we are offered is the perpetuation of myths. Britain over the past two  weeks has been far from the nation of dreaming spires, cricket on the green , the clink of teacups and photographs of the Queen in post offices. But it always was at some distance form the idyll. The truth  is also  a long way shorty of the the Tory dream fashioned in the shire counties of everything in its place and a place for everything. If we roam back for the last three hundred years we see evidence of a turbulent Britain colonising approaching forty percent of the world in a misguided desire to further our trade by conquest and -to the pointhe –  a whole series of rebellions and revolts. When closely examined all these revolts have been activated by economics: the price of corn, the loss of earnings, unemployment, social injustice and the corruption and profiteerng of Britains ruling elites.

There is a pervisity in this. The French revolution of 1789 occurred in a country with the highest standard of living among the peasantry in Europe.  Frenc peasants revolted because after basking in the sunlight of a series of good harvests they suddenly experienced a couple of bad one’s. Throw in a little  aristocratic preening and arrogance and you have a Rebellion.

Labour attempted to reform social welfare and largely failed. The Tories have set about it in earnest. Suddenly you have a toxic recipe. High and growing unemployment in many areas, few jobs – and now an attack on benefits. Throw into the mix police corruption, MPs fiddling their expenses and banker’s bonuses, a phony re-launch of the Royal Family and -surprise, surprise – beneath the the sugary confection show so appealing in leafy Oxfordshire and Berksbire you have – revolt, anger, disrespect and  ugly violence. And we are surpised, and taken aback

The aftermath of riots and civil disturnance is always the same: punishment, more discrimination more toffs visiting the riot scenes, and a reluctance to face the obvious. Unless something more is done to tackle youth unemployment and to widen and deepen opportunities in areas discriminated against, there will be more disturbances. The chances of this happening are slim. As we settle into long-term economic depression the inequalites will widen.

We live in an era of tele violence. Seemingly all over the world by the use of social media and a mobile telephone you can get a crowd out on any street anywhere with a minimum of fuss and bother. You don’t need a trade union, you will not find Labour politicians at the head of a procession, and you don’t need to rent a mob. This is the age of the street politican and get youself on the telly. Yes, you – apparently – and almost anyone and anywhere.


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All Things are Equal But…

It has become a feature of Lib Dem and Conservative blogs to produce policy lists   which they claim prove that the Coalition  is a radical and reforming government. These individual claims are dodgy in themselves but the rest of us might conclude that they amount to little in total compared to the damage about to be inflicted on people up and down the country. To paraphase George Orwell, all things are equal but some things are more equal than others.The Coalition programme is an agreement that the Tories can do what they wish on the economy in return for minor concessions to the Lib Dem’s  on policy intiatives that are dear to them. It is not a zero sum game.

It is worth repeating that the Lib Dems opposed the Tory programme of public expenditure cuts and tax increases in the General Election. Can they be forgiven for an act of betrayal  of  their supporters and to the country as a whole ? Are the concessions they wrung from the eager Tories hungry for office a price worth paying? There are two considerations. First, what is the price? It is entirely resonable to conclude it is going to be extremely high: lost economic output, hundreds of thousands , perhaps millions,  of unemployed, falling real incomes, and numerous personal and family tragedies. Despite their  last minute conversion to Tory economics,  any Lib Dem worth his salt must be heavy-hearted at the consequences of Lib Dem betrayal . The claim that cuts on the scale of those proposed are inevitable now carries no conviction, they have become faint as more and more people come to realise that the cuts  are not required and, indeed, will be  positively harmful to the economy. And secondly, what do they gain? It is a pathetic and deceptive list. There are tax  changes to help the poor that are swallowed up by unemployment and higher prices; civil liberty gains, that make our roads more dangerous our borders more porous, increases the terrorist threat and reduces the ability of the police to catch guilty offenders by use of the DNA database;  opposition to nuclear power generation that threatens our ability to have sufficient power in years to come, and defence cuts which reduce the ability of our armed forces to protect us. The list is seemingly endless. In themselves these changes are paltry. The majority of us  recognise that the fruitless  years of derided Lib Dem policy formulation has  been rewarded by public office. It would be laughable if it were not so damaging to us all.

