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‘Tough on crime’ won’t rescue the Tories Voters don't want a 'no-nonsense' government

He's hard. (Jack Hill - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

He's hard. (Jack Hill - WPA Pool/Getty Images)


April 3, 2023   5 mins

“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” remains one of Tony Blair’s most memorable slogans — still durable and pithy well after its coinage, 30 years ago. It is archetypal of the Third Way approach, and continues to articulate a broad popular understanding of how to address law and order. And it has continued to cast a long shadow over political messaging on criminal justice — right up to Rishi Sunak’s latest push on “immediate justice” and anti-social behaviour, which includes crackdowns on the sale of nitrous oxide and begging.

Like Blair, Sunak has become party leader relatively young. Like Blair, he is still fairly new to the political frontline, and seeks to distinguish himself from his predecessors. But the rest of the political context is dramatically different. Whereas Labour at that time were in opposition and hungry for power, the current Tory Prime Minister fronts a party which has held office for 13 years. His focus on law and order, polling would suggest, is more a case of holding a line than of ploughing new terrain. So, what was it that made “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” such a compelling turn of phrase for New Labour? And can “tough” rhetoric boost the prospects of Rishi Sunak in the same way?

The work of US psychologist George Lakoff is useful here. An interdisciplinary academic, originally specialising in linguistics, Lakoff sought to understand why Left-wing and Right-wing thinking often falls along clear and predictable lines — even in policy fields that ostensibly have little in common. “Why,” as Lakoff put it, “does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty?… What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming?”

One of Lakoff’s conclusions, in answer to these questions, related to cause and effect. He set out two ways of thinking. “Direct” causation, he argued, emphasises immediate actions and consequences: A + B = C. This approach is favoured by conservatives; Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico, for example, is “direct” reasoning on steroids. In the other corner, preferred by progressives and the liberal Left, is “systemic” reasoning. This looks upwards, to an ecosystem of structural and societal factors; it concludes that these are the true catalyst for the social ills we face.

Apply this to law and order, and you get a clear overlay. Is the “scourge of anti-social behaviour”, as Rishi Sunak calls it, a “direct” problem, best solved by stronger policing and harsher punishments? Or is it a “systemic” one, created by the lack of opportunities which an economically unequal society creates? Should we be tough on crime or tough on its causes? Most of us will have at least some “direct” instincts when it comes to crime. Getting pick-pocketed or happy-slapped might leave even a diehard “society’s fault” liberal wanting to see some form of comeuppance. Indeed, if we think about why criminal justice is so emotive for people — and why it remains a political football in a comparatively safe country like Britain — it’s partly because it presents such an instinctive call to action for “direct” reasoning.

If a person has killed someone else with a knife, for instance, an intuitive response is to believe both that we need to be protected from them and that they need to pay. The “systemic” argument — which would instead look at the wider contextual factors that led them to offend — will often seem beside the point. It may only be possible to make it from a safe distance away, once the immediate threat has been addressed. Indeed, George Lakoff describes how automatic “direct” causation can be:

From infanthood on we experience direct, simple causation: if we push a toy, it topples over; if our mother turns a knob on the oven, flames emerge. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation… Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation… When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.

“Systemic” thinking, by contrast, “is more complex and is not represented in the grammar of any language”. As Lakoff puts it: “It just has to be learned.” This partly explains why the Left so often feels it is playing away from home. Progressive tonics may be correct, in a technical or philosophical sense. But they come to human beings less naturally.

This brings us back to Blair’s Nineties strapline. “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” was so effective because it told voters you did not need to choose between “direct” and “systemic” causation. The police can get on with stopping crime while somewhere, in a classroom on the other side of town, a teacher equips their pupils to avoid it in the first place. Blair’s “tough on crime” rhetoric was an attempt to rid Labour of its reputation as a party built on “systemic” reasoning alone. The soundbite thus bridged the blank-slate logic of the liberal Left with the more common-sense approach of Labour’s traditional support and of swing voters. In the run up to 1997, this formula provided the reassurance which both groups needed.

What is the relevance of all this, when it comes to Sunak’s current electoral predicament? In a report for Progressive Britain last year, I argued that Boris Johnson’s success in the Red Wall came down to his bish-bosh-wallop mastery of “direct” logic. The Tories had historically accepted elements of “systemic” reasoning and attempted to straddle the two. But, from foreign policy to immigration to the economy, they slowly re-styled themselves over the course of the 2010s as a “no-nonsense” party, whose purpose was to provide “direct” answers to every policy question you could care to mention. According to Sebastian Payne’s book, Broken Heartlands, Dominic Cummings told 2019 Tory strategists to frame their pitch to the Red Wall as “Blairism without caring about the causes of crime”.

By doubling down on one side of Lakoff’s equation, the Tories won the 80-seat majority which Sunak now presides over (against a candidate, in Jeremy Corbyn, who appeared to embody woolly “systemic” thinking at its worst). But they also left themselves badly exposed — especially following Boris Johnson’s very “direct” and obvious breaches of his own rules. They now find themselves adrift from any voter of a vaguely “systemic” bent, reliant on an electoral pool whose geographical spread makes them efficient in terms of winning seats, but whose age profile makes them increasingly rare. To have any hope, the Conservatives now find themselves in a position where they need to continually stimulate this group’s fear that wishy-washy, “systemic” thinking has taken over. And they need to present themselves as the guardians of “direct” solutions to every problem — from small boats to laughing gas.

