It may have been a headline grabbing attempt to seem tough on crime but Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Chris Gayling’s claim that parts of the UK are like HBO’s series ‘The Wire’, are hardly helpful. The critically acclaimed crime drama (currently showing on BBC2) depicts the problems that many cities across the world have faced, such as gun and drug related problems. Set in Baltimore, USA, it paints a bleak picture of communities where drug dealing and drug addiction are rife and revenge murders are commonplace.
Speaking of a visit he made to South Manchester on June 26, the MP for Epsom and Ewell said: “A few weeks ago, I spent one of the most illuminating evenings that I have had since entering politics out with the specialist police team in Manchester’s Moss Side that works to tackle the gang issues in the area. Even as someone well aware of the gang problem in our society, it was a shocking and enlightening experience.”
Mr Grayling believes that the police are now fighting an “urban war” against gangs and that violence in society has become “a norm and not an exception”. Granted there are some trouble spots within the UK, this isn’t anything new. Some urban areas have significant problems with drugs, violence and guns that this government has failed to eradicate and more does need to be done. But his comments are not backed up by facts.
The chance of being murdered in Baltimore, a city with a population of about 650,000, is one in 2,700. In Britain the chances are one in 85,000. You are also more likely to be robbed in Baltimore than in the UK – the chances being one in 150 compared with one in 1,000. And more likely to become a victim of burglary – one in 80 compared to one in 90.
Julia Goldsworthy, the communities spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, said: “The fact that the Tories can only comprehend the issues real people face through box sets watched in the comfort of their own living rooms only highlights their total detachment from the concerns of Britain’s inner cities. We look forward to Chris Grayling’s reassessment of the devastating impact of Thatcherism on this country once he’s watched series 2.”
I must admit, I’ve watched even less of ‘The Wire’ than Chris Grayling. After my parents (both in their sixties) insisted several times that it was a great series, I settled down to watch an episode. I managed 30 minutes. For someone like me who has been the victim of a couple of armed robberies, Chris Graylings comments are annoying and unfair. I think it’s outrageous that the Shadow Home Secretary abused the hospitality of The Greater Manchester Police so that he could engage in nothing more than a fishing expedition to damage the significant progress that has been made eradicating gun crime in Moss Side and Greater Manchester as a whole.
Perhaps in a few days we will witness another hastily arranged press conference outside David Cameron’s home where he will denounce his Shadow Home Secretary’s comments as “eccentric” and embark on another embarrassing U turn?
I won’t hold my breath.