Here's a fine piece of rubbish by Janet Daley from today's Telegraph. Addressing Blair's criminal justice speech on Friday and Cameron's call for a 'common sense' British Bill of Rights she asks why no equivalent of New York police chief William Bratton's 'miracle' has happened here. It is, she concludes, 'Because there is a lack of political will.'
This is true enough. But it's all downhill from there:
'Why is this so? And, more to the point, why is the will lacking here when it is not in the United States? Because public officials in America do not suffer from historical class guilt: the guilt that is embodied in that Blairite aphorism about the "causes of crime."'
Oh for pity's sake. On and on she barks:
'So long as we accept the doctrine of socially determined criminality - that if a crime is committed, we are all at fault - we will never, ever be in a position to demand effective prosecution of criminals. But, of course, many of us do not accept it. Law-abiding people, especially those who are poor and disadvantaged themselves, do not generally believe it is their fault when someone else commits a crime. This view is a self-indulgent, and deeply patronising, luxury of the privileged for whom the acceptance of the burden of guilt is a class shibboleth. Like so much else in British life, it comes down to snobbery.'
Let's place on one side Daley's own 'deeply patronising' view of 'the poor and disadvantaged', a group I doubt she has the slightest contact with except, perhaps, when sacking a cleaner. Instead let's concentrate on the insights her article provides into the fantasy theories that sustain her and fellow harrumphers on the ivory tower Right.
Daley's apparent belief that there is no connection between poor social conditions and the incidence of certain forms of criminality is, of course, simply idiotic. But the true bankruptcy of her position lies in her insistence that from any acknowledgement of this relationship automatically follows a squeamish dislike of having the law enforced efficiently and effectively. In Daley's small world of prejudice and glib cause-and-effect rhetoric it is impossible for anyone to simultaneously recognise that economic hardship, poor housing and harsh parenting help create the conditions in which crime thrives and to want criminals caught and corrected.
Well, Janet, I am such a person. And so are the many others who recently worked together in my corner of east London to close down a nightclub - the Palace Pavilion - that had become a magnet for murderers and drug dealers and for inconsiderate revellers and hangers-on who created a generally malign mood of disorder at weekends. The coalition of locals who brought this about was led by Labour councillors and community activists supported by a range of residents including mosque-goers, Christian clerics and the sorts of citizens you think of as simpering pinko apologists.
The other vital participants were the local police. For a long time they had declined to move against the club on the not illogical grounds that if they closed down a licenced premises, illegal ones might spring up in its wake with the associated crooks going further underground. Such a consequence seems possible to me but even such a negative will still be outweighed by our community's very public refusal to allow the violent and antisocial to dominate it. And the shift in police policy showed what can be achieved when the constabulary is receptive to the voices of those it serves.
If more should follow suit it would improve the prospects of a New York-style approach happening and succeeding in London and elsewhere. But that will require a greater readiness on the part of the police themselves to change, something they are always loathe to do as successive Home Secretaries have discovered to their cost. Perhaps that is a problem Ms Daley should have had the guts to pay some attention to instead of simply rehashing the usual cowardly cliches about 'liberals'.