The law and order debate has come full circle: the coalition is going to be tough on
crime and tough on the causes of crime. David Cameron’s promise that crime and anti-social behaviour will receive "zero-tolerance" recalls the rhetoric and politics of the Major and
Blair years, an indication that, despite the annual celebration at lower crime rates and higher prison numbers, progress has been merely statistical.
As James has noted, the success of the Cameron premiership now rests
on delivering “zero tolerance”. Cameron is fortunate that the policies required are already in place, for the most part. Planned police reform will be essential, as will the radical
plans for welfare and education. Michael Gove has made a crusade of restoring school discipline and IDS has begun to overcome ingrained worklessness. Today, the Welfare secretary added further weapons (£) to his arsenal by announcing coercive measures to make life
“hell” for gangs and wanton petty criminals. These include curfews, harassment and fines. IDS, in the mould of Judge Dredd, promises to incarcerate hoodlums for even the most minor
infringement, such as littering.
The government will encounter all manner of difficulties, notably in the form of the Human Rights Act, a police force that will be reeling from budget cuts and reform, and, as ever, the
recalcitrant teaching unions. This is going to require the government to direct police operations to a greater extent: harassment is a hands-on occupation. This centralising impulse will come at a
time when independent police commissioners are being introduce, which could cause confusion. These obstacles will have to be surmounted because the Conservatives’ public service reforms, on
which the party’s resurgence has been based, are now on trial.