The Sketch: If crime is down by a third, how can it still be rampant?

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The Independent Online

That nice chief whip of the Tories was standing in for the shadowy fellow that does shadow Leader of the House. His name is David Maclean. He used Business Questions to lay out the charges against the Government. Peter Hain congratulated him on a better performance than the Leader of the Opposition's the day before. Actually, Mr Maclean is a behind-the-scenes man and isn't much used to the dispatch box so the gibe was all the more cruel for being kind.

That nice chief whip of the Tories was standing in for the shadowy fellow that does shadow Leader of the House. His name is David Maclean. He used Business Questions to lay out the charges against the Government. Peter Hain congratulated him on a better performance than the Leader of the Opposition's the day before. Actually, Mr Maclean is a behind-the-scenes man and isn't much used to the dispatch box so the gibe was all the more cruel for being kind.

Mr Hain told us that under the Tories, criminals brought to book fell by a third. It's hard to see how things have improved: statistics show that if you commit a crime today you have a 3 per cent chance of being caught and convicted.

And yet Mr Hain says, crime is at its lowest level for a generation. And yet there are more people in prison than there have ever been. And if crime's down by a third how can Mr Hain say that crime is rampant - yobbery, binge drinking, flyposting, illegal tipping, graffiti, benefit fraud, massive drug dealing and international terrorists constantly trying to fly heavily fuelled airplanes into the House of Commons. Oh, and the vast criminal conspiracy worth 4 per cent of GDP, is that part of the Elysian crimelessness of Labour's Britain?

And what about that pest outside Parliament who has been yelling into a megaphone for years now. What's to be done about him? Mr Hain said: "The Serious Organised Crime Act is going to be introduced."

Come again? The What Crime Act? They want to prosecute that messy Pinteresque nuisance with a Serious Organised Crime Act? What about passing a Trivial Disorganised Crime Act? Then they can stop Mr Pinter writing poetry.

What rubbish it is. Are they saying that they haven't been able to fight organised crime because they haven't had a law about it? And what organised crime isn't serious? Are they only referring to crime that is organised seriously compared with crime that is organised in a spirit of levity? Or is it a conflation of scary words to say Safer with Labour?

There's an article in today's Spectator that makes your blood boil. No really, it makes you want to dress up in a suit of dung and spit tacks at the authorities.

A banker driving down Whitehall was stopped by the police and his car searched. They found in his briefcase a Swiss Army penknife so he was charged with carrying a bladed weapon, arrested, kept in cells for the rest of the day and will be tried in due course.

While these community service officers were making us more secure, four protesters wandered through the Prime Minister's complex security arrangements and got into the Cabinet Office where they put on blood-soaked clothes and protested against the invasion of Iraq. Full marks, ladies! They were charged with attempted burglary. Obviously. It's why burglary figures are so low.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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