Whatever happened to David Cameron’s “Broken Society”?


1:51 pm - October 19th 2012

by Septicisle    


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Remember the good old days of a few years ago when the arrival of the latest crime statistics invariably led to both the Conservatives and the tabloids arguing that the end was nigh?

I do, mainly because I then went and looked at the actual figures.

Even a quick browse showed that both were being either highly selective, relying on the police figures over the results of the British Crime Survey on violence against the person for example, or highlighting only one aspect of recorded crime, such as the use of a specific weapon when the numbers being attacked and killed were in fact in decline.

It’s interesting to note then that the release of figures yesterday, showing that despite the recession crime continues to fall, with only theft from the person increasing, has been met with an almost universal shrug.

There’s no report as yet on the Sun’s website, while the Mail has been left with having to put a story alongside its article on a “teenage yob” being given just a final warning after beating a boy with his own crutches.

Unlike how the Conservatives couldn’t wait to pile in on any sign that Labour was being “soft on crime”, on occasion concocting figures to such an extent that they were warned by the UK Statistics Authority they were likely to “mislead the public”, the opposition’s response has been just as low key, focusing mainly on the drop in the numbers of police officers.

Welcome as this is when the British Crime Survey suggests the chance of being a victim of crime is its lowest since it began, it’s also indicative of how the right-wing press tends to play dirtier with Labour governments than they do with the Tories. The Sun for instance claimed that a mistake in recording GBH was an indication Labour had been cooking the figures altogether, something it had no evidence whatsoever to back-up.

But we barely hear a peep from David Cameron about the broken society now he’s in power, even as hundreds of thousands have to rely on food banks, so the paper that did the most to promote the notion has “moved on”.

As for any even grudging recognition that crime fell massively while Labour was in power, even if the two things are not necessarily connected, we’ll be waiting a long time.

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About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at Septicisle.info on politics and general media mendacity.
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Reader comments


It’s interesting to wonder if declining crime figures mean we’re becoming a more civilised society, or just better at detering crime. It was only a few years ago I remember that buses in my part of south London were defaced by window scratchers and grafitti – and since they put in cameras on all the buses, it became much less.

Where I’m living now in Leeds is one of its more deprived areas. Every other house has gates on their front doors and the back alleys have been blocked off by gates too. So maybe burglary has gone down a bit because people are more vigilant. Car crime has also gone down due to cars being harder to steal, but I still see plenty of glass on pavements where cars have been broken into.

We’ve also got the biggest prison population we’ve ever had. Maybe that helps too.

2. Chaise Guevara

@ damon

“more civilised” is a bit vague. I agree it’s hard to tell whether people are less inclined to commit crime, or whether they are inclined but are deterred from doing so.

It’s probably a bit of both.

Highly commended: this piece in Saturday’s Economist on: Inner cities are beginning to resemble suburbs, and vice versa
http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21564858-inner-cities-are-beginning-resemble-suburbs-and-vice-versa

Evidently, while crime rates are falling in inner-city areas, they are rising in some suburban areas. “Ominously, there are some hints that crime rates are about to start rising again. Since 2010 the number of burglaries has increased slightly, while in several London boroughs the number of street robberies is climbing.”

Yes that Economist article is interesting.
Crime rates down in Brixton and up in Croydon.
It’s demographic change that’s doing that I presume.
The Brixton people moved to Croydon.

“The Brixton people moved to Croydon.”

There could have been some population movement as the result of what I suspect is a more buoyant jobs market in Croydon, compared with Brixton, but according to the article in the Economist, the Police in Brixton have been trying a different approach from the past – more “Community Policing” with meetings to explain what’s happening and where their challenges are. The result has been more support for the Police and more “crime intelligence” passed to the Police. Of course, that kind of Policing is manpower intensive and will be difficult to sustain with the squeeze on police numbers. Central Croydon was much harder hit by rioting last year than Brixton.

If it turns out that widespread crime trends across western Europe and Policing ways and numbers in Britain are the critical factors in crime rates, Cameron’s theory about Broken Britain will lose credibility and I can’t see what relevance his Big Society nostrum will have.

