The Thick of It


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime

Tony Blair's words of 1993 are as prophetic as ever in setting out what we do as a society to tackle this huge problem of urban unrest. We need to come down on rioters and looters hard. People don't want that and those involved need to know that there is no place for that behaviour.

People will speculate about the causes of the riots. Nobody will ever agree. A poverty of ambition and aspiration among the criminal rioters seems prevalent. This comes despite many years of additional education funding and opportunity. That obviously wasn't enough. Taking away much of that, as the Tories have done and are doing, won't help. It explains but doesn't excuse.

Today's parliamentary debate saw some agreement between David Cameron and Ed Miliband. That is promising. If this tragedy is turned into a political game of ping pong nothing will get done. A lot needs to get done.

It would send out the wrong signal to cut police numbers and budgets now. It did anyway but eve more so now. Otherwise how will the authorities react in future if something like this happens again? Cameron still wants to cut budgets which threatens to roll back the progress made over recent years to reduce crime and make our streets safer. In London I've personally felt the benefit from Safer Neighbourhood Teams. Cuts to those in this context will show that the Tories really just don't get it and don't have the backs of ordinary Londoners covered.

The key challenge is to ensure that the right words now don't filter away as they did in the 1980s and in the USA after Hurricane Katrina. We need to show that we've learnt from that. Cameron needs to show that Conservatism really is compassionate and that it won't just be tough on crime, but also its causes. This means that budget cuts should never take precedence, as they seem to be, over public safety or rebuilding our communities.

Cameron isn't Blair yet and never will be.

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