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Why Starmer is stuck in Blair’s prison Left utopianism won't fix our justice problem

Starmer's imprisoned by his budget. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Starmer's imprisoned by his budget. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)


July 11, 2024   6 mins

In his inaugural speech as Prime Minister, Keir Starmer promised to govern in a sober way, befitting the challenges of the day. He anchored his opening address in Britain’s small-c conservative, order-loving majority, promising “secure borders”, and “safer streets”.

And yet, the removal vans had scarcely pulled away from No. 10 before news crept out that Britain’s prisons are full, and the Lord High Chancellor, Shabana Mahmood, may be obliged to release some 40,000 criminals less than halfway through their sentences, to ease overcrowding. The domestic violence charity Refuge has already warned that this means domestic abusers may walk free having served barely 40% of their supposed sentence.

To Starmer’s haters, the report is evidence of a broader far-Left utopianism: the ideology that wants police defunded, borders opened, and drug addicts “treated” with free drugs. His defenders, meanwhile, retort that the Tories created this problem. And it’s true that Britain’s prisons were at capacity before Starmer took office; last year, judges were being told not to hand down custodial sentences because there was no room to incarcerate the prisoners. Then, back in May, Sky reported that Sunak’s government had quietly introduced further early-release measures to ease pressure on prisons, even including inmates deemed “high-risk”.

Then, ahead of the election, Sunak reportedly turned his own inaction into a trap for the new administration. In May, he blocked a request to release up to 500 more offenders early, leaving the problem for Starmer to deal with instead. Taken all together, the headlines read more like a Tory landmine than incontrovertible evidence of Starmer being soft on crime.

But even if he isn’t, his problems go deeper than just prison capacity. A glance at law and order in Britain since the last Labour administration reveals that the Tories did little to improve on Blair’s approach, and much to make things worse. And also that the New Labour policy on law and order had its own roots in a long-term trend of declining social trust and growing values pluralism. While the Tories’ record as inheritors to this approach leaves much to be desired, Starmer will find it tricky to do better: he has a far harder hand to play than Blair.

As the last Labour leader to secure a landslide, Blair threaded the needle between aspirational, liberal-leaning, middle-class voters and his more authoritarian Old Labour base by strategically emphasising law and order in measures such as the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act — even as he liberalised many other aspects of the country. This Act took aim especially at “antisocial” behaviour, and introduced new forms of non-custodial surveillance and control such as Asbos. As well as legislation, Blair also turbocharged funding for criminal justice, including a 21% real-terms spending boost for the police. This was all designed to operate alongside increased spending on welfare and social services. The rationale was alleviating the poverty that contributes to crime, while punishing wrongdoers: “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.”

Did the package work? It depends who you ask, and how you count. As one study reports, in 2005, the Blair government bragged about presiding over a 30% fall in crime; in opposition, meanwhile, Michael Howard accused Labour the same year of enabling a 16% rise. Both were right — just drawing, respectively, on the British Crime Survey and recorded police statistics.

Meanwhile, even as competing statisticians bickered over the data, Britain under New Labour continued to grow more intentionally multicultural and socially liberal — a pluralism in turn contained by Blair’s proliferating infrastructures of surveillance, social regulation, and para-judicial control. No one could tell you what to do, the “modern” British norm declared; but if you were too expressive in your individualism, you might end up with an Asbo, or an electronic tag, or a bevy of social workers to “support” you insistently until you did as you were asked.

These new architectures of social control served as a replacement for the shared moral codes that were already thinning under the hot winds of “there’s no such thing as society” Thatcherism, when New Labour were first elected. And arguably they worked well enough, enabling the continued pursuit of pluralism — at least until the money ran out. Then, after the global financial crash, we got Tory austerity plus some mumbling about “the big society”: in other words, much the same society-wide liberal individualism as during the Blair years, only now accompanied by cuts to the public services that had held things together in the previous decade. Blair-esque bureaucratisation of public space advanced, for example in the 2014 introduction of Public Spaces Protection Orders — but now such developments came without the blank cheque. Indeed, both the police and the Labour Party accused the Conservatives of real-terms cuts, by as much as 33%. Certainly, officer numbers fell by around 20,000 between 2009 and 2016, undoing the New Labour police workforce expansion.

In other words, Blair’s legacy of suffocating social regulation has mushroomed, but enforcement has grown increasingly patchy. The corrosive cumulative impression has become that burglars can rob your home with impunity, and shoplifters can help themselves, but mean tweets will get you arrested.

But will matters improve under Starmer? It’s hard to say. So far, Starmer’s law and order approach sounds reassuringly Blairish: he is, for example, a longstanding critic of Tory prison policy, has promised 20,000 new prison places, and also pledged to prioritise antisocial behaviour and recruit 13,000 neighbourhood police officers. But Starmer’s choice of Minister for Prisons hints at some of the pitfalls he may face. James Timpson is CEO of the Timpson shoe repair chain, which makes a point of employing ex-prisoners, who comprise some 10% of Timpson’s workforce. Timpson is also former chair of the Prison Reform Trust, in which role he previously declared that “only a third” of prisoners should definitely be there.

Timpson’s advocacy of rehabilitation over jail time was echoed by Starmer following his election, when he vowed to cut the numbers reoffending and roll out a “tough love” programme focusing on “youth futures”. This proposal, dubbed “Sure Start for teenagers”, promises to bring together law enforcement, mental health specialists, and youth workers, in order to tackle knife crime. Elsewhere, Starmer has pledged to create “community and victim payback boards” involving “local communities” in dispensing justice for low-level offences.