It happens that I’ve still not had answers to my earlier questions about when did Britain previously have the Big Society and which other countries have it now? Failing specifics, I can only construe that as meaning the notion is entirely mythical.

6. So Much for Subtlety

It’s interesting to note then that the release of figures yesterday, showing that despite the recession crime continues to fall, with only theft from the person increasing, has been met with an almost universal shrug.

Oh, what do you know? Crime is not caused by poverty.

I expect that the crime figures are rubbish partly because they are cooked by the government but also because we have become inured. We no longer report as much as we did. Not to mention the NHS saves people who would have died in the past which artificially reduces the murder numbers.

But still, if it will get the Left to agree crime is a policing problem and not a wealth one, I will go along with them. We have become poorer. We have not seen feral yoof committing more crime than usual. And we have a rather large prison population. Michael Howard was right and the sociologists are wrong.

7. Chaise Guevara

@ SMFS

“Oh, what do you know? Crime is not caused by poverty.”

That’s a big leap. There are probably a lot of factors at play; the effect of poverty could be wiped out by other effects.

“I expect that the crime figures are rubbish partly because they are cooked by the government but also because we have become inured. We no longer report as much as we did.”

What’s your source for this?

“Not to mention the NHS saves people who would have died in the past which artificially reduces the murder numbers.”

This is a good point.

“But still, if it will get the Left to agree crime is a policing problem and not a wealth one, I will go along with them. We have become poorer. We have not seen feral yoof committing more crime than usual. And we have a rather large prison population. Michael Howard was right and the sociologists are wrong.”

Sociologists would be able to tell you that poverty has long-term effects. You can’t assess the link between crime and poverty by looking at a single year’s data for both.

By media reports, numerous criminal sex assaults by the late Jimmy Savile evidently didn’t find their way into recorded crime statistics and, by the accounts in the news, nor did those by others, which are now the subject of a new formal criminal investigation.

It often took years for cases of sex abuse of children by paedophile priests to be uncovered and the police are still investigating cases of abuse of girls living in care homes by gangs.

In the news: “The number of people being trafficked into the UK is rising, latest government estimates suggest. Last year the authorities learned of 946, compared with 710 in 2010 . . ”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19984615

All that, as well as frequent claims that many rape cases go unreported, leaves me wondering how reliable are official statistics relating to sex crimes.

Btw the prospect of prison didn’t seem to deter JS.

@Bob B

From Wikipedia
“The British Crime Survey seeks to measure the amount of crime in England and Wales by asking around 50,000 people aged 16 and over (as of January 2009), living in private households, about the crimes they have experienced in the last year. From January 2009, 4,000 interviews were also conducted each year with children 10–15 years old, although the resulting statistics remain experimental”

So offences against children may not be reliable, and sex trafficking probably doesn’t show up. As it is an anonymous survey it should cover crimes against adults even if they are unreported, so the rape and sexual assualt statistics for over 16s should be reliable.

Chaise Guevara

“more civilised” is a bit vague.

I actually think asking whether we are more or less civilised actually gets to the point.
It’s a mixed picture, as we’ve moved on as a society from the ”bad old days” of 70s style British policing like shown in The Sweeney or that ”Life on Mars” TV show, but on the other hand, when I watch those real life police programmes, I wonder if the police have become so soft all the crims think they can just take the mick. Even when arrested you still see them snarling and bragging at the police station.

I went to school in south London in the 1970s and I don’t remember anyone ever getting mugged after school, which you might hardly bother reporting to the police these days. But then, we never had much worth stealing on us. Where I live now, the (so called) ”underclass” is still very much in evidence.
Just last night I was offered a sat-nav (stolen no doubt) when I mentioned to a guy in my building that I needed to get mine posted to me.
I declined …. but saying that I didn’t want to buy ”stolen property” would mark me out as an oddball with some of the people who are living in my steet.
Is there any eveidence that people are less inclined to pass on or buy stolen goods today than they were 20 years ago? I doubt it, so in that way, parts of Britain are inded ”broken”.

