Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chris Grayling - Wired for Populism

Chris Grayling may come to regret trying to compare the problems faced by British crimefighters with the fictional television series "The Wire", but his slightly inept populism has at least catapulted the issue to the front of the news agenda for a short while. It has prompted a couple of interesting responses on the blogs - Paul Waugh shows why it probably wasn't a great cultural reference to make, while libertarian blogger Guido Fawkes uses the opportunity to explain why he thinks drugs should be decriminalised. As Waugh reports, it also allowed Alan Johnson to try out a bit of humour (“The connection between The Wire and Chris Grayling’s grasp on the problems of modern Britain is that they’re both fictional. ")

However, no-one can take much comfort from the complacent government response, which seems to assume that if you offer a few statistics it counts as a suitable counter-argument. However one may want to dismiss a crass use of populism (although the audience for "The Wire" is surely rather a small and rather cultist one at present?), the Two Nation nature of Britain is such that the comfortable middle class, from which the metropolitan chatterrati is exclusively drawn, can too consistently dismiss the appalling problems faced by the Other Nation. I loathe the sensationalising of the problems of urban poverty and criminality, and yes I noted that Grayling offered no solutions either, but the more the political focus can be on the increasingly alienated and ghettoised urban poor, the more likely that one day there might just be the chance of coming up with a few solutions. If the Tories are keen to see how they might have an impact on urban constituencies where hardly anyone voted, but lots of people trade in drugs and many are afraid to walk out alone, they might want to consider how to target state resources in the form of serious education reforms, or better funded and supported social service networks, more and smaller primary care institutions, the establishment of community leisure resources or youth clubs, the support for a well trained and civic law enforcement agency......but these all cost money, and require full support for state solutions, and the Tories are a long way from that. Looks like it's back to a "bang them up" solution after all - it's worked so well in the past!

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