All this suggests that Starmer — or perhaps the party behind him — places great trust in the power of non-carceral measures to address misbehaviour. And this, in turn, implies considerable trust in his government to be able to roll out enough of the social infrastructure this requires, to make such measures work. We will have to hope, then, that Labour can scratch together enough loose change to pay for it all. With post-1997 boomtime funding, “Sure Start for teenagers” might have been both compassionate and hard-hitting. Amid a fiscal crisis, shrinking tax base and stagnant economy, though, it runs a grave risk of winding up as a toothless half-measure: just the “more youth clubs” meme so often parodied on the Right.

Then there’s the pluralism. The mass immigration inaugurated by New Labour, in part “to rub the Right’s nose in diversity”, has now delivered a society so very diverse it’s becoming openly sectarian in some places, with white identity politics on the rise in retaliation. Indeed, His Toniness has already descended from plutocratic Olympus to advise Starmer to rein in immigration, in order not to fan the flames of “populism” any further.

“Blair’s legacy of suffocating social regulation has mushroomed, but enforcement has grown increasingly patchy.”

In blithe disregard of these developments, Starmer’s proposed “community payback boards” will, we are told, bring together “community leaders” with other officials to determine community service sentencing locally. It sounds cuddly and decentralised; but is Britain still cohesive enough to devolve power in this way? Perhaps not; just recently, Labour MP Jess Phillips had her election speech booed by local pro-Gaza Muslims, in a context of such ferocious harassment and intimidation she didn’t even dare acknowledge its drivers directly, instead pretending to blame it on misogyny. In the context of such ethnic and religious fragmentation, anything that further empowers “community leaders” risks being an open door for tribal institutional capture, and even more accelerated fracturing of the polity.

Let’s hope none of that happens. Who knows? Perhaps Starmer will dredge up enough money to fund the police properly, build enough prisons to keep dangerous offenders off the streets, give “Sure Start for teenagers” the resources it needs, and roll out effective local institutions able to impose and enforce appropriate community service. Perhaps none of this will get politicised, or captured by sectarian “communities”. Perhaps all the muggers and loiterers and shoplifters will either be taken off the streets, or cured of their waywardness, and our streets really will get safer.

I hope they do. But I suspect that policing a radically pluralistic polity requires either hard authoritarianism, or a lot of money for the soft, Blairite kind. Starmer has an ebullient, freshly elected party of Left-wingers behind him, making the former politically difficult. And he has very little fiscal headroom for the latter. In that context, we risk ending up with the worst of all worlds: the same fissiparous polity and squeezed funding as under the Tories, just this time with a rueful grin and a side order of progressive humbug.

If that’s so, no amount of noble rhetoric about rehabilitation will disguise the truth for long. And it won’t really matter whether the label on the bottle says vintage social justice, or just sparkling anarcho-tyranny; the sour taste will be the same.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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David McKee
David McKee
10 days ago

The only thing that works, and works at minimal cost to the taxpayer, is if we all sign up to the same set of cultural norms, and if we are confident that the authorities will back us up, rather than siding with the criminal.

From Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who was convicted of shooting dead a burglar in 1999, to Gideon Falter, who was threatened with arrest if he attempted to cross a London road during a Gaza protest, that no longer applies.

The effect is that we turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. This is the surest route to chaos.

Eleanor O'Keeffe
Eleanor O'Keeffe
10 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

The punishment for burglary should be death?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 days ago

I can’t pretend I’ve got any sympathy for the gypsies shot by Martin. I’m not saying the state should hang people for burglary, but if the homeowner does you in while you’re robbing their house (in the case of Martin it was multiple break ins) then you’ve only got yourself to blame

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
10 days ago

Don’t be ridiculous, it doesn’t help one bit.

Let’s hope you don’t have to confront someone invading your property with who knows what intent. I don’t think pieties will help you.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
10 days ago

In my house quite possibly.

Utter
Utter
8 days ago

Indeed – it is possible to sympathise with someone using violence against a burgler (which the law does); and to say that shooting burglars dead, in the back whilst they are running away, with an illegal firearm, and with a history of shooting wildy (into a car driven by someone who’s stolen some apples), and who was convicted by a jury of peers; and ultimately served only three years…is not ok.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
7 days ago

Why not, lets face it there’s no deterrent now is there?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
10 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

Turning a blind eye to, for instance, 20 years of child abuse by Pakistani men and imprisoning Tommy Robinson for publicly objecting to it is yet another example.
The same is true in the US. A woman in her 70s has been jailed for praying outside an abortion abattoir, but murdering illegal aliens are released without bond, no explanation necessary. In San Francisco theft isn’t theft if one steals less than $950.
The chaos is planned. It isn’t cowardice.
At least in the US, many of us are armed and will do what law enforcement will not.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
10 days ago

Perhaps we should send the worst offenders to Rwanda. They’re going to have a have a few empty rooms over there now. I’m assuming some infrastructure was put in place, and it wasn’t all complete bs.

j watson
j watson
10 days ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

They need the rooms over there to keep all the cash we gave them for nought.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
10 days ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Too late – The Germans and probably Dutch and Danes will be taking over the facilities we paid for What ECHR?