Social mores have also changed significantly since Blair’s early days as Labour leader — partly due to the expansion of higher education which his governments subsequently presided over. Support for the death penalty, for example — as good a proxy for toughness as you’ll find — fell from over 70% in 1993 to under 50% today. Third Way politics did not have to contend with such a broad values spectrum as now exists. Conservative strategists may regard the small but growing cohort of ultra-“systemic” reasoners on the Left as a gift, allowing them to galvanise their “direct”-thinking base against a phrase such as “defund the police”. But they perhaps miss, in the course of this, that the mean average of public opinion has moved too. The typical voter, I suspect, is readier to blame an issue such as anti-social behaviour on social conditions than they were in the Eighties and Nineties. In this context, policy announcements based on “direct” reasoning may bring diminishing returns as time passes.

Ultimately, Sunak’s focus on crime derives from a fundamentally different place from the young Blair’s. Whereas the latter was trying to marry two electorates and retain both, the former is seeking to hold onto one — at the expense, very likely, of further haemorrhaging votes within the other. If the Tories lose the next election, then some greater reckoning with these questions will surely be required, by Sunak or his successor. In a curious reversal of New Labour’s dilemma, the UK’s growing tribe of “systemic” reasoners will at some point need to somehow be won back — through a public demonstration that the Tories are serious about the “causes of crime”. Who knows? They may even wind up resuscitating Blair’s full slogan.


Chris Clarke is a social researcher and former political press officer, and is the author of The Dark Knight and the Puppet Master

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Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

I think this article is yet another example of journalistic humblebrag – he and his cohort are of course the sophisticated, systemic thinkers, whereas the red wall are merely a bunch of cause and effect Neanderthals.
The reality I think is far more nuanced than this, and the author discredits himself by not appreciating it.
I think the Red Wall voters are more open to systemic thinking than he gives them credit for – not voting for Corbyn does not indicate otherwise, as there are plenty of other perfectly sound reasons why they did not vote for him.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

I think this article is yet another example of journalistic humblebrag – he and his cohort are of course the sophisticated, systemic thinkers, whereas the red wall are merely a bunch of cause and effect Neanderthals.
The reality I think is far more nuanced than this, and the author discredits himself by not appreciating it.
I think the Red Wall voters are more open to systemic thinking than he gives them credit for – not voting for Corbyn does not indicate otherwise, as there are plenty of other perfectly sound reasons why they did not vote for him.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
1 year ago

The author amply demonstrates why the left are hopeless at law and order, indulging in ivory tower navel-gazing while people in the real world suffer from violence and antisocial behaviour. Oh, and by the way, I was of voting age in the early 90s and we all saw through Tony’s BS. Very few people thought smarmy Tone was clever on crime; we just knew John Major was hopeless.

Alex Moscow
Alex Moscow
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

demonstrates why the left are useless on crime…‘ Data from Statista would suggest that while crime consistently decreased over the course of Labour’s last period in power, the opposite is true of the Tories. 

Last edited 1 year ago by Alex Moscow
N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Moscow

“Data from Statistica”(?!).
Statistica is just a software package developed by TIBCO (a silicon valley based company). What research and what actual data are you referring to?

Alex Moscow
Alex Moscow
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

The data is from the ONS and reproduced on the Statista website. The system won’t allow me to provide the link here. But, when you search for UK crime figures since 2010, you’ll find it.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Moscow

Aha! You meant to say Statista.
Anyway, thanks for that link. Very interesting batch of figures though not quite clearcut evidence that crime falls under Labour.
For example, the number of homicide offences in England and Wales from 2002 to 2022:
There were 1047 in 2002 falling to 620 in 2009/10 (the last year of Labour government). They carried on falling to a low of 533 in 2013/14 (the Cameron led coalition). Since 2016 they have been in the very low 700s – with a sharp dip in 2020/21 certainly due to the pandemic.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

How many of the homicides are in London, during the tenure of Sadiq Khan?

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

How many of the homicides are in London, during the tenure of Sadiq Khan?

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Moscow

Aha! You meant to say Statista.
Anyway, thanks for that link. Very interesting batch of figures though not quite clearcut evidence that crime falls under Labour.
For example, the number of homicide offences in England and Wales from 2002 to 2022:
There were 1047 in 2002 falling to 620 in 2009/10 (the last year of Labour government). They carried on falling to a low of 533 in 2013/14 (the Cameron led coalition). Since 2016 they have been in the very low 700s – with a sharp dip in 2020/21 certainly due to the pandemic.

Alex Moscow
Alex Moscow
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

The data is from the ONS and reproduced on the Statista website. The system won’t allow me to provide the link here. But, when you search for UK crime figures since 2010, you’ll find it.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Moscow

The stats for London tell a different story: murders decreasing under Boris, increasing under Sadiq.
With the best will in the world, however, crime stats need to be treated with great caution, not least because of the big differences between crime levels as recorded by the police and as revealed by the British Crime Survey.
Plod seems to have been far too busy of late recording non-crime hate incidents to record actual crimes and, anecdotally at least, many people now don’t bother reporting a crime unless they need a crime number for insurance purposes.
Not to mention that most crime these days takes place online and is barely recorded. Why go out in the cold and the rain to shin up a drainpipe with a crowbar when you can sit at home with an Uber Eats pizza and a can of lager, committing crime with virtually zero chance of being caught?

