You guys seem to like polling information, so I thought I’d give you some more. The Centreground poll mentioned a couple of days ago asked voters which qualities they would like to see in a Commissioner, and top of the list was a commitment to being tough on crime. But what does that mean?
Ask Tony Blair and he will tell you it’s about being tough on the causes of crime, by which he means a variety of social factors such as unemployment, deprivation, poor health, etc. Ask someone on the right of politics, like, er, me, and I might also say it’s about being tough on the causes of crime, by which I mean criminals.
But those who chase polls and focus groups will want to know what the public mean by “tough on crime”. So here’s some observations from every copper’s favorite Think-Tanker (if by favourite you mean would-most-like-to-meet-in-an-arresting-capacity) , Policy Exchange’s Blair Gibbs, who recently tweeted a series of observations from one of their YouGov polls this February, which you might otherwise have missed because the report was about the “geography of political opinion”, rather than specifically being focussed on crime.
He said “In our @YouGov poll in Feb, public agreed 3-to-1: “Criminals shld be given longer sentences, even if that means we have to build more jails“
and “Support was strongest amongst older people & those most likely to be victims – poorer people & those in social housing: ” and included a link to the Northern Lights part of the Policy Exchange website.
Then “The focus groups in Birmingham & Manchester found “a near universal view that both the criminal justice system & our society were too soft“.”
And “Participants felt for the #police – “They can’t do anything” in the face of general decline in morals/civility, authority & a rights culture“
Does that provide any clues? Can any political party claim to embody that attitude at the moment?
There seems to be a feeling in some quarters that such an approach is “populist” and that the political class should know better than to pander to these feelings, but maybe it goes beyond pandering. What politician doesn’t claim to be tough on crime? Will the public be able to tell the difference between those candidates for whom tough talk is a matter of convenience around election time, and those for whom it is a matter of conviction?