by David Swift
Tuesday, 23
August 2022
Reaction
17:57

Crime is not a ‘Right-wing’ issue

Sneering pundits seem to think concern at criminality is reactionary and distasteful
by David Swift
British Police officers walk behind a security cordon by a house in the Knotty Ash area in Liverpool, on August 23, 2022, where a 9 years old girl was shot overnight by a gunman. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

A nine-year-old girl has been shot dead in Liverpool — the third fatal shooting in the city in a week. Social media is awash with footage of gangs of youths terrorising communities across the country. Yesterday, a 28-year-old man was sentenced for raping a mother and her 14-year-old daughter in their own home. He was given a life sentence — to serve a minimum of 10 years.

My intention here is not to talk about the range of factors that lead to such crimes, nor about the leniency of sentencing guidelines, but rather the notion among certain commentators and academics that discussing such issues is indicative of a reactionary mindset or even some kind of psychological malady.

It is bad enough that these communities are subjected to such violence and lawlessness, and they do not need snide journalists and academics arguing that a preoccupation with crime is a conservative or cringey middle-class phenomenon.

Prominent Left-wing voices who have adopted such a position include Tom Gann of the New Socialist, who’s argued that nobody on the Left should give up on police abolition, and Novara Media columnist Moya Lothian-McLean believes that Keir Starmer’s focus on anti-social crime “sums up the carceral bureaucracy” the Labour leader “embodies”.

Amia Srinivasan, writes in The Right to Sex (2021) that “when feminists embrace carceral solutions, they give cover to the governing class in its refusal to tackle the deepest causes of most crime”, framing the imprisoning of rapists and domestic abusers as a means of class control, rather than protecting the most vulnerable women from violence.

In reality, of course, the opposite is true. Crime is highest in working-class areas, and working-class, BAME, and LGBT people are all more likely to be victims of crime than straight, white, middle-class men. This is reflected in the high priority given to crime by voters in these poorer and more diverse areas — as the MPs representing them know all too well.

The highest levels of reported anti-social behaviour are in places like Tower Hamlets, Nottingham, Hackney and Middlesbrough. These are some of the most deprived areas of the country — and also some of the most ethnically diverse. The well-heeled denizens of the Blue Wall are not constantly on the phone to the police because their lives are being made a misery and they’re too scared to walk to the shops.

That’s not to say that the media doesn’t play a role in exacerbating fear of crime: the writer Megan Nolan highlights “the blatant class hatred which permeate[s] media coverage” of horrific crimes such as the murder of James Bulger.

But a focus on role of Right-wing media doesn’t help us understand why such content finds a paying audience among poor and working-class people, and it can provide ammunition for the electorally-suicidal notion that crime reduction is really a middle-class issue.

This is all part of a broader trend on the Left that seeks to recast traditional working-class concerns, such as crime and immigration, as being driven by middle-class conservatives.

In This is Not Normal, an otherwise thoughtful and interesting take on the politics of the past half-dozen years, William Davies draws a dichotomy between “the desperate men and women… living in the abandoned economic regions of the Midlands and North” who voted for Brexit and Boris Johnson for economic reasons, and those “well-off elderly voters… seduced by Faragist visions of national identity” whose votes were won through racist dog whistles.

I have no idea why Davies thinks poor voters in the Midlands and North are somehow immune to appeals to national identity, but the failure to appreciate the salience of immigration and patriotism to working-class voters contributed to the mess the Left is in today, and we can’t afford to do the same with crime.

David Swift’s new book ‘The Identity Myth’ is out now.

