Monday, 7 July 2008

Mark Easton's UK blog

I have added a link today to Mark Easton's excellent blog on the BBC. He looks in detail at social statistics and sociological research about the UK and the policy implications. The latest article is about knife crime and examines whether an apparent (to journalists) surge in stabbings is actually real, and the subtleties of what's happening in different parts of the country.

David Cameron, among other politicians, is predictably using this as a campaign message in the Glasgow East by-election. When I grew up in Glasgow hardly a week would go by without someone promising to "chib" you although "coshing" was also popular and doesn't qualify as knife crime. In reality, though, I never saw or heard of anybody being stabbed in 15 years living there. Maybe I was just a bit too middle class, but I think perception is very different from reality in this area.

Still it's intriguing to see that the Tories will "make it their mission to repair the broken society - to heal the wounds of poverty, crime, social disorder and deprivation that are steadily making this country a grim and joyless place to live for far too many people". Whether you believe them or not, this is a topic New Labour campaigned successfully on in all of their three election victories and seems to be a much more active area of policy debate than the economy. The Economist this week thinks the Conservatives should move back onto economic topics, but David Davis's by-election this Thursday probably won't help them do that. Will Labour be able to paint the Tories as 'soft on crime' because of Davis's stand on civil liberties?

Another very interesting article about youth justice includes a poll of people's attitudes to sentencing of youth offenders. Depressingly, I suspect that if the question were subtly different: "What do you think should happen to a drug addict caught shoplifting?" instead of "which of the following do you think would be the most effective in reducing the likelihood of them committing further crimes?" the results would have been very distinct.

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