It is  time to call a halt. If we are well led, if we are brave  and defiant the tide can be turned in the autumn. It is  time for men of goodwill to come together to turn back the tide. Unfortunately, in Parliament that will be the responsibilty of the Lib Dem MPs whose supine behaviour got us to this point in the first place. They don’t have to do this to us all. They can decline to join in. It may be the only way  they can save their seats is by backtracking. If you cannot do it for us, do it for youself.

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The Office for Dodgy Statistics

I am proud to announce the establishment of the independant  Office for Dodgy Statistics and to explain its objectives to you. In Britain we  have a good record for producing high quality statistics such as in the National Office for Statistics. However, these organisations, good though they are,  suffer from serious disadvantages. They are staffed by statisticians! The figures these statisticians produce are somewhat complex, intricate often,  and their conclusions subject to numerous caveats. It is not too great an exageration to state that their output can only be understood by other statisticians so leaving the man in the street without figures he can rely on.  In a democracy this is insufferable. Let me give some examples. You and I know that crime is a dreadful problem in Britain and is rising. However, our official figures show them to be falling. My office will re-configure these indices to show the true position so that public confidence can be restored. Let me give you another example: examination results in our schools. The official statistics show that more and more children are getting A-C grades in their GCSE examinations . Now over 80% and rising. At the current rate of progress 105% of children will get these grades! Yes, don’t laugh. Absurd isn’t it? We will re-base these results so that the figure is some 70%. At a single stroke the number of children getting into good universities will come down; and your Free Schools, when you start them, can show immediate results Now let us consider a really serious subject: immigration! Your Coalition Government has put a cap on non-EU numbers coming into this country. If I am honest with you I must admit that such a cap is difficult to administer and the pressure to admit skilled migrants is very strong. We have a solution. We have cancelled the computer project which enables the counting in and out of migrants. Now no-one will know for sure how many migrants are in the country. We shall produce figures consistent with the cap so re-assuring the public that they are not being swamped. I do hope that you are getting the general drift of my argument. We are about building optimism and confidence in the future without which little can be achieved. (applause at this point).

Confidence must be built in the Big Society. When you take off time from your voluntary work to have a pint in the social club or your favourite pub we wish you to be armed with the information needed to encourage slackers to take part. You will be able to quote the muber of hectares of grass your team has mown, the square footage  of  railings painted and grafiti removed from walls, the numbers of pensioners helped with their shopping (Iused to do this at Eton, yes, truly I did! Stop laughing at the back!). In this way we shall be able to show that the Big Society has been far more successful at carrying out essential tasks  than the old discredited bureacratic organisation of Labour’s Big Government. That is our task. We are not going to let those dreary over-paid statisticians (do you know some have a higher salary than me!) spoil our fun – your fun really. Trust me! I’m a Tory.

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Let’s Have a Dangerous Society