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Aw Zk
Aw Zk
1 month ago

Crime isn’t an issue for the left because politicians, journalists and activists have already decided who the villains and the victims are. If you have already decided that the villains are Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron and Boris Johnson it doesn’t matter how many children are murdered on the streets of Liverpool by other Liverpudlians. If you have already decided that the villains are the police who are all racist murderers it doesn’t matter how many black people are shot or stabbed by other black people on the streets of London or Chicago. If you have already decided that the villains are people who talk about grooming gangs such as Nick Griffin, Tommy Robinson, Ann Cryer and Sarah Champion who are racists it doesn’t matter how many underage girls are raped by gangs of Muslim men under the noses of Guardian-reading social workers, teachers and NHS staff. The things that don’t matter are ignored, denied or downplayed and as soon as possible we get back to talking about really important things such as people saying bad things.
I am from the left but the modern left has become contemptible and someone needs to show them up for what they are.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 month ago

To me there are two things here.
First is that lower-class “oppressed peoples” cannot be held to account. Because oppression.
Second is that the educated Left cannot face the fact that most of its agenda has Made Things Worse for the lower classes. It cannot be, It cannot be, that Lefties have been wrong, all along.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago

I found this line in the article sailing a bit close to the wind:

”These are some of the most deprived areas of the country — and also some of the most ethnically diverse.” (says they have the highest amount of anti-social behavior)

But the name Working-Class is used by the writer to mean the ‘Under class’, which if you read your Dalrymple you know should not be conflated.

”among poor and working-class people”

Orwell wrote of the problems, and yet dignity, of the Working Class. Dalrymple writes of the Underclass and their lack – I think the writer needs to read on the two writers as they are very often contrasted over this huge issue. The writer is using ‘Working Class totally wrong – he has allowed PC and Woke to change the meaning of the name of this group.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

It was not that difficult to look at the gangs of tough, working class thugs who stepped of trains at Brookwood Station, and after a few weeks at The Guards Depot Pirbright, turned into loyal, disciplined, tough and smart Guardsmen: I remember their parents in tears of joy when they came to see their sons Passing Out parade…..

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago

Anyone convicted of murder should be given a mandatory whole life sentence. This was the deal offered to the British public when capital punishment was abolished against their wishes.
The only person who should be able to overturn this sentence should be the Home Secretary who answers to the voters for her decisions.
Bottom line: take a life, forfeit yours.

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt M

I disagree. I think there are times it is justified for someone to kill another. The ‘Needed Killing’ law, the ‘Texas Defense’, I get these.

In criminal law, the claim that the deceased victim “needed killing” is known as “the Texas defense”, also designated as “misdemeanor homicide”. On Wednesday, 27 August 2014,

https://larvatus.livejournal.com/495509.html

Your life for a life I totally refute. Things are not like that. Some people are just bad – watch a show on Cartel violence say… Like in ‘Peer Gynt’ when all are weighed on the scales at the end…..

Remember the ‘Tens and Hundreds’, the collectives to keep the peace, the ‘Hue and Cry’

4, it was provided that anyone, either a constable or a private citizen, who witnessed a crime shall make hue and cry, and that the hue and cry must be kept up against the fleeing criminal from town to town and from county to county, until the felon is apprehended and delivered to the sheriff. All able-bodied men, upon hearing the shouts, were obliged to assist in the pursuit of the criminal,

I am anti-criminal when they hurt people for their own gain or pleasure, and we all should be part of keeping la and order – mostly by use of those legally employed to do so – but as citizens we also have some obligation to protect our society and fellows by many means – and the honest citizen is afraid to protect themselves or others by your kind of policy that all be punished equally wile all’s guilt is different.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

If the killing is “justified’, the jury can refuse to convict, the CPS can bring a lesser charge like manslaughter or the Home Secretary can commute the whole life sentence.

harry storm
harry storm
1 month ago
Reply to  Aaron James

In order to refute something, you have to provide evidence as to why what you are refuting is wrong. You haven’t refuted anything. You’ve simply denied something without providing evidence for your denial.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago

