The Prince and the Poor Law

Issue section: 
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The right wing press and New Labour are in full agreement: Britain is in the grip of an unprecedented crimewave.

Waves of legislation emerge from the Home Office to penalise vandals, shop-lifters and 'yobs'. Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) are thrown like confetti and vast swathes of petty crimes are made arrestable offences.

And yet the British Crime Survey suggests that crime is at its lowest level for nine years. Fed by a hysterical media, the fear of crime has grown out of all proportion to crime itself.

This is not to say that people's concerns are entirely illusory. Disaffection and 'binge-drinking' are the product of a generation of neoliberal programmes. Successive governments have sold off school playing fields, closed youth facilities, widened the gap between rich and poor, and then demonised young people and their culture.

Asbos will not be issued to drunken princes lashing out at photographers. They are a blunt instrument that will criminalise a layer of working class people who will then find themselves in a vicious cycle of punishment and reoffending. In response we need to reject the politics of fear and unite our communities in the progressive fights long abandoned by Labour.