j watson
j watson
10 days ago

Dear oh dear, yet another Right wing Author who fails to reflect on why we have a collapsing Prison and Police system after 14yrs of Right wing Govt, and instead looks to default to a PM who’s not been in power for 16 years when actually these issues weren’t there on anything like the scale they are now. It’s a proper gymnastic contortion and a major failure to reflect.
The Author then has her usual malign dig at multi-racial Britain. Did she not switch the Telly on yesterday and catch the Cricket or Football and see Britain reflected back at us. You fear she’s like a certain section of Boomers (although she’s a touch younger) and stuck in some rural backwater unable to grasp folks with a different skin pigmentation have the same hopes and fears as the rest of us. Get out more and mix with people and these prejudices rarely last long. And all groups have their ‘loons on the extremes.
Yesterday we saw the horror of a brutal murder of 3 women by a man who couldn’t stomach rejection. Male violence on women remains deeply ingrained. It’s certainly not limited to specific religions. No doubt this Author would be defending the likes of Tate given the chance. Perhaps she should ponder more on the main source of violence and violent crime in the UK – men on women, a bit more, and what law and order policies need to do to tackle this.
Finally she has a dig at Starmer bringing in an experienced Businessman with a track record in prisoner rehabilitation. No doubt in another article we’ll have some twaddle about the lack of real experience and business acumen in Govt. Timpson got something to offer and good that Starmer prepared to bring in a wider cohort of talent and thought.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

“Perhaps she should ponder more on the main source of violence and violent crime in the UK – men on women, a bit more, and what law and order policies need to do
.”

Just out of interest, how are you quantifying that statement? Are there stats to back that up?

I do know 7 out of 10 murders in the UK are men.

Most victims of random violent attacks are also men.

Male on male violence is the most common as I’ve understood it but I’m willing to concede that might be wrong if you have more up to date stats.

And finally, I do not agree the all peoples have the same hopes and fears. A quick glance at our society and cultures around the world would show that that is clearly not the case.

Finding common ground is possible, but only if people are willing to compromise. And currently some groups are having to do a lot comprising than others.

j watson
j watson
10 days ago

Nat crime survey – 90%+ of violent crime committed against women by men. 1.6m women reporting domestic abuse. The difference is often what gets prosecuted.
Regarding the same hopes and fears – what’s an example of marked difference between those in the UK?

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Sorry, but your statement didn’t read like that. Well at least not to me.

It reads like the main source of violence and violent crime was men on women. Which isn’t true.

No one would deny that the main source of violence towards women comes from men.

But, and this is important, you are still more likely to be murdered and assaulted as a man vs as woman.

Andrew R
Andrew R
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

Dear, oh dear it looks like you didn’t read the article JW, you just wanted to confirm your prejudices instead and be patronising with it.

It was laughable watching Blair insisting to Nick Robinson on The Today Programme the other day that he wasn’t responsible for introducing mass immigration to Britain, when it went up by x4 during New Labour’s term in office.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

I don’t find it laughable. I think people like Blair actually believe that they are claiming. Thye would be less dangerous if they were only liars.

Andrew R
Andrew R
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Maybe that includes JW as well.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

No, he’s OK – neither liar nor deluded IMHO. I think just very frustrated after the last few years. I’ll probably be sounding like that after several years of Labour rule.

Andrew R
Andrew R
9 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

You’re far too generous.

j watson
j watson
10 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

Forget Blair. He’s history. You guys and Unherd like to drag him up as a cover story for 14 wasted years. You inadvertently give the guy more credit than deserved. What the Right should be doing is stop being so pathetic and actually think through why you weren’t able to change things and what was driving the need for legal migration to the levels that occurred.
Illegal migration is different and a challenge for many countries not easily resolved. But it’s still much lower than legal.
As it is I’m with Blair on his conversion to ID cards/requirement and thus far disappointed in Lab reaction to it. But I suspect it’s coming.

Andrew R
Andrew R
9 days ago
Reply to  j watson

He appears regularly with Starmer, he’s being interviewed on BBC’s flagship radio programme. He has his own think tank/consultancy/NGO etc. Of course he’s relevant.

Why is Blair suddenly embarrassed about being the PM responsible for the most damaging domestic policy carried by a post war British government. Hmm…

It’s been explained to you time and time… and time again, why both legal and illegal migration keeps on going up. It only became a problem when Blair and his idiot civil servants sanctioned it in the first place. NO ONE is giving the Tories a free pass, that’s why they’re no longer in power or hadn’t you noticed. It’s all in your fevered imagination.

It’s pointless debating with you because quite frankly you’re a tiresome bigot.

Utter
Utter
7 days ago
Reply to  Andrew R

It went up rather a lot under the recent Conservative government – and both rises very much in line with peer countries – but sure Tony Blair boooo!

Andrew R
Andrew R
7 days ago
Reply to  Utter

Who on here is denying that!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

“Dear oh dear, yet another Right wing Author who fails to reflect on why we have a collapsing Prison and Police system after 14yrs of Right wing Govt”
If you hadn’t noticed the rise of Reform has been fuelled by the fact that there has not been a right wing government in power, and in any case during a significant section of the period the government contained Liberal Democrats who would be mortally offended to be considered right wing. Had the government been right wing they would have built more prisons among other things.

