Knife crime will probably abate. As has similarly gun crime, car jacking, mobile phone stealing and many other criminal activities that gain a high public profile for a while. The activities recede because lawmakers act more strongly, the general public becomes more wary and technology improves. The media bandwagon also moves on, so before too long the near hysterical tide of concern about teenagers stabbing one another to death will subside.
The fear, and in part the reality, of criminal behaviour comes against a backdrop of high employment, improved opportunities for learning and the general availability of financial help to all who are struggling. No one seems to have the answers to the current crime wave and in part that is because too much political thinking is short-term.
We should not revert to some halcyon era that probably never existed anyway, but we can re-establish a set of traditional values as the cornerstone of our communities and encourage people to adhere to them.
Knife crime emerged as an element of the backdrop to the pervasive culture of political correctness, which saw the “stop-and-search policy” having to be scrapped.
We now all see Britain’s youth reap the rewards for this misguided approach. Young men may now be going out to commit crimes with knives but there are also many more who consider that they have to be prepared to defend themselves largely as a result of the inactivity of the police.
Thankfully the police force is now being encouraged to do what it used to do. Most British residents say they are frightened by young men in hoods. And many young men in hoods enjoy that reputation – that’s why they fashionably wear them. People intent on crime wear them to avoid detection on CCTV and being identified by bystanders. The question most do not ask is whether we would allow people to walk around in balaclavas (only republican terrorists or burglars ever seemed to be able to do that in the UK). Yet a hooded figure is deliberately hiding their features from recognition and we accept that consideration in the same way as we accept the idea that Muslim women should be permitted to wear their “traditional dress” that covers virtually the full face.
We face social difficulties because we have been pushed into an acceptance of abnormal behaviour on the basis of protecting human rights. It is in this desire at all costs to protect human rights that we have forgotten the idea of values.
In the recent controversy over a teenager’s Romany wedding in East London, the mother of the thirteen year old child who was being married spoke simply and precisely in saying, “British values mean nothing to me”. And they do not. And why should they in the current climate of political correctness?
Similarly we had the Archbishop of Canterbury talking about the important of Sharia Law being used in Britain because elements of the Islamic community recognised their religious code as being the laws under which they choose to live. So we now have a situation where consideration is being given to allow people to live under their own chosen legal code and that on these isles the protection of British law is no longer universal. Down this road lies chaos.
Britain has always prided itself on being regarded as a lawful, peaceful country with a benign population. We have compared very favourably with America where murder is far more prevalent. Unfortunately today London is a city where visitors need to be much more wary than in New York and the reasons are found in the uncompromising attitude of New York’s leaders towards all forms of crime. We have watched over the years and often berated the Americans for their failure towards gun control. But this fight over control of personal ownership of arms has revolved around the American constitution coupled with the entitlement of the individual to protect his property. We do not have a constitution and our way of life has evolved very successfully under centuries of legal practice, which have been right for their times and have been able to be amended as circumstances demand.
Today and in the past there have been few voices supporting the proposition that knives be carried at will on the streets for personal protection. I suspect there would be few people in this country who would pick up a kitchen knife to protect their home against burglary because of the legal system now ranged against them should an injury or indeed death be perpetrated on the criminal trespassing on their property.
The rule of law is an unusually British concept. Our society is based on a notion that we all abide by the same rules. This applies whatever your wealth or standing. The rule of law is a concept especially attractive to those who come and settle from abroad. It often stands in stark contrast to what many people from far afield have become accustomed to. Ours is a nation which gives especial importance to the rights of the individual to regulate his or her own conduct without recourse to coercion.
It is important for everybody, who chooses to reside here, to understand that Britain is a secular society. Sovereignty resides in the Queen, and as a constitutional monarch, with parliament. The British way is not to appeal to any higher spiritual jurisdiction. Our laws are made exclusively by the Houses of Commons and Lords and interpreted by an independent judiciary. The deal is this: the law will not treat anyone differently on the basis of their belonging to a particular faith, religion, sect or ethnic group. That spirit of tolerance must, however, be a two-way street in the interests of good community relations.
The multicultural experiment, however, is a proven failure. Integration or assimilation is now not expected amongst many groups because they have substantial enough numbers to have formed powerful separate communities. Indeed the harsh truth is that some immigrant groups simply do not wish to assimilate. Yet such is our lack of confidence in traditional British values that we do not insist on anyone choosing to live here being willing, as a condition of their entry, to abide by the laws and customs of the land.
The young men who carry knives belong to such a group. This gives them an identity much stronger than the broader community. They are not British per se because the concept is meaningless to them. They belong to their local area, to friends, to a social order that accepts its own self determination. We have given them such a belief because we have separated our society into disparate groups.
Today all too frequently young people choose not to belong to anything. They play in wide social groups where age is often the only common factor. But many have never been given at home or at school any concept of British values.
We have recoiled from asking young people what they can do for Britain and instead given them the “right” and expectation of demanding only what the nation can do for them. It seems that if the state, let alone their parents, fails to give them the care, the love and the money to achieve whatever they want then we are breeding young people with little social considerations, no fear of criminal justice and solely a respect for other members of their group. If this is allowed to grow then we shall have sizeable districts within our cities as no-go areas just as they have in cities in the “less civilised” world.
If we are to use political correctness as an excuse for doing nothing in the face of the anarchic violence then we will not serve the interests of our own population, let alone those people in the wider world to whom we owe a moral duty. Our values and traditions have served us well. Today the nation finds itself at a crossroads. On the one side are freedom, traditional values and the rule of law and on the other tyranny, murder and fear.