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Moscow

“Data from Statistica”(?!).
Statistica is just a software package developed by TIBCO (a silicon valley based company). What research and what actual data are you referring to?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Moscow

The stats for London tell a different story: murders decreasing under Boris, increasing under Sadiq.
With the best will in the world, however, crime stats need to be treated with great caution, not least because of the big differences between crime levels as recorded by the police and as revealed by the British Crime Survey.
Plod seems to have been far too busy of late recording non-crime hate incidents to record actual crimes and, anecdotally at least, many people now don’t bother reporting a crime unless they need a crime number for insurance purposes.
Not to mention that most crime these days takes place online and is barely recorded. Why go out in the cold and the rain to shin up a drainpipe with a crowbar when you can sit at home with an Uber Eats pizza and a can of lager, committing crime with virtually zero chance of being caught?

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Any facts, reasoning or evidence to go with your ‘feelings’ about this? Anyone who uses ‘me’ and ‘we all’ interchangably isn’t thinking much. Who the hell is “we all”? You and your chums?

Alex Moscow
Alex Moscow
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

demonstrates why the left are useless on crime…‘ Data from Statista would suggest that while crime consistently decreased over the course of Labour’s last period in power, the opposite is true of the Tories. 

Last edited 1 year ago by Alex Moscow
John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Any facts, reasoning or evidence to go with your ‘feelings’ about this? Anyone who uses ‘me’ and ‘we all’ interchangably isn’t thinking much. Who the hell is “we all”? You and your chums?

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
1 year ago

The author amply demonstrates why the left are hopeless at law and order, indulging in ivory tower navel-gazing while people in the real world suffer from violence and antisocial behaviour. Oh, and by the way, I was of voting age in the early 90s and we all saw through Tony’s BS. Very few people thought smarmy Tone was clever on crime; we just knew John Major was hopeless.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” remains one of Tony Blair’s most memorable slogans –

memorable for its sheer mealy-mouthedness. The ever-crafty Blair was aiming to appeal to those voters who wanted the criminal justice system to do a better job of actually fighting crime. However, with a Labour party wedded to the idea that the root causes of crime must lie with poverty and inequality it was necessary to include that ‘tough on the causes’ sop. As I recall New Labour didn’t achieve either of those aims.
Yet the socialist dream never dies. Over in California plans are afoot for white people (who never owned slaves) to pay huge ‘reparations’ to black people (who were never slaves) – in the interests of fixing the wealth gap (allegedly) stemming from slavery. Presumably this wealth gap is blamed for the high crime rates among black Americans and crime rates will fall when the ‘levelling up’ process comes into force. Good luck with that!

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Also why are other ethnic minorities successful when Black Americans are not? Black immigrants from the Caribean to the US have been much more successful. Systems thinking subjugated to an odious socialist ideology to focus on incorrect cause and effect loops, such as identity politics is at best delusion and at worst an authoritarian move toward anarchy.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Also why are other ethnic minorities successful when Black Americans are not? Black immigrants from the Caribean to the US have been much more successful. Systems thinking subjugated to an odious socialist ideology to focus on incorrect cause and effect loops, such as identity politics is at best delusion and at worst an authoritarian move toward anarchy.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” remains one of Tony Blair’s most memorable slogans –

memorable for its sheer mealy-mouthedness. The ever-crafty Blair was aiming to appeal to those voters who wanted the criminal justice system to do a better job of actually fighting crime. However, with a Labour party wedded to the idea that the root causes of crime must lie with poverty and inequality it was necessary to include that ‘tough on the causes’ sop. As I recall New Labour didn’t achieve either of those aims.
Yet the socialist dream never dies. Over in California plans are afoot for white people (who never owned slaves) to pay huge ‘reparations’ to black people (who were never slaves) – in the interests of fixing the wealth gap (allegedly) stemming from slavery. Presumably this wealth gap is blamed for the high crime rates among black Americans and crime rates will fall when the ‘levelling up’ process comes into force. Good luck with that!

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

The author says it himself – that “systematic” thinkers might be right in a technical or philosophical sense – but they are wrong in a physical sense (also known as reality). Because he is on the side of systematic thinkers he fails to mention that being tough on crime is also a tonic to one of the causes of crime (deterrence). Like all those people who say they will never vote for the Conservatives and then quietly vote for them I think the author probably sees the flaws in his argument and just wilfully glosses over them in this article – I get the suspicion he thinks (or as he gets older will realise) that being tough on the causes of crime isn’t enough.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

If you think that things like poverty, family breakdown; low wages (so low that the tax payer has to top them up), don’t increase nihilism and crime then you probably can’t be reached. But it seems to me that systemic intervention is a no brainer and nor should that preclude proper detection and tough sentencing. The tories will always dog whistle about law and order in the run up to an election. Only to get in and cut police numbers by 30,000. It’s a lie. Don’t fall for it. Remember who they’re working for.

