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Lucius Winslow: For all our problems, let’s keep calm on crime

Screen shot 2013-08-17 at 09.32.16Lucius Winslow has been a Conservative Party member since the age of sixteen, is an MA Politics student, and is now working to become a solicitor. He also contributes to the non-party political website Open Unionism.  Follow Lucius on Twitter

Last Tuesday, I was filled with three emotions, occurring in roughly the following order: anger, sadness, and despair. The reason was that I had read that yet another young Londoner had been killed. This was of course Ajmol Alom, who was stabbed to death in Poplar. By all accounts, Alom seemed to have been a highly pleasant person; well liked by his peers, and described as a star pupil by his headmaster. Of course even if he were a failing student and a bit moody he could not have deserved such a despicable end. This point has been well made by Lola Okolosie.

My anger was born from reading that this had happened; the injustice, the evil nature of the act is axiomatic. The sadness comes from thinking of his friends and family, and of his future. All taken away in a vicious moment. And despair lies in the thought that this is just going to keep happening again and again and again. According to Citizens Report UK, some 153 teenagers have been murdered in London since 2005. Its website provides a list, including the ability to scroll down on pictures. It is haunting; image after image of young lives taken away. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out.

No level of murder, no level of violent crime of any sort is acceptable. As Conservatives – no, damn it, as compassionate human beings – we simply cannot tolerate this blight on our streets and neighbourhoods. One of the best things about our Party (and it is one of the finest aspects of our leader’s personality) is that we take an interest in neighbourhoods, in the local, in the smaller community. Ever since Burke spoke of the "little platoons", Conservatives have understood the need to work together at every level of society, and that individuals coming together at the bottom can do much good.

There are signs that this is happening. The Big Society has been much derided, sometimes fairly. But community groups up and down this country are helping to make a difference. However, we need to do more. In these financially straitened times, I appreciate that we cannot do as much as we would like, but we need to keep our priorities straight. That may mean perhaps just a little less money on wind turbines and rail projects to Birmingham, and a little more money on the things that matter to communities; support, responsive policing, measures to alleviate poverty and enhance environments, less red tape for community groups to set up shop etc.

Many in government get this. Eric Pickles is serving to cut that red tape as fast as the jobsworths generate it. Michael Gove is creating an atmosphere which may liberate teachers to build on their already-superb extracurricular activities. Iain Duncan Smith is attempting the frankly herculean task of rescuing people from welfare dependancy, poverty, and the crime that sometimes goes with it. The Government took approximately two seconds to dismiss the loopy proposals of Professor Andrew Ashworth and the Howard League to soften up our attitude to ‘lesser’ crime. All commendable.

But the most significant area is still, of course, policing and the criminal justice system. And here we must put aside our despair, grit our teeth, and look at the statistics. Each crime is a tragedy and an outrage – especially in cases like Ajmol Alom’s, where there is no remedy for barbarism. However, these crimes are becoming less prevalent each year.

It cannot be said often enough that overall crime is falling, and has been for a long time. I think it fair that Labour deserves a share of credit on this, and not just the Coalition. Society is improving itself, the police are getter more responsive, criminal investigations more thorough. Policing practices are sharper, and under the government the ratio of actual policing to form-filling is being corrected. We are getting through this. Of course we are not getting through it fast enough, but we are still progressing.

Chris Grayling gets it. The Justice Secretary is the perfect synthesis of the need to punish criminals, and the need to reduce crime. His policies have sharpened up in certain areas from the frankly appalling attitude of his predecessor. But he also knows that to aid our society we have to cut re-offending. Already there are reasons to be hopeful that his vocational policies towards criminals are paying off. In other words, there’s lots to do, there’s a lot more we can do. But things are getting better. So today on Friday, after more reasoned observation, I still have those three emotions I spoke of earlier. But I can tentatively add a fourth to my list, and it is the most ethereal of them all: hope.


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