No policing issue enrages the Left as much as Stop and Search – a policy that the vast majority of frontline police officers say works, much to the eternal annoyance of the hair-triggered offence pedlars of the left.
Stop and Search is always held up by the liberal left as a blatantly racist policy. But is it? The numbers suggest it is merely an effective, targeted approach to an observable problem.
Look at it another way – The vast majority of violent crime is perpetrated by Men. How is it that the liberal left don’t accuse the UK’s Criminal Justice System of Institutional Sexism?
Frontline police officers are hampered by the attitudes of some of their own senior leadership – who appear to be as much politicians as policemen. Even the former Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, now a director of the College of Policing openly criticises the UK’s criminal justice system as a racist institution.
No race is innately predisposed to be involved in knife crime more than another. However, it is statistically indisputable that some cultures are significantly more likely to be involved in knife crime than others.
For the Police to ignore such obvious and observable correlations just to appease the sensitivities of Guardian columnists or activists would be entirely self-defeating and, frankly, a gross dereliction of duty.
But in this peculiar age, woe betide any politician who tried to make that point out loud. They’d be subjected to the confected ire of the professional outragistes on twitter and be forced to apologise in time for the News at Ten or face losing their job.
The numbers tell a pretty obvious story, yet try using such hard-and-fast stats to show that there are at least worrying correlations between two data-sets and – if you’re lucky – you’ll probably be told, ‘Yeah, but that’s just your opinion!’ or worse you’ll be accused of bigotry.
And so the police will be told not to racially profile those they stop and frisk for weapons. Meanwhile young boys will continue to get stabbed and gangs will attack each other with machetes in broad daylight, but at least we haven’t hurt anyone’s feelings!

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

It is a strategy of the left to obfuscate every topic. The district attorney’s in the U.S. who argue that prisons are unfairly filled with a disproportionate share of people of color completely ignore the brutal fact that most crimes are disproportionately committed by the very same people.
We could also argue that automobile accidents involve a disproportionate share of automobile drivers vs. pedestrians.

E. L. Herndon
E. L. Herndon
1 month ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

So true, WT. As an American I’m puzzled at the degree to which current opinion seems to have forgotten that the Constitution was written to be absolutely color-blind. (The infamous so-called 3/5s issue was written because an enslaved person could be made to function as an involuntary augmentation of their owner) From my time in England, I’d always just assumed that villains were stupefied into compliance by the third “Hello!”…

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 month ago

Pre-pandemic I watched a youtube video about British police in a north of England town dealing with drunks on a Friday night. Clearly they’d been trained to defuse confrontations as much as possible, but I was astounded, as an American, by how much abuse these cops tolerated.
In the rare cases when they made arrests nothing much happened to the criminals. One drunk started a fight with a couple of cops. In the US, pre-pandemic, that would lead you to a world of trouble, but the UK perp spent a night in the drunk tank and was given a court date. He eventually received a warning and a nominal fine.
Those cops had to tolerate so much nonsense from roaming crowds of drunks. I felt as if they’d been abandoned, if not by their superiors then certainly by the politicians. I also suspected that much of that drunken behavior was tolerated because the town was economically deprived and there was a tacit recognition that people needed an emotional outlet with few consequences otherwise riots would break out. Or maybe I’m overthinking what was nothing more than the unwillingness of UK legislators to empower the police.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The scenario you mention is unrelated, you’re simply not used to the way policing in the UK operates.
Policing has never been like the Americans, even when it wasn’t as politicised as it is now. The UK police force has always attempted to calm a situation before resorting to force, it’s their whole policing by consent mantra. The Americans by contrast have always been much more gung ho and authoritarian, policing by force rather than by the backing of the public

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

When human beings first came to the new world, they hurried themselves to build first a church and then a jail, or maybe the other way around. Nathanial Hawthorne described that jail as the “black flower of civil society.” It wasn’t long after Hawthorne wrote that we came to question the need for such things. I am quite sure Hawthorne knew what was coming and wrote what he did for that reason.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

It appears that your scenario is also unrelated as you are making a gross generalization about American police tactics. But if we focus solely on the media-hyped examples of brutal force, then it is no wonder some people believe that is the norm.

