This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

From ad hominem to ad consilium

I think it would be fair to say that most hacks and commentators have, in recent weeks and months, focused their fire on the wacky, weird and risible words, as well as the sexist, homophobic and racist comments of UKIP's men and women. Who could forget the letter attributing the poor weather to the introduction of equal marriage for example, or indeed the need to clean behind fridges?

And I would be the first to hold up my hands and admit to doing some of this as well. But on the basis of the European parliamentary and local government election results, this strategy may well not have worked as well as perhaps we had hoped. As in football, have we been 'playing the man not the ball'? 

A couple of days ago, I tweeted:

Unsurprisingly, this provoked some strong responses from some but received the affirmation of several people too. So in this spirit, I thought I would do a bit of analysis of UKIP's 'Local Manifesto' (which I have downloaded before they remove it from their website... so email me if this has happened since I wrote this blog).

Page one: says immigration is "crippling local services". Of course no evidence is provided to back up this claim. And, local authorities, can do little about immigration since that policy is in the hands of the national and European governance structures. But 'tick' to blaming others for the problem of schools being over subscribed or the extra pressures on social care services (which, of course, would fold without workers from the EU and elsewhere...)

Page two: we get "An Open Door To Crime - 28,000 Romanians are held for crimes in London. Romanians come second on the list of foreign nationals arrested by police for serious crimes. This includes 142 rapes, 10 murders, 666 sex crimes, 303 robberies, 1370 burglaries, 2902 acts of violence" Do you see what I mean by 'hate'? Now I don't know how accurate these figures are (Based on the rowing back that Nigel Farage had to do last week on similar claims) - probably not very. But just imagine for a moment, instead of the word 'Romanians', the word 'Jews' was inserted... Do you see where I am coming from here..? Now for all I know, in London, Jews have committed 142 rapes too. Or 14, or 1000 or whatever... The chances are that you could take any group defined by nationality, ethnicity, sexuality (etc.) and throw similar figures around: but they are all meaningless unless comparisons are made and proportionality clarified. And did you notice the one glaring omission in this statement: there is no timescale. For all we know these figures could relate to the last six months, 2 years or even the last century. This is all classic 'blame the other' stuff that also lies at the heart of racism and fascism.

Page three: there is a letter from Mr Farage. I could spend a week analysing this! But I won't. But I will highlight just one sentence: "If we want to keep the National Health Service free, prevent developers from concreting over the countryside and protect our pensioners and our young people seeking work, something must be done." This is from a party that has/had/will have again maybe a policy on charging people to go and see their GP. Their policy pages are pretty short on detail at the moment, but there is previous... And as for the rest of the sentence, who doesn't want to protect pensioners (patronising though that sounds...!) And the classic "something must be done!" Absolutely! I will always vote for a party that believes in doing something... anything... something!!!

Page four: (although I am losing the will to live here...) has several "we believe" statements such as "Council tax should be as low as possible" and "We need more police on the streets, cracking down on crime and anti-social behaviour". Um... is there any party that doesn't believe in this? "Right brothers and sisters, I move we raise council tax to the highest possible level because that will surely get us re-elected next May. Who's with me?"... Oh and UKIP opposes "excessive housing development, wind farms and HS2". But not fracking strangley. So page four is full of vague, vacuous, claptrap.

Page five: begins with the stunning words "If you vote UKIP - you get UKIP". Huh?! There was I thinking that if I vote UKIP I get the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Thanks for the helpful clarification. The page goes on "We refuse to be politically driven or ‘politically correct’ and will always stand up for local people and common sense, rather than toeing the party line". Not politically driven... what??!!! This is in the middle of a manifesto that more or less links everything back to EU membership. And we know about political correctness, I can appreciate the honesty of this statement. And they won't toe the party line... so UKIP is not a party? If that is the case, should they not all be standing as independents?