We Lib Dems have always placed a great importance on civil liberties and it is impossible to deny that they have been eroded under the previous Labour administration. We  are happy that our Conservative  partners share our concerns. This is what we are in the process of doing: getting rid of speed cameras, removing CCTV cameras, reducing the DNA database, getting prisoners released early from prison and limiting the numbers sent there, reducing the number of Magistrates Courts so slowing the judicial process, reviewing the ant-terrorist measures to make it more difficult to retain suspected terrorists while reducing the size of the police force to limit their presence on English streets, and cutting our defence forces and their capacity to oppose terrorism abroad.  I think you will agree that this is a major expansion of civil liberties. Of course  I understand that liberty is not an absolute. Naturally we accept that there are other imperatives: in particular the over-riding need to secure and protect citizens and Britain’s overseas interest. I admit that crime will rise, accidents on our roads will increase and  thousands of our people will die and suffer serious accidents. I accept also that there is evidence that DNA evidence enables the police to solve many serious crimes and that CCTV cameras are useful in bringing people to justice and act as a deterrent to crime We may have to suffer more terrorist attacks and this will be a pity for innocent people will suffer as a consequence. I know these things for I am not a fool. But is this not a small price to pay for restoring the balance away from the surveillance society to the ‘ no business of the Government’ model?’  Or in other words building the BIG Society ( I thought I should squeeze it in somewhere). When it is asked how our participation in the Coalition has benefitted the British people we shall be able to to reply that we suceeded in enlarging the civil liberties. of all Englismen. The price we pay for it may be derided as blood on the street and ruined lives. We can admit it. Why not? But we can hold our heads high. We, almost on our own, with a little help from our friend Dave,   in building a freer society. Go out and proclaim it to the world.  Lets have a dangerous society if it is the price of holding our heads high. After all even criminals have votes when they are free and if we gave them votes when imprisoned they might vote for our free society. We can but hope. We need all the votes we can garner out there. Is there any one still listening?.

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Not any Old School


This is an imaginery piece written in the spirit of good fun and not malicious to anyone – perish the thought!

Address by the Secretary of State for Education.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been criticised for cancelling Labour’s school building programme. Quickly, so as not to spoil the occasion, I will go through my mantra – Labour’s recklessness, large public deficit, no money, a programme out of control etc etc. Now let us address the real problem. Dave and I want to create new Free Schools and this will cost us. Dave’s vision is lots of little Eton’s all over the country, my own, reflecting my childhood experiences, is somewhat different; but we agree on the essence of the matter, the desirability of creating lots of bureaucrat-free new schools in modern buildings with small classes, where children learn  in classrooms full of desks occupied by smiling well-fed children from good backgrounds. These schools will have the  the very best of teachers (no third class degrees to be seen anywhere) and will teach conventional subjects in the good old way. These children are entitled to know about the Romans, Edward the Confessor,  good Queen Bess , and the British Empire – and in that order (applause).

Where do we get the money from to build these aspirational, non-bureaucratically run schools? Look money doesn’t grow on trees: we have to spend new money and save some old money. The answer is to cancel school building projects for local authority run schools and give some of it to these better new Free schools. (applause). What could be more reasonable? We shall substitute these good new schools for those not so good old schools. Taken as a whole exam results would improve, children would behave better, and some teachers – the very best – would get higher pay. Is this not what Conservatism is about: some people, the nicest in society will do better and others, perhaps not so deserving, would do less well. We are in politics for this purpose, to encourage competition and to reward hard work. (applause) And we reject socialism with its tired old belief that everyone should be treated equally with bureaucratic controls to ensure that they were. (more applause)  If the result of this policy is to encourage people to quit sink Council estates and seek jobs and school places in towns that would welcome them in the North, perhaps in Scotland or Northern Ireland as well,  wouldn’t that be good too? (applause). Get them off welfare and into work! (more applause).

Friends, I have a dream. In this dream I am on a train to a leafy place in the Midlands. It is a foggy day. I walk through a misty haze of side roads and there ahead of me shining bright is a new school built in the traditonal way but pristine and proud with the smiling faces of children moving urgently to the school There is a Doric Arch and above it the words engraved in gold letters, ‘The Sandygrove Institute, one more Michael Gove Initiative’. I am human you see. If Tesco can get away with it , why not me? (laughter) All men should dream a little. Thank you for listening.  (prolonged applause).

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Lock Up Your Daughters

Two independent reviews of British crime statistics have given them a clean bill of health. Indeed they reveal and confirm dramatic reductions in recorded crime which has reached  the lowest level since 1981. Much of the recent decline in crime can reasonably be attrributed to the policies pursued by the Labour Government since 1997.  You might  expect the Conservatives to issue a public apology for all its nonsense on  the Broken Society, would you not? No chance. I have pointed out the tendancy of the Coalition when caught out in a lie is to lie some more. Strong words, yes! But true. 