“catch the Cricket or Football and see Britain reflected back at us.”
If you caught the “Telly” during the football you might have noticed that the flaccid idea that all ethnic groupings were the same didn’t really hold up. As far as footballing ability goes black players on both teams in the semi-finals were disproportionately represented both as team members and goal scorers. In footballing terms an ethnic African component is an advantage. Unsurprisingly it may not be an advantage when it comes to other areas.

”Male violence on women remains deeply ingrained.”
Another flaccid unexamined observation. As another poster has already observed men are indeed the predominant perpetrators of violence but predominantly on other men. While those possessing old-fashioned right wing views regarding chivalry towards women might deplore any male violence directed at women the fact remains that male on female violence remains in the minority.

“Timpson got something to offer and good that Starmer prepared to bring in a wider cohort of talent and thought.”
The fact that he is a successful business man who employs ex-offenders does not necessarily mean he has the key to reducing offending. Your suggestion that Mary would eagerly be defending “the likes of Tate” is unwarranted.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

But is Mary Harrington really “another right wing author” ?
I think it’s rather more complicated than that. And also that she’s the sort of thinker and writer that defies such easy classification. Which is why she’s writing here. Good writers are “beyond classification” (like the hardest climbs in the Tour de France).
I’d be fairly sure she’s had a variety of political views through her life (been on a “journey” in the depressing, modern lingo).
I also see that she’s prominently featured on SDPTalk (the official blog of the Social Democratic Party”). I can’t pretend to have kept up with the SDP for at least 30 years, but I’m not sure they’re classic “right wing”.
Just for the record, Keir Starmer was DPP from 2008 to 2013. So he was involved well within the last 16 years. You can argue that he was “present but not involved”, as his predecessor once claimed. But it may not be any more convincing.

j watson
j watson
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

Mary was a key speaker at Nat Cs convention. Not exactly the Fabian Society was it. That said can well imagine she’s the Rod Liddle form of SDP, which is where the Right, and Reform, have to ponder what exactly is their prospectus. It’s the Red Wall appeal dilemma – they don’t want Neo-liberalism rehashed. Farage in truth wants Singapore on Thames. Get beyond migration and he’s not got a serious proposition, and even there it’s all rage and little practicality. Nonetheless take your point about Mary and whether she is Right Wing. On some stuff clearly yes, on others she may well reflect the current Right wing dilemma about economics.
As regards Starmer and DPP, he wasn’t responsible for Prison capacity planning or Police numbers was he.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  j watson

But he was responsible for helping put people in prison though (and a government officer) ! IIRC he didn’t do a very good job at doing so. But then the CPS has been awful for decades (far too many failed prosecutions, far too many crooks not prosecuted), so it’s more a structural problem.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
10 days ago

“Elsewhere, Starmer has pledged to create “community and victim payback boards” involving “local communities” in dispensing justice for low-level offences.”

If this is true we are looking at vigilante village courts right?!

And what constitutes low-level offences?

The worst thing about this is we all know what community this is being created for.

I am willing to give Starmer & Co a chance, but most of what I hear and the rumours of what they have in mind do not fill me with any hope at all.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
10 days ago

More likely, we could end up looking at Sharia if we’re not careful.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 days ago

The disparity in justice across the UK that the local boards will create will be a goldmine for lawyers appealing unfair decisions. At the same time, local boards will be a huge opening for social justice activists to insert themselves into the justice system and apply intersectional restorative justice. Inevitably, sectarianism, like we saw with The Muslim Vote, will inject itself into the process.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Exactly. This is the world of “selective justice” Labour believes in.
But it’s not abritrary or random.
Punishment is no longer by the crime or the damage caused by the crime. It is by the criminal. This is why rich people now have to pay higher speeding fined than poorer people. The punishment has nothing to do with justice, fairness, public safety or the offence itself. It’s all about punishing some groups more than others.

Dhimmitude Ishere
Dhimmitude Ishere
6 days ago

The thing that immediately jumped out at me was the involvement of “community leaders”? From my experience, these seem to be self-appointed loudmouths with their own agendas.

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
10 days ago

Strange that a man whose business is that of locksmith should be given the task of unlocking.
Will we all need ‘locking up’ with friendly surveillance, extending the walls of the prison to encompass all of society, to keep us safe?
All those Orders, payback boards, community corrals; anything but old-fashioned morality of self-control. Why would the state not be in favour of that?
With other officials to determine community service sentencing locally. It sounds cuddly and decentralised; but is Britain still cohesive enough to devolve power in this way? 
Anyone who has seen the frequency of the way young men of a certain group push their way through the wide gates at stations with staff looking on but doing nothing has the answer to that before their eyes. And did power devolved to Scotland result in a freer country?
Mr Hitchens welcomes everyone to ‘Starmergrad’. It might have been expected that he would have reminded everyone as he has before that FPTP enables a complete change of government.
If populism is ‘the shadow of democracy’, the pro-Palestinian candidates who defeated the Labour ones and the Reform MPs are the replica shadow-shape cast by the sun falling on the solid object (something C S Lewis used in his novel, The Last Battle, to illustrate the dual nature of the Uni-God).