Compare that to a ”more civilised” society like Japan, where people tend to not commit selfish crimes against each other and their neighbours.

I think that ”welfarism” has helped to create the problem of this underclass though. It’s terribly un-PC to say so, but given what many employers are offering, where you have to graft hard for an EXTRA £50 a week more than you get on the dole, then it’s pretty understandable that many people chose to opt out of that rat-race. My neighbour across the hall is ”on the sick” and gets near to £200 worth of benefits. Why go to work for £250? And have to buy a £20 bus pass out of that.
There’s nothing wrong with him other than him having the ”unemployable” mentality. Been in prison etc.

Anyone who wants to reseach anything about this subject needs just to go down to their local job/benefits centre and hang about there for a while. You will see the victims of our welfare society.

“I think that ‘welfarism’ has helped to create the problem of this underclass though.”

We had this report in the Guardian 19 July:

“Murder rate falls as crime figures defy recession predictions – Recorded crime in England and Wales falls 4%, with murders down 14% in 2011-12 and violent crime in general down 7%”

But before rushing to conclude that therefore poverty has no affect on crime trends, try this from the Centre for Social Justice: “27% of the prison population, and half of all prisoners under 25, were in care.”
http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/default.asp?pageRef=216

We have about 60,000 children in care at any one time, about 10pc of whom are in local authority care homes while the rest are with foster carers. On the evidence, a quite disproportionate number of adult prisoners have been “in care”.

Isn’t it curious that so many relatively affluent market economies have relatively high unemployment rates at about the same time? Why is Welfarism internationally contagious?

12. Chaise Guevara

@ damon

“when I watch those real life police programmes, I wonder if the police have become so soft all the crims think they can just take the mick. Even when arrested you still see them snarling and bragging at the police station.”

Well, first of all I’d caution against getting your impressions of the world from TV shows edited to be dramatic and evocative. Secondly, were stupidity and bravado not around in the 70s?

“I went to school in south London in the 1970s…”

This is all anecdotal.

“Compare that to a ”more civilised” society like Japan, where people tend to not commit selfish crimes against each other and their neighbours.”

How are you defining “civilised”? That was the point of my original statement: it’s vague.

“I think that ”welfarism” has helped to create the problem of this underclass though.”

Probably, yes, but then it’s also helped to address the problem of poor people starving in the street.

“There’s nothing wrong with him other than him having the ”unemployable” mentality. Been in prison etc.”

That’s not so much a mentality as something forced upon you by society in the form of a criminal record.

Whatever indeed.

A bit of reality about “Welfarism”: young people on the labour market without skills or educational qualifications are being squeezed out of jobs by graduates chasing non-graduate work and by migrants from EU countries. Less than 60pc of 16 year-old school leavers attain the benchmark of 5 good GSCEs, including maths and English. The FT recently reported that in the retail sector, stores are closing at the rate of 20 a day.

“Activity in the construction sector, which has been a significant drag on UK growth, contracted again in August.” [BBC website 12 October]

FOUR out of 10 small companies in the construction industry say their businesses are still suffering from the slump in the housebuilding market.

And the same proportion of the construction sector expects the situation to get worse this year, according to the State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders.
http://www.nebusiness.co.uk/business-news/construction-in-north-east/2012/10/19/construction-industry-fears-worse-lies-ahead-51140-32060656/

15. Bill Chapman

I have noticed more and more references to “Broken Britain” in recent weeks. See, for example:
http://toryreformgroup.tumblr.com/post/33829340093/broken-britain-or-broken-politics

Of course, the term “Broken britain” refers to far more than the crime figures. We have a divided society with a government run by out-of-touch millionaires.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Bill Nugent

    RT @libcon: Whatever happened to David Cameron's "Broken Society"? http://t.co/ky82TBT2 <He dropped it?!

  2. Jason Brickley

    Whatever happened to David Cameron’s “Broken Society”? http://t.co/oftOFtBL





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