David B
David B
1 year ago

It might also be reasonably proposed that crime causes poverty, family breakdown and low wages, both directly and indirectly.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

And if you think that wealth aleviates criminality you don’t know enough rich people.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Love the retort (and I’d be the last person to place a halo over the super-rich), but this is about street crime right? Do you really think our prisons are as well full of people from pebbled-dashed semis as they are from backstreets and council estates? I know you don’t, but just in case you can’t take my word for it:
‘Many prisoners have a history of social exclusion, being more likely than the general population to have grown up in care, poverty, and to have had a family member convicted of a criminal offence’
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/278837/prisoners-childhood-family-backgrounds.pdf

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
10 months ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Sorry DW but I do think society would be better off if more criminals ((of every class) were in jail. It’s called fairness.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
10 months ago
Reply to  Desmond Wolf

Sorry DW but I do think society would be better off if more criminals ((of every class) were in jail. It’s called fairness.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Love the retort (and I’d be the last person to place a halo over the super-rich), but this is about street crime right? Do you really think our prisons are as well full of people from pebbled-dashed semis as they are from backstreets and council estates? I know you don’t, but just in case you can’t take my word for it:
‘Many prisoners have a history of social exclusion, being more likely than the general population to have grown up in care, poverty, and to have had a family member convicted of a criminal offence’
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/278837/prisoners-childhood-family-backgrounds.pdf

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

So who are they working for ?
Separate point: Gordon Brown’s creation of tax credits created the taxpayer top-up of low wages and facilitated the effect you deplore. These were available up to even average wages – a deliberate policy of increasing welfare dependency.
Back to the main point.
Systemic intervention can be helpful. Provided it is the correct intervention. I’ve recently read a book called “Neurotribes” about the history of autism. It took over 40 years to understand what the correct systemic interventions were – and only after trying out several policies which often caused as much damage as they alleviated.
So we shouldn’t pretend that systemic intervention is easy. And it’s the sort of thing that gets very politicised.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
1 year ago

except when people were really really poor in the 1930’s this supposed cause (poverty) and effect (criminality) did not exist. You yourself maybe need to be open to the prospect that you are blinded by ideology, denying you may be wrong and can’t be reached

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Is there data to underpin the point you make that in 30s little link between poverty and crime?
One doesn’t want to be blinded but we need to see how much illumination you really do have on this.

carl taylor
carl taylor
1 year ago

I’d like to see data on that, too. The notion of the poverty-stricken but honest in pre-Welfare State Britain is, I suspect, largely a myth. The more I read about life in the first half of the 20thC (it’s an interest), the more I realise that it wasn’t as rosy as I was led to believe by my parents and grandparents. The extent of criminality on the home front in WW2 (inc the myth of the Blitz) was a real eye-opener.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  carl taylor

yep concur CT. Lots of rose-tinted projections onto the past. Looting and criminality was rife during the Blitz. Our national story and mythology glosses over that, and fair enough. Overall the national mood was defiant and resilient, but it was a closer run thing than sometimes assumed.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  carl taylor

yep concur CT. Lots of rose-tinted projections onto the past. Looting and criminality was rife during the Blitz. Our national story and mythology glosses over that, and fair enough. Overall the national mood was defiant and resilient, but it was a closer run thing than sometimes assumed.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Is there data to underpin the point you make that in 30s little link between poverty and crime?
One doesn’t want to be blinded but we need to see how much illumination you really do have on this.

carl taylor
carl taylor
1 year ago

I’d like to see data on that, too. The notion of the poverty-stricken but honest in pre-Welfare State Britain is, I suspect, largely a myth. The more I read about life in the first half of the 20thC (it’s an interest), the more I realise that it wasn’t as rosy as I was led to believe by my parents and grandparents. The extent of criminality on the home front in WW2 (inc the myth of the Blitz) was a real eye-opener.

David B
David B
1 year ago

It might also be reasonably proposed that crime causes poverty, family breakdown and low wages, both directly and indirectly.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

And if you think that wealth aleviates criminality you don’t know enough rich people.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

So who are they working for ?
Separate point: Gordon Brown’s creation of tax credits created the taxpayer top-up of low wages and facilitated the effect you deplore. These were available up to even average wages – a deliberate policy of increasing welfare dependency.
Back to the main point.
Systemic intervention can be helpful. Provided it is the correct intervention. I’ve recently read a book called “Neurotribes” about the history of autism. It took over 40 years to understand what the correct systemic interventions were – and only after trying out several policies which often caused as much damage as they alleviated.
So we shouldn’t pretend that systemic intervention is easy. And it’s the sort of thing that gets very politicised.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
1 year ago

except when people were really really poor in the 1930’s this supposed cause (poverty) and effect (criminality) did not exist. You yourself maybe need to be open to the prospect that you are blinded by ideology, denying you may be wrong and can’t be reached

Kevin R
Kevin R
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Not at all sure that harsh punishment works that well as a deterrent on any significant scale. US figures on incarceration and violent crime tend to suggest that it doesn’t.

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

If there’s one thing the ‘direct thinkers’ don’t have any interest in, it’s evidence. Empirical facts are generally regarded as a sign of weakness.
Whether a policy reduces crime or not is irrelevant- ‘tough on crime’ is not about reducing crime, it’s about giving emotional satisfaction to the proponent. Its solely about ‘feelings’, ironically.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

Isn’t it a combination of the harshness of punishment and the certainty of being caught that delivers the true deterrent to criminality?

