Monday, May 16, 2005

Doomed Again

Well, if Mr Blair is going to make the tackling of "disrespect and yobbish behaviour" the key theme of this third term, he may as well pack up now. He doesn't stand a hope.

Two reasons. To see one - that an awful lot of liberals in positions key to tackling yob culture either don't think there's a problem, or think more social workers are the answer - you only need to look at the response to the ban on hoodies by the Bluewater Centre. As one, Guardianistas have risen to either denounce or take the mick - mostly the latter.

There are some serious criticisms to be made of the idea - chief of which is that you're dealing with symptoms not causes. True enough. But the Bluewater Mall is a private complex with a problem - that shoppers are put off by the gangs, and that those hoodie-wearers who do commit criminal or anti-social acts can't be identified. They're dealing with the problems they face. If the hoodie gangs go elsewhere and act up, that's not their problem - indeed, if Bluewater becomes safer than the average High street, it might even make them more money. I've noted before how street crime is good for out of town centres.

It hardly bears credence, but the organisation formerly known as the Church of England Children's Society, now in the hands of the most extreme Seventies throwbacks (they belive among other things that no young person should ever be locked up - including murderers like the Bulger killers) have actually called for people to boycott the centre. 'Youngsters are being unfairly blamed' whines the Observer (it's interesting how the archaic 'youngsters', a word from a gentler England, with its residual overtones of scuffed shoes, grazed knees and school caps, is routinely used by liberals to describe streetwise, knife-carrying chav types). And 'demonisation' has been wheeled out all over the place.

The mick-takers are more from the 'what problem ?' school. The News Quiz on Radio 4 had great fun with the idea. John O'Farrell in the Guardian. Any Answers was full of clever-clogs asking - what about monks ? what about burquas ? or Senior Lecturers from the School of Moral Panic reminding us of Clacton in 1964 or that some Greek in 300 BC thought the young were disrespectful, therefore concerns about the young are never justified in any age.

These people - the social workers, the media, charities, liberal Middle England - are the people on whom Blair will rely to implement his schemes. There's an iron law here - if the policies are any good, liberals will complain about them. If they're useless but keep large numbers of outreach workers in gainful employment - they'll love them, call for more, and work assiduously at propagating a myth of 'success'.

Remember that many of these people don't even acknowledge a problem at all. For them the problem is moral panic, an irrational fear of crime and young people, whipped up by tabloids to sell papers or further a "Daily Mail agenda". There never was a golden age. For Blair to rely on such people is 'the acme of gullibility'.

They killed Blair's big idea of his first term - thinking the unthinkable on welfare - and they will kill this one.

In evidence ? How about "your 314 search results for 'crime crackdown'" ? Yet after 8 years of Labour government we still seem to have a problem. And we're starting the same way, with Hazel Blear's great soundbite on uniforms for offenders. Dumb Jon has a great quote on this tactic which I'll dig up later. No - can't find it, but the idea is - come out with outrageous soundbite which gets amplified by the BBC until it's picked up subliminally by Joe Public. Of course it'll never be implemented and will be quietly dropped, a fact picked up by political obsessives (me and thee) but missed by Joe, who's left with the vague notion that 'they're doing something'.

The second reason ? Blair still hasn't really grasped what's happened in Britain over the last thirty-forty years. He, like so many well-meaning people in all major parties, thinks you can turn the cultural bath upside down but that somehow the baby will still be there. Christianity ? Intensive care. Marriage ? Gravely ill. Shared culture ? You what ?

"Mr Blair said the end of deference and preference did not mean society did not have any rules."

Mr Blair can say it as much as he likes. Of course there is still one rule - what you can get away with. Turns out to be rather a lot.

"I want to send a very clear signal from Parliament, not just the government, that this type of disrespect and yobbish behaviour will not be tolerated any more"

And how exactly will you do that ? The prisons are full. Your client groups don't think people should be sent there for stealing, or indeed anything apart from racism, hunting and domestic violence.

I know. You'll send a guy with a stud in his tongue and a bag of skunk in his back pocket to talk to them. And when that doesn't work ? He'll talk to their parents. And when that doesn't work ? He'll talk to his peers, agree that the Smith family are 'very difficult', and blame globalisation or the Daily Mail.

"Mr Blair denied moves to allow 24-hour drinking sent the wrong signal". And smoking doesn't cause cancer.

"What I cannot do is raise someone's children for them." Someone had better tell Polly Toynbee.

The deep seated causes of anti-social behaviour are apparently "to do with family life in the way that parents regard their responsibility to their children, in the way that some kids grow up generation to generation without proper parenting, without a proper sense of discipline within the family."

Well, yes. Responsibility to your children - like staying with them to bring them up. I've noticed the Government campaigns against fathers who leave their kids, and mothers who want the kids but not their fathers. And the tax system that leaves a single parent with two children better off than a two-parent family. They really mean it, don't they ?

"... generation to generation without proper parenting ...". Does he mean the Land of Bastards ?

A proper sense of discipline for kids. Ah yes. Up to five years jail for parents if they smack their child and leave a red mark on their skin. Introduced January 2005. I do love joined up government, don't you ?

UPDATE - more at Blognor Regis. Note the apparent time travel - I've moved this post up front.

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