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 days ago

If you are going to swing around to ‘tough love’ then you have to describe what it would look like – at an individual level and not by rhetoric.
So you could (a thought exercise) compel freshly released criminals, and their families, to relocate to another area to break the links with the local criminal community that ‘undo’ rehabilitation.
So you could (a thought exercise) impose the death penalty for convicted murderers who have killed on more than one occasion.
Both could be described as pragmatic or totalitarian but there is zero likelihood of them being implemented (perhaps just as well) due to the resistance of the Great and Good.
But the current system is inefficient and costly, so the only political response available seems to be ‘talk harshly but carry a tiny, tiny, stick’. Which means that the debate will continue without resolution.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 days ago

I am now convinced: a society purporting to be governed by a single system of law (which is, at the end of the day, an expression of the mores and morals of that society) can be multi-ethnic, but has to be monocultural – otherwise the system becomes dysfunctional and splinters as there is no single underlying sets of morals and mores. (Christ, those hours in jurisprudence lectures at UCL really paid off, right? I’ll be holding forth on Locke and legal positivism next…)
Multicultural Britain has ceased – at least in some places – to be a society bound by common mores, and the only way I can think of to move the pendulum back towards a structure one might call a society and prevent sectarian politics and violence from rising is via some pretty hardcore authoritarian measures.
If the problematic members of these communities who are harassing women and preventing democracy from functioning (and thus violating Britain’s social contract, by which the country is a democracy where women are equal) are foreign citizens – withdraw the visa, cancel residence rights, deportation.
Withdrawing citizenship might be possible if they have dual citizenship, but as we saw with Shamima Begum, it’s pretty hard.
Those that are solely British citizens can’t have their citizenship withdrawn (as far as I know, it’s against international law to do that and leave someone stateless), but they could be subject to measures which withdraw their rights as a citizen and subject them to social pressure to conform to the social contract.
They need to be called out publicly as “not British”. Exclude them from standing as candidates, or even voting, in elections (local and national). Cancel or dock social benefits – these should be a goodie you get for being a part of society and complying with its values. It needs to be made clear that getting all of the rights of being a British citizen (a tremendous privilege, despite all your issues) depends on you discharging the obligations of citizenship and respecting the basic rules of the societal game.
Labour will do none of this – it’s all about hardCARE rather than hardCORE and it won’t do a damned thing.
Because societies who have become too multicultural and too diverse in their values (basically ungovernable) can only be managed in an authoritarian way from above.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think the problem is not necessarily with “multi-culturalism”. It’s that some types of multi-culturalism collapse or revert into tribalism. Or never develop beyond tribalism.
I suggest that last week’s election results with this new group of “independents” (do we still have a Trade Descriptions Act ? or prosecutions for “passing off” ?) show just how true that is.
Just call it tribalism. That’s what it is.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

The feeling of being part of a “tribe” comes from belonging to a certain culture. Therefore, my reference to “multiculturalism” holds.

Peter B
Peter B
10 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It wasn’t intended as a criticism.
I just think it’s more useful now to start thinking and talking about “tribes” rather than “communities” or “cultures” in the more extreme cases. It helps to distinguish the positive parts of multi-culturalism from the negative ones.
I’m not convinced that all cultures are tribal though.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
10 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

.

B Emery
B Emery
10 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

‘the only way I can think of to move the pendulum back towards a structure one might call a society and prevent sectarian politics and violence from rising is via some pretty hardcore authoritarian measures.’

Can you give examples of nations where the introduction of authoritarianism has actually prevented the rise of sectarian politics and violence? As far as I know, where governments become increasingly authoritarian it tends to lead to people feeling more repressed and more likely to engage in extreme politics and violence, especially when these regimes do not allow dissent.
Your idea would likely lead to the opposite of what you are aiming for.

‘can be multi-ethnic, but has to be monocultural’ –
I think this is impossible. People are all of different ethnicities and all have their own cultures, traditions and ways of life. How on earth do you propose you separate ethnicity from culture? Who would detail what the approved ‘mono culture’ is? Who would implement it?

‘but they could be subject to measures which withdraw their rights as a citizen and subject them to social pressure to conform to the social contract.’

This sounds draconian and unnecessary. We already have a system of law in this country where your rights are withdrawn for breaking the law.
What social pressures were you thinking of subjecting these people to.
What’ social contract’ are you expecting people to adhere to? Who would write it and implement it?

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
10 days ago
Reply to  B Emery

Singapore, HongKong, Dubai, Khadafi Lybia, …

B Emery
B Emery
10 days ago

Thank you, any western nations?

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
10 days ago
Reply to  B Emery

Until recently, western nations were mono-cultural (hence the concept of Nation). And by most standard, Singapore is highly western (including an anglophile elite).
But if you insist on a Western multicultural Nation, I think Victorian UK can be seen as a western nation where an iron fisted law enforcement policy was a condition for social order. Should it come at the expense of hungry Irish children.

B Emery
B Emery
10 days ago

I don’t insist on a western multi cultural nation. Britain is now a multi cultural nation and the decisions that lead to that were nothing to do with me or my generation.
Whether western nations were previously mono cultural is irrelevant to the questions that I asked about authoritarianism. I asked:

‘Can you give examples of nations where the introduction of authoritarianism has actually prevented the rise of sectarian politics and violence? As far as I know, where governments become increasingly authoritarian it tends to lead to people feeling more repressed and more likely to engage in extreme politics and violence, especially when these regimes do not allow dissent.’

Do you disagree that authoritarianism tends to lead to extremism and violence?

Singapore is not a western nation, it’s history is very different to that of Britain’s.

