Sunday, 20 January 2008

Lies, Damn Lies and the Home Secretary

Some people say you can tell when a politician's lying: his lips move.

Right: Jacqui Smith. Spin is alive and well in New Labour.

Perhaps that's a little disingenuous, for we can all think of individual politicians who stand out from the crowd, regardless of affiliations.

Personally speaking the likes of Ann Widdicombe, Robin Cook and even George Galloway have given glimpses of bravery, speaking out, going against the grain.

Generally speaking though these glimpses of politicians saying and (far more importantly!) doing something right, are few and far between.

Over the last few days I've witnessed our illustrious Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, waxing lyrically about street crime and youth crime.

You see, our dear Home Secretary, can prove that street crime, violent assaults etc. are down.

Yes, we're dealing with official statistics and if there is anything that can ever be diametrically opposed to the truth it is surely official statistics.

Doesn't the saying go 'there are lies, damn lies and statistics?'

Anyone who's seen the old 70s sitcom Yes Minister knows what we are dealing with here as civil servants and government officials (Sir Humphrey & Co) twist and tweak the recording rules and more, to make the "official figures" look even better.

Remember when the government handed out work permits to asylum seekers? Overnight they were no longer officially "asylum seekers" - though the same flotsam and jetsam of Asian and Africa flooded in (fleeing for their lives, through the safe countries of mainland Europe, to the honey pot of the UK with its housing benefit, NHS etc.)

We were then told how the government has succeeded in stemming the flood of asylum seekers, and we had less to worry about apropos large scale coloured immigration (closed doors, horse bolted etc.).

Of course the same non-European people were flooding in, but the Sir Humphreys had tweaked the rules and all of a sudden there was "no asylum seeking problem."

I haven't yet mentioned this government's decision to downgrade cannabis with the result that a drug which is causing serious health issues - with criminal repercussions - is now widely perceived in the criminal classes as something to be enjoyed with great regularity.

Of course the other side to this decision to downgrade cannabis (made by a government minister whose own son was later found in possession of... cannabis) was that the police could dismiss those found with cannabis on them with a 'ticking off' and a "be on your way sonny" pep talk. No paperwork. No official report.

Left: A government advisor perhaps?

No doubt the official figures showed that illegal drug possession was down! Another victory... not for law and order, not for common sense, but for obfuscation and spin.

And so let us turn to Jaqcui Smith, our beloved Home Secretary (for American readers - I'm being ironic).

Right through the tail end of this week she kept assuring various audiences that the official statistics for violent crime were down.

So what did we witness this weekend? What proof of this wonderful nation in which crime is becoming a thing of the past, in which (according to Ms. Smith on the BBC's Andrew Marr show) women are perfectly safe to walk in London alone at night?

Midnight picnics for teens on Hampstead Heath? Kids with ipods or businessmen with laptops strolling through Hackney or Tottenham after 10pm? Or perhaps just elderly Englishmen free to wander through any part of Oldham or Blackburn? Neighbours leaving their front doors open whilst they pop into each others houses for tea and cake? Bicycles left just lightly chained to railings overnight to be reclaimed the next morning?

Not quite.

This country in which street crime is rapidly a thing of the past - if Ms. Smith is to be believed - is about to see airport-style walk-through metal detectors used in "inner city" (trans: multi-racial) schools.

Not Brixton night clubs. Schools.

S - C - H - O - O - L - S.

So Jacqui Smith would have us believe that all is well because the official figures say things are getting better (might it not be that people give up reporting common assaults?) yet we have machines designed to keep knives (and guns) out of our schools.

Thank God things are so rosy! Thank God this government has done such a good job!

In a country where even burglaries are no longer routinely investigated (yes, you too could just get a call from the police allocating you a crime number for insurance purposes) Ms. Smith and her boss Gordon Brown (busy hobnobbing the Communists in China) will keep telling you that all is well.

They are lying. Can't you tell? Their lips are moving...

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