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

I think Criminology studies show the former doesn’t have quite the effect we might think (although some form of punishment necessary) but the latter does. High chance of being caught, less chance of the crime being done.
The issue therefore may be whether we’ve spent last 13yrs increasing the likelihood of being caught and justice administered quickly. I think we know the answers on both, albeit will vary a bit depending on type of crime.
Having a life that means the risk of ruination just too great if caught has to also be a factor. Having little to lose always changes the dial a bit.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

I think Criminology studies show the former doesn’t have quite the effect we might think (although some form of punishment necessary) but the latter does. High chance of being caught, less chance of the crime being done.
The issue therefore may be whether we’ve spent last 13yrs increasing the likelihood of being caught and justice administered quickly. I think we know the answers on both, albeit will vary a bit depending on type of crime.
Having a life that means the risk of ruination just too great if caught has to also be a factor. Having little to lose always changes the dial a bit.

Barry Casey
Barry Casey
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

It works in the Middle East, eg. Dubai

John Holland
John Holland
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

If there’s one thing the ‘direct thinkers’ don’t have any interest in, it’s evidence. Empirical facts are generally regarded as a sign of weakness.
Whether a policy reduces crime or not is irrelevant- ‘tough on crime’ is not about reducing crime, it’s about giving emotional satisfaction to the proponent. Its solely about ‘feelings’, ironically.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

Isn’t it a combination of the harshness of punishment and the certainty of being caught that delivers the true deterrent to criminality?

Barry Casey
Barry Casey
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin R

It works in the Middle East, eg. Dubai

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

If you think that things like poverty, family breakdown; low wages (so low that the tax payer has to top them up), don’t increase nihilism and crime then you probably can’t be reached. But it seems to me that systemic intervention is a no brainer and nor should that preclude proper detection and tough sentencing. The tories will always dog whistle about law and order in the run up to an election. Only to get in and cut police numbers by 30,000. It’s a lie. Don’t fall for it. Remember who they’re working for.

Kevin R
Kevin R
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Not at all sure that harsh punishment works that well as a deterrent on any significant scale. US figures on incarceration and violent crime tend to suggest that it doesn’t.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago

The author says it himself – that “systematic” thinkers might be right in a technical or philosophical sense – but they are wrong in a physical sense (also known as reality). Because he is on the side of systematic thinkers he fails to mention that being tough on crime is also a tonic to one of the causes of crime (deterrence). Like all those people who say they will never vote for the Conservatives and then quietly vote for them I think the author probably sees the flaws in his argument and just wilfully glosses over them in this article – I get the suspicion he thinks (or as he gets older will realise) that being tough on the causes of crime isn’t enough.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

An interesting article. The “direct” vs “systemic” analysis does seem useful.
Whilst Starmer comes across as instinctively “systemic” in response to any question, I don’t see Sunak as a natural “direct”.
But here:
“The typical voter, I suspect, is readier to blame an issue such as anti-social behaviour on social conditions than they were in the Eighties and Nineties.”
Really ? Social conditions were by any objective measure far worse in the early 1980s than now. “I suspect” is not evidence. How has he sampled these “typical voters” ?
I suspect the reverse – not least as the UK’s population ages.
I suspect the author is too young to have any direct experience of the 1970s and 1980s in Britain and the hinterland to supply enough context before making sweeping generalisations.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

An interesting article. The “direct” vs “systemic” analysis does seem useful.
Whilst Starmer comes across as instinctively “systemic” in response to any question, I don’t see Sunak as a natural “direct”.
But here:
“The typical voter, I suspect, is readier to blame an issue such as anti-social behaviour on social conditions than they were in the Eighties and Nineties.”
Really ? Social conditions were by any objective measure far worse in the early 1980s than now. “I suspect” is not evidence. How has he sampled these “typical voters” ?
I suspect the reverse – not least as the UK’s population ages.
I suspect the author is too young to have any direct experience of the 1970s and 1980s in Britain and the hinterland to supply enough context before making sweeping generalisations.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

The most successful law and order intervention in my lifetime were the expedited trials of, and severe custodial sentences handed to, the 2011 rioters in London and elsewhere. They were universally applauded by the public – who rightly saw public vengeance as an appropriate part of the sentence for the rioters. It also led to a drop in crime for several years as so many gang members were taken off the streets. And it made future riots less likely. Look at France with its annual violent riots, look at the Extinction Rebellion weirdos. All it would take would be a few two-year custodial sentences and that would be the end of the matter.
The “causes of crime” are generally inadequate punishments.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

I don’t disagree Matt but education seems to have a deliterious effect on our budding graduates. The extreme left have all but hijacked our Universities whereby today the British Medical Association is now run by Momentum supporting Corbynites. Lawyers are responsible, a group of Lawyers refuse to prosecute Eco protesters and of course our Police force that has been hardwired into Woke ideology. Today they have become paramilitary social workers instead of enforcing the Law. And last but not least the Judges who by and large hand out non custodial sentences to Eco protest groups as an act of sympathy to them. The Tories have effectively had their teeth pulled unable to stop these anarchists whatever the cause.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

I don’t disagree Matt but education seems to have a deliterious effect on our budding graduates. The extreme left have all but hijacked our Universities whereby today the British Medical Association is now run by Momentum supporting Corbynites. Lawyers are responsible, a group of Lawyers refuse to prosecute Eco protesters and of course our Police force that has been hardwired into Woke ideology. Today they have become paramilitary social workers instead of enforcing the Law. And last but not least the Judges who by and large hand out non custodial sentences to Eco protest groups as an act of sympathy to them. The Tories have effectively had their teeth pulled unable to stop these anarchists whatever the cause.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

