Nearly six years ago, in The Spectator, I explained how and why the gang culture that exploded in the 2011 riots was a ‘taste of the Britain to come.’ I also explained how the left-liberal establishment had allowed the conditions for gang crime to flourish while ignoring the solutions. Sadly, this wasn’t difficult to predict and with the 2018 killing toll in London passing 50, the same questions need to be asked again.
The good news is that we can stop the carnage on our streets within a week. But firstly it is important to draw a clearer picture of the causes. In working with gang members in Tottenham during the 2008 knife crime surge, and then on the government riots panel in 2012, I saw how our public institutions were unintentionally producing broken families and communities. Schools where there was no discipline, police too scared to do their job, social services biased against fathers and politicians too scared to talk about morals and values.
There was also an insidious race industry that played on genuine, but increasingly isolated, problems to manipulate the black community into a state of grievance, blame and victimhood, all in the middle of the most wealthy city on earth. Left liberal dogma prevails everywhere. We still hear its falsehoods and middle class virtue signalling every day, and we hear it again now.
It’s about unemployment. Really? The youth unemployment rate in January 2018 was just over 12 per cent. That means nearly 88 per cent had jobs. Yet left wing politicians still tell youngsters they have no hope under the Tories. It is so dishonest and damaging. As an aspiring politician in London, I was shocked how, in every school I visited, most of the children, often from wealthy backgrounds, told me they had no future because of inequality and cuts.
Then it’s racism. But employment tribunal records tell us it’s not discrimination that keeps young gangsters out of work. These young men are often unable to function in civil society. This is mostly about black on black crime and black communities are paying the price for self-congratulating left liberals who keep shouting racism and making excuses for them.
So it must be inequality and poverty. Yet all over the world there are desperately poor communities where there is no gang crime, or much crime at all. And the 2011 riots proved another point: by any measure, 99.9 per cent of people in poverty did not riot. In fact, many came to clean up after the riots.
They made a choice based on their morals and values imparted through our struggling families and social structures. But in the ghetto, where state ideology rules, morals and values are outmoded, so they are no longer taught, increasing numbers of people live without them. Bad things happen and left wing politicians blame poverty and inequality in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The real causes of gang crime are a toxic combination of welfarism, father absence, incentivised irresponsibility and a culture of dependency. Leaders in the past always saw these dangers, even Labour politicians. But now, almost for the first time in human history, these moral hazards are normalised. At the same time the values critical for escape from poverty such as hard work, responsibility, discipline and respect have been drained from much of our morally relative social narrative.
It will take a generation to reverse this, as it does to challenge any successful subversive strategy. But in the meantime there is good news. We can stop the violence with some simple steps.
Last week our murder rate overtook New York for the first time in history and the main reason is really simple. The NYPD has a uniformed strength of around 35,000 which is about 420 police for every 100,000 people. In London, we have around 31,000 police which is 360 for every 100,000 people. With police numbers in England and Wales cut from 143,000 in 2010 to around 123,000 today, this deficit affects every major city where gang crime is an issue.
So increasing police numbers is step one. Then we need to help them do their job. I warned two years ago what would happen when stop and search was cut, and since then knife crime has gone up over 20 per cent as criminals realise they have even more license than before.
The evidence on stop and search has always been clear. In 2005, Glasgow was the murder capital of western Europe. By 2014, stop and search reached a peak of nearly one in five men and the following year knife crime hit a 29 year low. Why should young white men in Scotland live, while black men in London die? Sadly, the answer is they shouldn’t, and in another bout of left wing insanity the Scottish government slashed stop and search, so knife crime is already making a comeback north of the border.
No one denies that some police abuse their powers, and those who do should be sacked. But body cameras are now available; they must be standard for all police in the UK and mandatory for all stop and searches. This would sacrifice some intelligence gathering, but increased accountability would give the police confidence to do their job and improve community relations.
The final factor in cutting knife and gun crime is prison sentencing. In 2012, recorded crime fell eight per cent in England and Wales, London saw a 38 per cent fall in youth violence, a 20 per cent fall in knife crime and a 20 per cent fall in gun crime. Experts were baffled, but the explanation was obvious. Outrage after the 2011 riots prompted politicians to respond. A week after the riots, the Met had arrested 1,733 suspects and charged 1,005. The remand rate went up to 64 per cent and sentences were longer than normal. Many convicted had 50 or more previous offences including gun and knife crimes. Today it is the same with many suspects having a string of previous violent offences.
Short term sentences for first time offenders don’t work, but putting away violent repeat offenders for a long time does. It is a lesson the authorities refuse to learn, even when the obvious happens when these people are released early. Of the 3,914 people charged and prosecuted after the riots, 1,593 had reoffended by 2015. Their offences included 12 murders, 54 sex offences and 180 violent attacks.
But the carrot is as important as the stick, and no government has properly enabled the best of the third sector to get to grips with what we used to call broken Britain. It’s still broken, the money has run out, yet we are still wasting it on failed state-led approaches to the problem.
In the aftermath of the riots, Oxford University published a study that proudly echoed the work of American academics Richard Cloward and Francis Piven. It was standard ideological nonsense, but there was a darker side. Cloward and Piven were militant leftists who spent much of their careers theorising on how to overload welfare system to bring about a political and financial crisis, revolution and the end of capitalism.
Our campuses and schools are full of well-meaning watered-down versions of these people. The Labour party is full of the real thing. They put the old business cliché into action. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. They helped build a culture of dependency, victimhood and blame that has manufactured hopeless, angry people and paralysed conservatives in guilt and fear. They have certainly got their crisis, and there is blood on the street. But there is no revolution, just the bodies of dead black boys killed by white liberal lies.