Thursday, 30 August 2007

Bernard Ingham: Political steel will bring the yobs to heel

Bernard Ingham: Political steel will bring the yobs to heel

THREE vignettes culled from the last 28 years entirely explain why we have a violent, broken society, with children stabbing and shooting each other.

When I saw her last week, Margaret Thatcher recalled in 1979 when she was told by officials: "Oh, you can't do that, Prime Minister, they wouldn't allow it."

Fourteen years on, former Tory leader Michael Howard remembers that when he became Home Secretary he was advised that there was nothing he could do about the relentless rise in crime. His job was to manage public expectations in the face of an inexorable trend.

Forward another 14 years – to a few days ago, in fact – Ian Johnston, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, responded to the call for zero tolerance by the leader of Liverpool City Council with these words: "Unachievable. While it sounds very good and New York-ish, it's just not on the agenda."

These events have one thing in common, even if Thatcher was being advised about economic rather than criminal justice policy. They reveal the British Establishment in all its pathetic defeatism.

Thatcher ignored the Establishment's advice – and that of 364 economists who wrote to The Times foretelling economic doom if she persevered – and transformed Britain.

Howard also rejected the unwise counsel he received and secured an unprecedented 18 per cent fall in crime during his tenure.

For their temerity – and especially their success – both are now sneered at by the blind liberals who damagingly rule the world.

It now falls to David Cameron and Yorkshire's very own David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary, to earn the same campaign medal: the contempt and ridicule of those whose only response to rising crime is to make it easier for the criminal. If they do, they will serve this nation and its youth no less well than did the Iron Lady.

Cameron leads the only party in Britain that could bring a new order to society. He is, in fact, the only political leader getting anywhere near the root cause of the sort of yobs' society that makes me feel safer staying at home of an evening.

If the Liberal Democrats are just wet, Gordon Brown is utterly incapable, driven as he is by three debilitating engines: firstly, an innate disposition to find excuses for the inexcusable on grounds of class and deprivation; secondly, an overriding attachment to manifestly useless central state action in the form of legislation or gimmicks such as Jacqui Smith's latest – acceptable behaviour contracts and "drop-off zones" for firearms; and thirdly, his addiction to spin – an obsessive determination to do something, however risible, to demonstrate action and, when it fails, as it invariably does, to rig the crime statistics.

Yet, while Cameron identifies parental and societal failures to put responsibilities before rights – all of which is true – he falls short of getting to the core of the problem. Quite simply, it is the Establishment's failure to acknowledge that society's loss of discipline is the cause of anarchic Britain and, more especially, their defeatist belief – tellingly expressed by Supt Johnston – that nothing can be done about it.

This is bunkum. If people think they can get away with something, they will try to do so. They have to be shaken rigid by society's response.

I recognise that it will take immense political will to overcome the inertia induced by Establishment defeatism. But we don't pay our politicians to practise the art of the possible but to make possible that which is thought to be impossible.

So, if I were made Prime Minister tomorrow, I would announce withdrawal from the
European Convention on Human Rights because it is undermining them. I would summon all Chief Constables and the Lord Chief Justice to tell them they have 12 months to strike fear into the minds of law-breakers, or I will find replacements who will.

Parents who allow or encourage their children to run wild – eg, by complaining about discipline in school – will be charged with aiding and abetting disorder. Teachers who fail to get a grip against this zero-tolerance background should find another job.

That would only be a start because there is a lot more to do, such as building more prisons.

And if you think all this is pie in the sky, remember that after the Puritans came 18th-century debauchery followed by Victorian prudery and now succeeded by Elizabethan licence.

We can make Britain fit for decent people to live in. The real trick is to avoid swinging to a repressive extreme.

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