‘ I think Victorian UK can be seen as a western nation where an iron fisted law enforcement policy was a condition for social order. Should it come at the expense of hungry Irish children’
Victorian Britain was plagued by problems that were a consequence of the industrial revolution. An ‘iron fisted law enforcement policy’ that maintains social order is very different to a policy that enforces a mono culture or a social contract.
In what ways did Victorian Britains iron fisted law enforcement policy come at the expense of ‘hungry Irish children’?

Anna Clare Bryson
Anna Clare Bryson
9 days ago
Reply to  B Emery

Well, there have been societies that were enduring and successful for quite a while on the basis of multiculturalism – including multiple faiths as well as ethnicities, PLUS authoritarian overall structures. These were the Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian empires, based on the dynastic patriarchal principle plus some religious ideological trappings…and of course they could be very permissive about allowing their different minorities and territories to lead parallel lives with some traditional territorial and religious autonomies…
It was not just modern nationalisms that bust those empires up, but liberalism too – (nationalism and liberalism are now seen as opposites, but historically they were often integrally linked…e.g. in 1848…) – for if you are going to replace monarchy/aristocracy etc…with democracy based on equality, the enjoyment of the political rights of the individual has to furnish the individual with the democratic community in which they can be effectively exercised…which is a civic community with a fair amount of common culture, cohesion, historical memory etc…and not one divided by two or more communal identities with radically different interests…or one where there is e.g. a pan religious or ethnic group interested in busting the more national identities and nation states of other groups.
Anyway, if modern people now don’t want to go back to empire/dynasty, but also don’t want national communities on individual rights grounds, I’m not sure how the Gordian knot can be cut…

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
10 days ago
Reply to  B Emery

There are loads, as the commentator below has given examples of.
As for the standards for this country, the fact that you don’t know is deeply disturbing.
This society evolved through adherence to Christian values and developed its unique way of expressing those over millennia.
Until we started to equate multiculturalism with multi moral perspectives, it had held up well and formed the basis of a stable society that suited its citizens.
I would suggest we reclaim that. You do not have to be ultra religious or even a believer in order to follow such principles and many incomers quite easily integrated into this culture which was not difficult or oppressive; unless of course you didn’t agree with it and then you are of course free to go where it suits you better.
Britain is not the only country in the world; but it’s probably the only one that prioritises any other culture but its own. That has to stop.
As for your comment on western cultures, not yet, but if the continent is anything to go bye very soon. Going to another country and trashing their culture in favour of your own used to be called colonialism, if white peoples did it and was bad!
How come it’s ok now?

B Emery
B Emery
10 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

‘As for the standards for this country, the fact that you don’t know is deeply disturbing’

Not sure what you mean, I didn’t mention ‘the standards for this country’?.

‘I would suggest we reclaim that. You do not have to be ultra religious or even a believer in order to follow such principles and many incomers quite easily integrated into this culture which was not difficult or oppressive’

I understand that Britain is founded on Christian values, I don’t disagree with you that a return to those values is important.
However trying to return to those values by implementing a ‘social contract’ that is instilled by an authoritarian regime as the original poster suggested is surely a way towards a ‘difficult’ and ‘oppressive’ culture, when, as you assert, British Christian culture was not always difficult and oppressive and people were easily integrated for precisely that reason?

‘How come it’s ok now?’

Nobody is saying it is OK. Western governments have allowed mass immigration and now we have to integrate people. Trying to integrate people using a social contract instilled by an authoritarian government sounds like a bad way to go about it to me. Are there any examples of western nations that have not failed when this has been tried in the past?

Martin Goodfellow
Martin Goodfellow
10 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Britain…”the only one that prioritises any other culture but its own.” I’m not so sure about that. Try reading the news from Australia, Canada, New Zealand–all created British, to be sure, but independent. All are in cultural turmoil. The USA,too,but with its own differences, having led the way of trying to become a ‘melting pot’, not entirely successfully. Migrations since the late 20th century have led to a lot of changes.

Vesselina Zaitzeva
Vesselina Zaitzeva
9 days ago

“The USA,too,but with its own differences, having led the way of trying to become a ‘melting pot’, not entirely successfully. ”
I would continue along these lines and suggest that when the melting pot is overflowing because its capacity is less than the volume of the material to melt, the success of the melting process can hardly be guaranteed.

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
9 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You’ve nailed it. Unless the citizenry understand what binds them together as citizens – i.e. our Judeo-Christian ethos – they have no hope of avoiding destruction when assailed by an invading tribe.
By contrast, the curse of tribalism is widespread in the world and in our history. Under tribalism, kings rule by force, and to remain safe, you do whatever your king says. “Justice” is defined by whatever the king wants – or if you like, whatever the ruling elite want, whether that is Islamist, communist or nationalist.
Modern western countries like the UK are uniquely non-tribal because they adhere to a set of ethical laws which apply to all people, making all citizens equally valuable but also equally responsible. Tom Holland argues in “Dominion” that this whole concept of a society based on “love your neighbor” did not exist until Jesus Christ. Remember, ‘Democracy’ will not produce justice unless the citizens live under the same governing ethos.
That’s both profoundly true and yet surprising considering human history. Instead of tribalism, the UK has a set of laws derived from a basis of common trust, an ethos that isn’t prescribed by law but nonetheless exists as “the right way to behave”. Among its foundations are truth, justice, forgiveness, and redemption – all of which are rooted in our Christian and Enlightenment heritage. Successive UK governments have trashed Christian principles without providing new ones. Should children be preferably raised in a home with their biological parents? Of course they should. Why?
You don’t need to be a believer in Jesus to understand that Western principles of family, work, rest, value, justice, restoration, the relations of men and women have been based on Christian norms and scientific truth. That’s history. The principles work for a reason. Why would you throw them out as if they are expendable?
The UK has sold itself back to tribalism.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
10 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

People have tried to make the culture argument. The usual response is to accuse them of various isms and phobias.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Insightful and punchy as always, Katharine. Although I’d suggest we don’t have a multicultural Britain, we have a multiplicity of monocultures. Or tribes.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 days ago

In that case, it is too late for the remedial measures I suggested and you are on a slide down into widespread sectarian politics (perhaps conflict) and mass discord which will only be manageable using a system completely alien to the liberal one we have previously thought of as “British”.

