It was not, perhaps, the wisest move on the part of a Home Secretary in a government that's been in power for 11 years to admit that she didn't feel safe walking the streets at night, but that was indeed Jacqui Smith's mistake at the weekend. She made the admission while being interviewed by Andrew Marr, and came across as if she were just another of all these helpless people who can't do anything about the soaring crime rate. Except that she's, well, you know......Home Secretary, and sort of in charge of the police and keeping crime down.
One result of her admission has been to push one or two of the newspapers into an anti-crime frenzy, none more so than ardent Labour supporters, the 'Sun'. Their front page today prints a desperate reader's letter that talks about 'decent members of the public being murdered by the feral youths on our streets.' Their website page then goes on to catalogue a veritable smorgasbord of horrors to hammer the point home.
This is meat and drink to the 'Sun' of course, and the link between rising crime and increased police inability to tackle it, with the rise in bureaucratic requirements for the police as imposed by the current government, won't have occurred to them. The problem for the opposition parties, and especially the Tories, for whom this is supposed to be fertile territory, is how to sound strong on the issue without coming across as a hang 'em and flog 'em loony. Mind you, figures notwithstanding, it is just possible that for every Jacqui Smith, fearful of walking the streets lest she be mugged by an annoyed police officer struggling to make ends meet on his less than satisfactory pay rise, there could be a horde of citizens tramping the streets in perfect safety. That bit doesn't get reported of course. It's not really news, is it? 'Man Walks Home Safely'. Hmmm.