Blair's Favourite Scapegoats

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I thought Barry Goldson's article was very good ('Bullying the New Labour Way', October SR). It was a searing attack on New Labour's 'tough on crime' agenda.

And just as we thought it couldn't get any worse, now they are talking of Basbos, Baby Asbos for the under-tens. Over 40 young people are imprisoned each month due to breaking the terms and conditions of their orders.

Young people face constant intimidation from police. Over 80 percent of 'stop and search' cases involve young people. If you are from a working class area, poor and/or black and especially if you are wearing a hoodie, you are seen as a legitimate target. This is the real face of the government's 'respect agenda'.

A group of young people I am working with have made a documentary about Asbos and the effect they have on a community. They recently interviewed Hazel Blears, whose contempt for working class communities was hard to hide. When asked why most Asbos were served in deprived areas she replied, 'Because that's where the majority of anti-social behaviour happens.' When asked about what supportive intervention and prevention existed in these areas she replied, 'Parenting orders.' This was not lost on the young people, who said, 'That's just blaming our parents. What we were actually talking about was youth provision, clubs and real opportunities for employment and training.'

I am not denying that there is some behaviour in our communities that needs to be challenged, but what is proven is that long term, properly funded and consistent work in those areas, which is community and youth work led, does make a real difference. But New Labour's agenda is about dividing communities between the so-called 'decent members of the community and criminally minded'. It's easier to blame the group of youths on the corner for your poor quality of life than to take on New Labour. But this is precisely what we should be doing.

If New Labour were really serious about getting tough on the causes of crime they would get tough on poverty, unemployment and a lack of housing and youth facilities. Instead they seem hell-bent on turning much needed youth services into externally funded, short term, target-driven ventures. Far from 'respecting' young people this tells them that they are a worthless statistic. It is New Labour who should be served the Asbo.

Beccy Palmer
London