The most successful law and order intervention in my lifetime were the expedited trials of, and severe custodial sentences handed to, the 2011 rioters in London and elsewhere. They were universally applauded by the public – who rightly saw public vengeance as an appropriate part of the sentence for the rioters. It also led to a drop in crime for several years as so many gang members were taken off the streets. And it made future riots less likely. Look at France with its annual violent riots, look at the Extinction Rebellion weirdos. All it would take would be a few two-year custodial sentences and that would be the end of the matter.
The “causes of crime” are generally inadequate punishments.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt M
Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
1 year ago

The formula is clear: Hard right on the culture war; left on economy. The Red wall wants the excesses of gender /race ideology eliminated from the public square and from all institutions; levelling up – investment in the North. High speed rail Liverpool to Hull, Glasgow and Newcastle. Libertarianism for households. A strong and enforced immigration policy. If they do it, they will win. If they don’t – after the next economic cataclysm – there will be a much more severe populist backlash.

Stephen Quilley
Stephen Quilley
1 year ago

The formula is clear: Hard right on the culture war; left on economy. The Red wall wants the excesses of gender /race ideology eliminated from the public square and from all institutions; levelling up – investment in the North. High speed rail Liverpool to Hull, Glasgow and Newcastle. Libertarianism for households. A strong and enforced immigration policy. If they do it, they will win. If they don’t – after the next economic cataclysm – there will be a much more severe populist backlash.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Where does one start? Dishonest police, underfunded courts, and CPS, low quality magistrates, ill educated jurors, the Orwellian hate crime, fear of offending the islamic minority, Prisons run by criminals, the dishing out of prison sentences for ” offending” others, and the fact that imprisonment for non violent offenders creates people who then learn how to live on crime upon release, so creating life criminals?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Even High Court Judges are not of the same calibre as they used to be. ie: “above suspicion “.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Even High Court Judges are not of the same calibre as they used to be. ie: “above suspicion “.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Where does one start? Dishonest police, underfunded courts, and CPS, low quality magistrates, ill educated jurors, the Orwellian hate crime, fear of offending the islamic minority, Prisons run by criminals, the dishing out of prison sentences for ” offending” others, and the fact that imprisonment for non violent offenders creates people who then learn how to live on crime upon release, so creating life criminals?

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago

“Voters don’t want a ‘no-nonsense’ government”

Load of ballcocks. Many voters dearly wish they could vote for one.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago

“Voters don’t want a ‘no-nonsense’ government”

Load of ballcocks. Many voters dearly wish they could vote for one.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago

I always laugh at the Third Way stuff. The phrase was invented and used by Mussolini and Mosley both. The latter was a Labour MP before starting his own party. Mussolini was a member of the Italian socialist party

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
1 year ago

I always laugh at the Third Way stuff. The phrase was invented and used by Mussolini and Mosley both. The latter was a Labour MP before starting his own party. Mussolini was a member of the Italian socialist party

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
1 year ago

The Direct vs Systemic theory seems to make sense but perhaps not in the way it was intended. IMO, the Systemic approach is the go-to for a self-perpetuating activist class that needs endless tail-chasing and largely subjective discussion to eat. Solving problems ie, the Direct approach simply puts activists out of work.
Systemic has allowed progressives to appeal to their chosen identity groups by introducing the “blame the victim” trip wire. Direct responses to some crimes expose the truth that certain minority demographics commit the majority of the offences. The Systemic response is that those demographics are “over-represented in prisons”.
The progressive Systemic approach is attractive because it comes across as caring about THE Poor or THE Homeless or THE Migrants while simultaneously glossing over any hint of personal responsibility or failure whereas a Direct approach such as WHY is THAT person Homeless or WHY is THAT person Poor could lead to all sorts of awkward facts. Conversely, Systemics can be used to collectively demonize enemies such as THE Rich without the trouble of finding out WHY THAT person is Rich.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
1 year ago

The Direct vs Systemic theory seems to make sense but perhaps not in the way it was intended. IMO, the Systemic approach is the go-to for a self-perpetuating activist class that needs endless tail-chasing and largely subjective discussion to eat. Solving problems ie, the Direct approach simply puts activists out of work.
Systemic has allowed progressives to appeal to their chosen identity groups by introducing the “blame the victim” trip wire. Direct responses to some crimes expose the truth that certain minority demographics commit the majority of the offences. The Systemic response is that those demographics are “over-represented in prisons”.
The progressive Systemic approach is attractive because it comes across as caring about THE Poor or THE Homeless or THE Migrants while simultaneously glossing over any hint of personal responsibility or failure whereas a Direct approach such as WHY is THAT person Homeless or WHY is THAT person Poor could lead to all sorts of awkward facts. Conversely, Systemics can be used to collectively demonize enemies such as THE Rich without the trouble of finding out WHY THAT person is Rich.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Being tough on crime is of little use when justice is dragged out and deferred waiting for a slot on court appearance or social reports and so on. It just breaks the link between cause and effect, crime and punishment.

If I were in charge (urgh) I would put all current cases except the most serious, into a backlog status, and then process new cases as quickly as legally possible. Cause and effect made clear.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Being tough on crime is of little use when justice is dragged out and deferred waiting for a slot on court appearance or social reports and so on. It just breaks the link between cause and effect, crime and punishment.