David McKee
David McKee
9 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Katharine, your education at UCL was not wasted! Your conclusions might not be shared by your lecturers, but heigh-ho, that’s modern academia for you.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
7 days ago
Reply to  David McKee

I only cared about what my lecturers thought for as long as I had to get good grades. The real, lasting benefit of my university education and the reason I went into debt for it was because I knew it would teach me HOW to think. You could still assume that of uni education in the early 2000s, just about.
I got the certificate, and have been a veritable walking festival of unfashionable ideas ever since. Totes out of control, you might say.

William Amos
William Amos
9 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Surely the mores and values of most conservative Muslim families are closer to ‘traditional’ or customary British values = family, faith, community – than the liberal individualism which now occupies the national cultural centre-ground.
The idea of women’s equality which you cite as foundational to British Values is really rather novel in English social history. The idea that women could and should participate in public life in the same way that men do is not one that was accepted by any generation until really the 1970s
It would have surprised many in our grandfathers generation to hear that women ‘belonging at home’ would one day be regarded a fundamentally ‘un-British’ principle.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 days ago

‘Let’s hope’

That’s something we’re hearing rather a lot since the election, isn’t it? I suspect that the people whose activities Starmer ignored as DPP will be among the first to be released.

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
8 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Am I missing something? If these people weren’t prosecuted, they won’t be in prison so can’t be released.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
10 days ago

The vast bulk of today’s prison population is there for very serious offenses like use of guns and explosives (22%), rape (13%), drug supply (44%), etc.

These offences have always been crimes since the 1960s. The male incarceration rate per 100,000 has more than doubled (from about 100 to about 250) since then. Knowing also police detection rates have fallen, this means the UK today is beset by far, far more serious crime than it was in the 1960s.

Since 2000, the proportion of prisoners aged 15 to 29 has gone down, and those over 50 has gone up by nearly 250%. This isn’t wholly explained by our aging population. What does explain it is the high degree of repeat offenders who have already served non-custodial sentences for previous crimes or are serving sentences for multiple offenses. This means the UK today is plagued by lifestyle and cultural criminality.

While rehabilitation and non-custodial sentences can work to reduce reoffending, they are most effective for less serious crime, younger offenders, and those who have committed only one or two offenses. These are precisely the people who are NOT in UK prisons thanks to a collapse in crime detection rates and prosecution, and a shortage of prison places for judges and magistrates to send convicted criminals.

Our rising demand for prison places is a lagging indicator that we have and continue to endure rising levels of serious criminality. The rising demand for prison places is a direct measure of our failed liberal social policy. However, instead of challenging the liberal social policy trajectory of the last 60 years that has created this crime epidemic, our social policy experts will instead gerrymander the measure and hide the seriousness of the failure by downgrading the seriousness of crimes.

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
8 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Spot on. People need to understand the facts of who is in prison and why, before they give their support to various solutions. The vast majority of prisoners are people you would definitely not want to be living near. Supporting their release then, by definition, is wishing on someone else what you would not wish for yourself.

edmond van ammers
edmond van ammers
10 days ago

Maybe if we ran the prisons like in Japan? Large savings and perhaps a real disincentive to certain criminals?

David Harris
David Harris
10 days ago

“since the last Labour administration… the Tories did little to improve on Blair’s approach, and much to make things worse.”
Not just prisons but pretty well everything they inherited. Reform UK is now the true party of the Right. So vote for them whenever you can.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
10 days ago

When your govt has abdicated in its principal role of public safety, then you essentially have no govt worthy of the name. The same is happening in the US, too, where criminals have been elevated beyond the law-abiding much like illegals enjoy more sainted status than taxpaying citizens.
Maybe, just maybe, govt could dispense with the stupid mission creep into nonsense like net-zero and diversity initiatives and simply perform its basic functions at an adequate level. A high level would be preferable, of course, but let’s start with adequate and build from there. Police the streets, educate kids so they are literate in things other than gender and the oppression Olympics, and tend to infrastructure. Basic govt stuff.

John Galt
John Galt
10 days ago

Well what this yank thinks is that maybe if the constabulary spent less time hunting down and prosecuting people for mean tweets, and social media jokes (the UK arrested more people under speech laws than Russia last year) and stop letting people go because they don’t want to be accused of “racism” maybe then they could spend their time solving real problems. Bet that bill of rights is looking pretty good right now init guvner?

Pip G
Pip G
9 days ago

Criminal Justice is in a mess. There have been numerous scandals within the Police forces – I suspect (hope) with most police officers disgusted at this. It has been compounded by the neglect within the authorities in not dealing with the rogues; it seems the Met is still dragging its feet (Bring back Robert Mark).
The courts are very under resourced, and rely on the dedication of court staff and lawyers (most criminal cases do not have celebrity defendants and highly paid barristers). Read “The Secret Barrister” which is scandalous but truthful.
Imprisonment reforms few criminals, although it keeps them away from the public. While some criminals are evil, the state of prisons helps no-one.

