Violent Crime in UK?

Jim heartfield jim at
Thu Aug 3 14:14:57 PDT 2000

Britain is at least as riven by crime panics as the US.

The classical analysis of such panics by two British authors separately is an indication: Stuart Hall et al, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, The State and Law and Order; Geoffrey Pearson, Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears.

Hall in particular was talking about the mugging panic of the 1970s that in some senses laid the basis for the right-wing reaction that elected Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party. Under the Tories, law and order was an almost constant refrain, with ever more otiose repressive measures introduced year on year.

The defensiveness of the Labour Party on the issue carried on until the leader-to-be Tony Blair became shadow Home Secretary, and instead of offering half-hearted qualms about the danger to civil liberties offered by these new laws, sought instead to attack the Tories from the right.

Blair identified the Tories' free market policies with excessive individualism, leading to criminal irresponsibility. Suddenly it was Labour that was 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'. Blair modelled his crime policy on the former Trotskyist turned 'radical' Criminologist, Jock Young, who made a career out of pissing on the 'romantic left's illusions in the criminal underclass (he meant Hall, whose ideas he followed when younger).

After they won in 97 Labour had a lengthy honeymoon period, but as disillusionment has set in the crime scare has re-emerged. The new Tory leader has sought to put the blame back on Blair for 'rising crime'. In panic, Blair proposes new clampdowns on a weekly, if not nightly basis. This Dutch auction is carrying on with no-one standing up for what Blair derided at a recent Labour conference as 'libertarian nonsense'.

The process behind these surface movements is the disaggregation of the traditional solidarities of the working class - following the long defeat of the Labour movement in the eighties. With communities increasingly dissipated and individuals more isolated, the *fear* of crime rises exponentially, while crime itself is falling. The perverse outcome is that nobody will believe that it is falling.

Characteristically those who are preoccupied with crime tend to be the more socially isolated - older people, those who live on their own. But increasingly they are the trend-setters rather than the antediluvians. (In Britain, one third of households are people living on their own.)

In message <000001bffcb7$e7690f20$5aa737cf at elmzh>, John K. Taber <jktaber at> writes
>We have a right wing fanatic on the retirement newsgroup who
>posts press clippings from right wing sources.
>Lately he has posted a number of clippings on rising crime
>and violence in the UK. So far, all his sources look like
>Murdoch press to me.
>Are the neocons trying to institute American style criminalization
>of the public in the UK? It seems to be at least a propaganda drive.
>Comments, anybody?
>John K. Taber

-- James Heartfield

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