Penny Adrian
Penny Adrian
1 month ago

Thank You so much for this. My main concern when it comes to politics is how we treat the most vulnerable members of society – and who could be more vulnerable than victims of rape, battering, and murder?
It disgusts me how the academic/professional class has hijacked the Left. Everything is an abstraction to these people because they can afford to live in their heads and ignore the fragility of the body. They seem to care more about espousing their pet theories than about making life materially safer and easier for the poor and working classes.
Thank You for caring about “the least among us”: those who are preyed upon by violent offenders.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Adrian

Did the academic/professional class hijack the left, or are leftwingers just more naturally attracted to unproductive theorising and waffle with good salaries and pension schemes?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 month ago

Interesting. Surely, someone must have voted for these people? The mirror can be harsh.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 month ago

with bent, woke lazy police, an underfunded and now politically driven CPS, no restriction on jury services, underfunded legal aid, the criminal justice system is broken: Each week one reads of people sent to jail for 6 months plus, for ” crimes” where there is no victim, viz. ” looking at right wing web sites” and policeman actually NOT being imprisoned for far worse!
Please do not insult my basic intelligence by using such terms as ” most racially diverse” when the reality is extreme violence and lack of respect for the criminal law amongst… errrr… ” ethnic groups” who have effectively ghettoised areas of the country, as in France, and the US.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 month ago

Starmer, the bloke who didn’t investigate the ‘south Asian’ (BBC speak for Pakistani Muslim) grooming gangs when head of the CPS. Why hasn’t that come back to bite him yet? Much more important than cake and parties.

Aw Zk
Aw Zk
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I’m sorry but the argument that Keir Starmer was part of the cover-up of the grooming gangs is not true. When he was Director of Public Prosecutions (from November 2008 to November 2013) the CPS was prosecuting grooming gangs.
The major cases in this period were the first Rotherham gang trial arising from South Yorkshire Police’s Operation Central (five men convicted in November 2011), a trial in Derby arising from Operation Retriever (nine men convicted in November 2010) and the first Rochdale gang trial arising from Greater Manchester Police’s Operation Span (nine men convicted in May 2012). There were also trials of men from Keighley (two men convicted in March 2013) and Telford (two men convicted in November 2012).
The CPS was not the main reason why the grooming gangs got away with their crimes for so long. The failure of various police forces to investigate the gangs was a far bigger reason and the CPS couldn’t prosecute if the police didn’t investigate. I’m not saying that there wasn’t a cover-up and politicians weren’t responsible: I’m saying that when Keir Starmer was DPP the CPS helped to uncover the grooming gangs and the cover-up predated his time at the CPS. Anyone who thinks that Keir Starmer was involved in the cover-up of the grooming gangs hasn’t got the right politicians.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago

Deleted – as a repost of my earlier comment, that was put into “pending” limbo

Last edited 1 month ago by Paddy Taylor
S S
S S
1 month ago

Commendable piece which does a good job at showing the way certain people jump on issues to make a wider point that serves to reveal just how one-track are their minds.
Here, I refer back to the advent of the blog Chavscum around 2001-2, whose basis was taken as an attack on ‘the working class’ by ‘right-thinking people’ such as Owen Jones who made a name and a career out of his sophistry (see Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class). The fact was that what was being attacked was an attitude and not a class. This attitude was basically a lack of consideration for others – and while it permeates society as a whole, this was a particular problem for those without the resources to escape it.
This latter point is emphasised when David Swift mentions the high crime areas and those mainly affected by it. I know from experience with people of Asian/west Indian/African backgrounds that a good proportion are exasperated by what they see as the UK’s liberal attitude to wrong-doing – whoever does it.
As with Matt M, I remember the abolition of the death penalty which was accompanied by an assurance that ‘life would mean life’. This however, was undone by the Lord and Lady Bountifuls who insisted that with no chance of release there was little incentive for ‘reform’ of the incarcerated characters. This was extended into the operations of The Parole Board who all too often have been perceived (correctly or incorrectly) as claiming reform when it had not taken place. At its worse, this attitude was displayed by Lord Longford’s campaign for leniency to be shown to child murderer Myra Hindley. And Longford, of course, was involved in the creation of The Parole Board.
Longford was a member of the Labour party, which is thought of as ‘the left’ – including as it does ‘right-thinking’ people who largely patronise ‘the working class’ whom it is nearly impossible to detect amongst their number either in Parliament or amongst its members.  No wonder there is a failure “to appreciate the salience of immigration and patriotism to working class voters”, as David Swift observes.
The Blairite intonation “tough on crime tough on the causes of crime” was seen as Labour pitching its tent in a traditionally ‘right wing’ area. Few of us noticed that the catchy phrase in fact was an equivocation.