Britain as dangerous as Baltimore? You’ve got your wires crossed

Shadow Home Secretary derided for comparing UK crime to TV show setting

It was meant as a headline-grabbing, agenda-setting declaration of the Conservative Party’s intention to be tough on crime, while at the same time illustrating to the ever-important youth vote their knowledge of the latest must-watch television show.

But Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling’s claim that parts of Britain are becoming like the American crime haven of Baltimore, as portrayed in The Wire, today brought derision – and the embarrassing revelation that he was not as familiar with the cult show as he would have people believe.

Grayling made the remarks in a speech on drug and crime culture in which he said: “The Wire used to be just a work of fiction for British viewers. But under this Government, in many parts of British cities, The Wire has become a part of real life in this country too.

“Far too many of those features of what we have always seen as a US phenomenon are now to be found on the streets of Britain as well.”

But his comments are not backed up by facts. With 234 murders in 2008 Baltimore had nearly twice the number of London, despite having less than one tenth of the population. In fact the chance of being murdered in Baltimore, a city with a population of about 650,000, is one in 2,700. In Britain the chances are one in 85,000.

You are also more likely to be robbed in Baltimore than in the UK – the chances being one in 150 compared with one in 1,000. And more likely to become a victim of burglary – one in 80 compared to one in 90.

But Mr Grayling also appeared not to be that familiar with the fictional either. In a radio interview he was forced to admit that he had not even watched all of the acclaimed shows, saying: “I’ve seen most of the first series. I’ve seen a number of the other episodes.”

The comments had echoes of other occasions when the Tories have attempted – and failed – to ‘get down with the kids’, most notably when William Hague wore a baseball cap and when he once claimed to have drunk 14 pints of beer in one day. Today politicians and police rounded on Grayling.

Alan Johnson, the home secretary, said: “The connection between The Wire and Chris Grayling’s grasp on the problems of modern Britain is that they’re both fictional.

“The serious problems being tackled in our communities will not be diminished by his embarrassing habit of making glib references to television programmes that he thinks will make him sound ‘cool’.”

Julia Goldsworthy, the communities spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “The fact that the Tories can only comprehend the issues real people face through box sets watched in the comfort of their own living rooms only highlights their total detachment from the concerns of Britain’s inner cities.

“We look forward to Chris Grayling’s reassessment of the devastating impact of Thatcherism on this country once he’s watched series 2.”

It is not the first time Grayling has referred to television shows when discussing policy. He has previously spoken of a ‘Growing ‘Jeremy Kyle’ generation of young men, alienated and drifting without a purpose in life’. And once used Frank Gallagher – one of the main characters in Shameless – as an example of how society no longer knows how to bring up children.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
News
people
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS2 Teacher with SEN responsibilities

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: KS2 teacher with SEN responsibi...

Administrative Assistant

£60 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Administrative Assitant Hertford...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments