The governance of crime

Criminologist Robin Fletcher delves into the mayoral candidates' policies on crime and discusses whi

Since the 1970s crime has been high on the political agenda and so it remains in London’s mayoral elections. The three dominant candidates claim to have answers to the problems faced by our communities, which, we are led to believe, are so great that even government ministers seek solace in wearing stab-proof vests.

The governance of crime has changed in the last decade with legislation placing greater emphasis on community responsibility, partnerships, and policing. Since 1998 London’s boroughs have been engaged in consultations to identify key local issues. This bottom-up influence on crime strategies challenged the previous autonomy of the Commissioner, who only had to consider the whims of the Home Secretary. It was a belated response to the desires of the socialist, New Urban Labour movement in the Thatcher years, demanding local autonomy. This challenged the centralisation of crime governance, and was supported by the then leader of the Greater London Council, himself a radical socialist.

Step-forward-the-same Ken Livingstone who now supports London’s Police Authority adds an additional layer of centralised bureaucracy. As the incumbent, Ken has a head start over his rivals, having funded additional police resources. He intends to increase police numbers if re-elected, although research into the impact of increased foot patrols questions the patrols' effectiveness in reducing crime. He boasts a six percent reduction in crime across all of London. If Ken is responsible for reducing crime, could he not also be held responsible for other increases, for example, the rise in gun and knife assaults among the young?

Conservative candidate, Boris Johnson, announced that he will chair the Police Authority and cut red tape, allowing the police to return to the streets. Yet, the bureaucracy and red tape hindering the constable is necessary for criminal justice. This was reinforced by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, introduced as measures to improve police integrity and transparency. His intention to hold the local police Borough Commander to account, seemingly ignores the vibrant compulsory Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships that may also share the blame for failure.

One candidate who understands the problems of policing of London is Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, who ignored the law on cannabis and declared a drug free zone in Brixton, to the consternation of local residents. Although in fairness that wasn’t his intention, it’s just what happened. As mayor of London I am certain he will be able to work closely with the same Commissioner he tried to professionally assassinate whilst still serving as one of his Deputies.

Perhaps we should return to an earlier time when crime was so important it transcended political spin and reflected the real desires of local people. After all we now have in place 32 boroughs working in partnership with key local agencies trying to deliver strategies that reflect the desires of the local communities. They don’t need centralised strategies pandering to political ego.

Robin Fletcher is the Postgraduate Programme Leader for Criminology with Forensic Psychology at Middlesex University. He specialises in crime governance in London.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times