Ian Shelley
Ian Shelley
9 days ago

I am concerned that there may not be room in our prisons for a new breed of vile criminal about to infest our otherwise increasingly utopian Progressive country. They are not criminals yet, but if Labour impose a “conversion therapy ban” there could be 2 million new criminals guilty of the hate crime of talking to someone and influencing him towards leaving (good) LGBTQ+ for the Badlands of heterosexuality. Where can we lock them all away?
A study by Hu and Denier a year ago found that, over a six year period, 2 million people changed from hetero to LGBTQ+ and another 2 million changed the other way. The first batch are obviously brave and stunning heroes, as well as being oppressed little victims needing the protection of victim status. The sinners who left LGBTQ+, however, can only have done so through torture. The police will need to leave lesser crimes like burglary and common assault to hunt down the homophobic, transphobic torturers.
The Hu and Denier study was picked up by the press last July as evidencing a Progressive fluidity in sexual orientation, and a Progressive equality in fluidity, with 2 million moving in either direction. But, hang on, 2 million out of the 5 million LGBTQ population is not “Equal” to 2 million of the 65 million (3%) hetero population as incidence of fluidity. Looking at the detail of the study, the rate of conversion was 9% for gay, 44% for bi and 70% for trans. What a lot of victims of torture! Or could one possibly suggest people are righting their sexuality after being pushed/seduced in the teenage years by Progressive media, teachers, influencers, social media into more interesting sexual orientations. Maybe the old-fashioned way is best, actually creating children. 

Buck Rodgers
Buck Rodgers
9 days ago

Odds that “community payback boards” open the door to sharia courts?

Katalin Kish
Katalin Kish
9 days ago

21st century technology makes the crime landscape far grimmer than what most people realise. Australia’s lawlessness affects people far beyond our borders.

Small comfort, but at least the UK has no high powered politicians who are profoundly crime-deaf, like Clare O’Neil is, Australia’s Minister for Cyber Security & Home Affairs, the MP for my electorate since 2013.

O’Neil ignored my pleas in 2015, when as a public servant witness to crimes punishable by 10 years in jail I was forced to realise, our sole law-enforcement entity Victoria Police refuse evidence of crimes, refuse to even pretend trying to stop crimes endangering the safety of millions of Australians.

I only succumbed to the fact Australia has no functional law-enforcement in 2019, when Victoria Police forced me to fight at court in an admitted silencing attempt, tried to entrap me twice & openly participated in the very crimes they tried to silence me about.

Since in 2019 I declared self-representation against Victoria Police, I also started experiencing a wide-range of remote-weapons-grade technologies affecting my physiology usually at night, often just before court hearings. I won anyway. Prosecutors bluff.

It took me almost 5 years to name the experience accurately: war-crimes committed against crime witnesses, who cannot be tricked, bribed or coerced into silence. A few weeks ago I happened upon a name for one of the typical experiences: transcranial direct current stimulus – used by DARPA.

My last forced experience involving this was less than 12 hours ago – writing this at 2:14pm on the 12th of July 2024. Australia’s bikers routinely walk free from court*, if they ever get charged in the first place, because witnesses refuse to testify. Providers of contactless extortion** no doubt use the same tech on other crime witnesses & if the witness doesn’t break, on their loved ones too. Since I lost everyone dear to me to crimes by 2019, I remain free & very much willing to fight.

— remove spaces from links —

* https :// www .heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-victoria/hells-angels-nomad-boss-jasmin-destanovic-has-eight-charges-dropped/news-story/ed04b245b466cbd646ed27d8ea1e9112
** https :// www .linkedin.com/pulse/contactless-extortion-australia-katalin-kish-upqyc/

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
9 days ago

All very troubling. Starmer is projecting an image of calm easy go authority. But week one has seen the two most toxic ideological drivers of the Left guarantee social and economic anarchy in our unhappy mean streets – we have a 100% clear No Deterrent Ever Open Border and a guaranteed surge in criminal border violation and more hotels filled. And the former Buy Diesel! Milliband has guaranteed a future energy crisis with his instant crass job killing assault on our North Sea Oil/Gas Industry. Ditto Ange on job killing in special coal. No border security. No energy security (the Pol Pot green plan is an economic dud). And lots more unemployment of skilled workers to join the 11m with depression. The talk of Leftist Bureaucratic interventions (yoof clubs stop murder!) soothing the brewing anarchy on our lawless streets is yet another silly sick joke. Honeymoon over. Its actually quite scary.

Ian Burns
Ian Burns
9 days ago

Fissiporous … wow

Rachel Taylor
Rachel Taylor
9 days ago

This is an odd one, for two reasons: one, the statistics show a higher proportion than before of those in prison are in for a serious crime of violence, and for longer, so releasing any significant number requires releasing violent criminals; and two, the immediate crisis is caused by the Covid lockdown and resulting Court backlog increasing the numbers on remand, where 80% go on to receive a custodial sentence and therefore should be on remand and not bail.
So you have an increase in the effectiveness of policing for serious crimes, which Starmer now says he wants to reverse; and the effect of lockdown, which Starmer wanted sooner, harder and longer. Odd.