If I were in charge (urgh) I would put all current cases except the most serious, into a backlog status, and then process new cases as quickly as legally possible. Cause and effect made clear.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Of course you need a balance between systemic and direct responses. The problem the Tories face, and missed by the author, is that they cannot deliver on their soundbites. Just to be ‘tough on crime’ needs a functioning police service, court system, prisons, probation for starters. None of this actually works so cheap slogans for votes get the respect they deserve.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
1 year ago

Of course you need a balance between systemic and direct responses. The problem the Tories face, and missed by the author, is that they cannot deliver on their soundbites. Just to be ‘tough on crime’ needs a functioning police service, court system, prisons, probation for starters. None of this actually works so cheap slogans for votes get the respect they deserve.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

Of course Socialist politicians love the idea of the State being tough on what they choose to define as the causes of crime. It gives them greater scope to control how people live their lives. They also reinforce this by expanding the definition of crime.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

Of course Socialist politicians love the idea of the State being tough on what they choose to define as the causes of crime. It gives them greater scope to control how people live their lives. They also reinforce this by expanding the definition of crime.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

‘…need to continually stimulate this group’s fear’ a line in the Article that jumped out. And don’t we just see that repeatedly.
Not that there isn’t something to be worried about but the national data paints an intriguing picture – overall crime significantly up, but more due to computer misuse & fraud, whilst thefts down. Then there are the questions – i) crime has probably always been underreported but has that increased? ii) is crime clear-up rates being manipulated as an unintended result of performance management? This impacts on trust in the Police.
We had an arguably obvious example of the Tories playing the game of ‘read meat’ headlines rather than joined up Policy over weekend, supported by their media friends with supportive front pages. It related to Grooming gangs and legal requirement to report potential abuse. All agreeable stuff, albeit begs question why have they delayed pushing this forward til now when it was in the Public Inquiry report as a recommendation some years ago? Let’s not forget this lot been in power 13yrs. But furthermore as is evident nothing about investment in social work – a service in national crisis, or Probation services – in crisis too. Nothing also about the Courts backlog.
ï»żSo whether it’s Braverman banging on about the ECHR before she’s sorted our basic detention centre and processing capacity, or child abuse legal responsibility whilst lacking the resources to properly intervene and protect, it’s the same playbook – stimulate the fear rather than the solutions

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

‘…need to continually stimulate this group’s fear’ a line in the Article that jumped out. And don’t we just see that repeatedly.
Not that there isn’t something to be worried about but the national data paints an intriguing picture – overall crime significantly up, but more due to computer misuse & fraud, whilst thefts down. Then there are the questions – i) crime has probably always been underreported but has that increased? ii) is crime clear-up rates being manipulated as an unintended result of performance management? This impacts on trust in the Police.
We had an arguably obvious example of the Tories playing the game of ‘read meat’ headlines rather than joined up Policy over weekend, supported by their media friends with supportive front pages. It related to Grooming gangs and legal requirement to report potential abuse. All agreeable stuff, albeit begs question why have they delayed pushing this forward til now when it was in the Public Inquiry report as a recommendation some years ago? Let’s not forget this lot been in power 13yrs. But furthermore as is evident nothing about investment in social work – a service in national crisis, or Probation services – in crisis too. Nothing also about the Courts backlog.
ï»żSo whether it’s Braverman banging on about the ECHR before she’s sorted our basic detention centre and processing capacity, or child abuse legal responsibility whilst lacking the resources to properly intervene and protect, it’s the same playbook – stimulate the fear rather than the solutions

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 year ago

‘Systemic reasoners’ is a euphemism for Blank Slate extremists here.
In actual fact, genetic factors often play a greater role in the worst forms of violent crime than environmental factors, and the most effective way of dealing with people genetically inclined towards poor impulse control is to lock them up!
And yes, if you take the blank slate to such an extreme conclusion that you’re condoning ‘defund the police’, and pretending that biological sex is of no consequence, then you are an extremist.
Much of the Guardianista left Liberal chattering class has been substantially radicalised, and the underlying ideology is Blank Slatism.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 year ago

‘Systemic reasoners’ is a euphemism for Blank Slate extremists here.
In actual fact, genetic factors often play a greater role in the worst forms of violent crime than environmental factors, and the most effective way of dealing with people genetically inclined towards poor impulse control is to lock them up!
And yes, if you take the blank slate to such an extreme conclusion that you’re condoning ‘defund the police’, and pretending that biological sex is of no consequence, then you are an extremist.
Much of the Guardianista left Liberal chattering class has been substantially radicalised, and the underlying ideology is Blank Slatism.

Anthony L
Anthony L
1 year ago

Who really buys the “tough on crime” slogans anymore? Like every other Tory promise that has been made too many times with too little results. When was the last uproar because a sentence was too harsh, compared to all the lenient sentencing we see?

Last edited 1 year ago by Anthony L
Anthony L
Anthony L
1 year ago

Who really buys the “tough on crime” slogans anymore? Like every other Tory promise that has been made too many times with too little results. When was the last uproar because a sentence was too harsh, compared to all the lenient sentencing we see?

Last edited 1 year ago by Anthony L
Vici C
Vici C
1 year ago

Obviously both are necessary. Anyone who has had experience with children and dogs for that matter will know that motivations to “do wrong” vary, personalities vary and thus the appropriate re-action will vary. There can be no one size fits all.