Here are two examples. A Home Office Minister said it remained true that Britain was one of the most crime ridden societies in the world. Oh, come on. It is universally recognised that international comparisons are notoriously misleading and any quotation must be given with a health warning. I quote one such warning,  ‘ Crime statistics are often better indicators of law enforcement and the willingness to report cime than actual prevalence.’ Quite so. In Britain more policemen, more tools at their disposal, CCTV cameras and a big DNA database, more arrests, more people in prison. Secondly, Teresa May is quoted as saying that there is something wrong with these statistics which are known to her and which have eluded the experts and that she is conducting a review of how offences are recorded and presented. Cut it out! You are not a criminologist and certainly not a statistical guru. Of course the police could alter the way they record crime – perhaps they should – BUT even if they did these crimes would still be falling. There is no such problem with the British Crime Survey. The decline in crime is accurately described by the public itself. Don’t take my word for it. Read the reports published yesterday. There are costs in not telling the truth: higher levels of anxiety among the general public than is reasonable  and mistrust of the police. My advice to the Coalition is stop lying and live with the truth.

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I Make Mistakes…

‘I make mistakes all the time’ said the beleagued Sir Alan Budd, the boss of the OBR,  addressing the Treasury Committee of the House of Commons on Tuesday, 13 July. What did he mean? What mistakes? Sir Alan was defending the independance of the OBR against accusations that the it did not address adequately the effects on unemployment of the Government’s emergency budget, the release of figures to the Treasury in advance of general publication and his assessment of economic risk. But Sir Alan knows from his rich experience as a public servant that to make decisions is a risky business and no man can be expected to get all of them right. I am sure he was also reminding his audience that economic forecasting is an art and not a science – forecasts will, predictably, be wrong, overtaken by events and not corrected by arithmetic. Still we must do the best we can especially at times of the greatest uncertainty.

There is a widespread confusion of thinking about the nature of risk. It is flip and popular to assume that decision making in Government and the private commercial sector are similar and that the application of so-called lessons from one are directly applicable to the other. In the private sector decisions can be unwound , reversed quickly, without investors and  the wider public even knowing the mistake was made. If reversed within an annual reporting period  one need never know. Reversing a public policy decision may involve a complicated legislative procedure under the eagle eyes of a knowing  nation – quite a different matter.  What every top executive  knows is that if he gets 50% of his decisions right he is doing exceptionally well and if they start to go wrong he can modify them expeditiously so that no one notices. He can build this flexibility into the original decision. This option is not open to the civil service.

I have commentated on the febrile hyper activity of the Coalition. As the Lib Dems have been reminded by the venerable Clegg it is necessary to prepare for a possible election in two years time. The Coalition parties have their checklists. This is what we promised in 2010 and look you electors we did all these things, tick, tick, tick. But, remind yourself, over 50% of these ‘things’ should never have been done in the first place and we lack the time to know which of these was a major blunder. In the nature of doing things some of the outcomes are long term. You think I exagerate? Here is an example. In the year 2018 (or some such date) the lights go out and power supply is denied to many parts of the country. National emergency! It is explained to an indignant public that we had been much too slow in developing nuclear energy which had been opposed by the Lib Dems in the mistaken hope of adequate alternative energy supplies. A possibility, you bet. Recorded crime has risen and the country has suffered avoidable terroist attacks. An affect of the Coalition programme of restoring civil liberties and abandoning CCTV, watering down anti-terrorist legislation and weakening  the the DNA database? Or an effect of much higher unemployment and homelessness? Who knows? 

Do we need a Coalition Government busy doing everything two political parties promised whether foolish or otherwise and are unable to rectify  for fear of the electorate in two years time? Like a hole in the head, we do.

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