Today’s media is alive with claims from the Conservative Party – and notably Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Brokenshire MP – that there have been “five stabbings a week under Gordon Brown”. Data recorded by police in England and Wales shows a total of two hundred and seventy seven fatal stabbings in 2007-08, apparently the highest number for thirty years. This compares unfavourably with an average of 241 in the decade before that, and 203 per year between 1988 and 1997.
But Mr Brokenshire – for whom I have great respect – appears to have missed the point. To point a finger of blame at the Prime Minister is largely useless; it detracts from the issue at hand and denigrates the underlying problem into mere yah-boo politics.
Violent crime of all kinds – gun, knife, fists and so on – will continue to rise under Governments of all persuasions until the contributory causes are addressed. One only has to watch television advertisements for most computer games which glorify violence, theft, assault and use of the most terrifying weapons. Our cinemas display the most gory and sick film content in an attempt to make more and more profit at the box office. Pubs and clubs promote all day drinking. Teachers are abandoning their trade in droves as respect and discipline in the classroom become faint memories – indeed during a recent school visit my chat with the head teacher was cut short when two fourteen year old girls were found polishing off a bottle of vodka at the back of the class.
These are fundamental breakdowns in society, and for the Conservatives to suggest that the answer is to declare “an automatic presumption of jail for knife possession” is simply to fill an already overcrowded prison system. Many young people these days carry knives as a means of survival, and simply to criminalise them or commit them to prison is to ignore the culture in which they live.
These societal issues are just too important to use a s political footballs. We owe it to our young people, their friends and their families to work together to mend the breaks in our society.