Vici C
Vici C
1 year ago

Obviously both are necessary. Anyone who has had experience with children and dogs for that matter will know that motivations to “do wrong” vary, personalities vary and thus the appropriate re-action will vary. There can be no one size fits all.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

I’ve wondered about a good behaviour bond for 16, 18 and 21. Broadly speaking, you keep your nose clean in the two prior years and you get say ÂŁ1500. It’s an age where a little bit of capital can help start things, or can contribute to education. Even if you make a mistake and lose the bond, perhaps a redeemer like military or civic service can earn it back. If you keep someone out of trouble before 21 I believe it’s less likely that they will do bad things after 21 – not foolproof – but the older you are with more to lose, the less the risk or recidivism. Roughly speaking the cohort size is 500,000 at each of those ages. 1,500,000 in total so $2-3bn cost per year.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

I’ve wondered about a good behaviour bond for 16, 18 and 21. Broadly speaking, you keep your nose clean in the two prior years and you get say ÂŁ1500. It’s an age where a little bit of capital can help start things, or can contribute to education. Even if you make a mistake and lose the bond, perhaps a redeemer like military or civic service can earn it back. If you keep someone out of trouble before 21 I believe it’s less likely that they will do bad things after 21 – not foolproof – but the older you are with more to lose, the less the risk or recidivism. Roughly speaking the cohort size is 500,000 at each of those ages. 1,500,000 in total so $2-3bn cost per year.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago

Support for the death penalty, for example — as good a proxy for toughness as you’ll find — fell from over 70% in 1993 to under 50% today…’
Yes, 1993 – a full 28 years after Parliament had taken it upon itself to suspend and in 1969, abolish the death penalty, 28 years of which the Tories spent 17 in office. Spitting right in the public’s face, as always. So much for ‘democracy’.
Still, it was great news for the Moors Murderers….

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Joy
Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago

Support for the death penalty, for example — as good a proxy for toughness as you’ll find — fell from over 70% in 1993 to under 50% today…’
Yes, 1993 – a full 28 years after Parliament had taken it upon itself to suspend and in 1969, abolish the death penalty, 28 years of which the Tories spent 17 in office. Spitting right in the public’s face, as always. So much for ‘democracy’.
Still, it was great news for the Moors Murderers….

Last edited 1 year ago by Peter Joy
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Being tough on crime will not win anything. All policies today are based on the voting of 16-24 year olds because these are the new floating voters.
IMO we only worry about crime when we have something to protect. As we get older we have more possessions, we may have children, we have bigger cars; we worry about crime because of those things. Many elections have shown that older people have developed fixed voting habits or think that voting is pointless. Future elections will all be about attracting young people.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Contrary to almost all data on voting patterns. Older voters are way more likely to vote than younger ones currently. Why do you think there will be an inversion of this?

Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Because they are! See voting in Scotland and Wales where the age has already changed. Young people have realised they have the power. You are behind the times.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

They would have plenty of power if they could be bothered to get out of bed and visit a polling station.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Wait and see. The past does not predict the future.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Can you provide any references? I would be interested to see data. The data I have seen from 2016-19 elections actually show more older voters proportionally and by 2019 about 150% of the 65+ age bracket voting than young people (18-44 giving quite a broad definition of “young”).

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Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Can you provide any references? I would be interested to see data. The data I have seen from 2016-19 elections actually show more older voters proportionally and by 2019 about 150% of the 65+ age bracket voting than young people (18-44 giving quite a broad definition of “young”).

comment image

Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Jones

Wait and see. The past does not predict the future.

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

They would have plenty of power if they could be bothered to get out of bed and visit a polling station.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago
Reply to  Milton Gibbon

Because they are! See voting in Scotland and Wales where the age has already changed. Young people have realised they have the power. You are behind the times.

Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

‘All policies today are based on the voting of 16-24 year olds because these are the new floating voters.’ – ok at last this is some good news! But hang on, which voters? What policies? Where is this new pandering to the young? Is this why the Tories are rigging elections by passing a law requiring people to show voter ID at polling stations and accepting Oyster cards as ID from pensioners (who disproportionately support the Tories) but not anyone younger? If you’re thinking is right then they are doing it because they’ve realised that given how popular their policies are with the young they can even throw a few hurdles at them without worrying.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Contrary to almost all data on voting patterns. Older voters are way more likely to vote than younger ones currently. Why do you think there will be an inversion of this?

Last edited 1 year ago by Milton Gibbon
Desmond Wolf
Desmond Wolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

‘All policies today are based on the voting of 16-24 year olds because these are the new floating voters.’ – ok at last this is some good news! But hang on, which voters? What policies? Where is this new pandering to the young? Is this why the Tories are rigging elections by passing a law requiring people to show voter ID at polling stations and accepting Oyster cards as ID from pensioners (who disproportionately support the Tories) but not anyone younger? If you’re thinking is right then they are doing it because they’ve realised that given how popular their policies are with the young they can even throw a few hurdles at them without worrying.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

Being tough on crime will not win anything. All policies today are based on the voting of 16-24 year olds because these are the new floating voters.
IMO we only worry about crime when we have something to protect. As we get older we have more possessions, we may have children, we have bigger cars; we worry about crime because of those things. Many elections have shown that older people have developed fixed voting habits or think that voting is pointless. Future elections will all be about attracting young people.