Seriously about to give up now... but I will press on just a little bit more... (Pages 6 & 7 are a poster)

Page eight: highlights six priorities. 1) Local referendums. For these to have the effect they want, this would require parliamentary legislation. Therefore this is an impossible priority for UKIP to implement even if they ran a council. 2) Regain control over development. Again they are making a promise here that a local authority could not deliver on. Another impossible priority. 3) Prioritising services for local people. You know what I cam going to say here: another impossible priority without primary legislation. 4) Moving government closer to the people. This is one they could actually do. But it will cost money and they are already committed to keeping council tax as low as possible... 5) Spending our money at home. Doesn't this sound so good: using that word 'home' is so convincing isn't it? Except of course, local government does not have the power to change the budgets for overseas development and EU membership. Another impossible priority. And finally 6) Fighting crime and anti-social behaviour. Strangely local authorities have very influence on sentencing or deportation policies... But tackling 'nuisance neighbours' can be addressed by local councils in the few council houses that they have left. But again, show me any political party that does not want to address anti social behaviour. The trick is knowing how to do this effectively... nothing on this is here. So in sum, if these are UKIP's six priorities for local government, they need to get a GCSE in constitutional politics so that they know the limits for what councils can do.

Page nine: is immortalised by the introductory statement "UKIP Councillors are expected to follow the best interests of their constituents". Hang on, who or what is expecting them to do this? I thought they weren't a party which toed the party line... etc? As for the rest of the page, I am not sure where to start. How about "Mending potholes should take priority over council vanity schemes." That sounds good doesn't it! If I had written this page I would have added "Providing care for vulnerable people should take priority over cushions for councillors, because in my day, councillors were expected to live in a hole in t'road and eat gravel for breakfast!"  ["Luxury!"]

Page ten: has "some of the ways" UKIP will save you money. This includes, surprisingly "Leave the EU and save £55 million every day". And also closing "unnecessary central government departments and quangos". That is good, I do worry that I sometimes vote for parties that want to open unnecessary departments and quangos. And UKIP councillors will sell "unused state-owned property and assets". I can imagine the conversations now in the UKIP run local authority:"Eh, Cllr Smith, you know that luxury hotel on the edge of town that the council owns and nobody uses anymore, why don't we sell it off and reduce council tax?" "Cracking idea Cllr Jones! And while we are about it, we could put that big building next to the Thames in Westminster on the market as well!" "But we don't own it..." "So what, it is state owned?!"

Page eleven: is a membership application form. This includes the following:

It is not a very big box for the Honours, I tend to think... And should there have been a 'cash paid' box as well? Just asking...

Page twelve: has smiling photographs of people who have switched their allegiance to UKIP. Nice.

I could have written more, but aside from all the humour above, this manifesto shows a deep ignorance of the powers that local government actually has, it is full of vague promises that are little more than claptrap and, most disturbingly, edges into the darkness of blame and hate. I will end by saying that isn't it interesting that London, the most diverse part of the UK with probably more EU migrants than anywhere else in the country, showed the least support for UKIP. There is a big lesson here...

UPDATE 180714 | 1031: Just came across this excellent piece of research: Crime and Immigration: Evidence from Large Immigrant Waves by Brian Bell, Stephen Machin and Francesco Fasani. Their abstract says:
This paper examines the relationship between immigration and crime in a setting where large migration flows of fer an opportunity to carefully appraise whether the populist view that immigrants cause crime is borne out by rigorous evidence. We consider possible crime effects from two large waves of immigration that recently occurred in the UK. The first of these was the late 1990s/early 2000s wave of asylum seekers, and the second the large inflow of workers from EU accession countries that took place from 2004. A simple economics of crime model, when dovetailed with facts about the relative labour market position of these migrant groups, suggests net returns to criminal activity are likely to be very different for the two waves. In fact, we show that the first wave led to a small rise in property crime, whilst the second wave had no such impact. There was no observable effect on violent crime for either wave. Nor were immigrant arrest rates different to natives. Evidence from victimization data also suggests that the changes in crime rates during the immigrant waves cannot be ascribed to crimes against immigrants. Overall, our findings suggest that focusing on the limited labour market opportunities of asylum seekers could have beneficial effects on crime rates.
So we await the policy announcements from UKIP - aren't they meant to be publishing a 'manifesto' this summer?

UPDATE 211014 | 1022: Just blogged again: 10 questions for UKIP. Just when are they going to come clean with all their policies?

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