Over the last couple of years, there has been an up swell in far Right opinion. Ideals that previously would have been frowned upon are met openly with approval and encouragement by growing numbers of people. The terms ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ are relatively new terms in UK history, only having been used here since the 20th Century and in fact the terms originate from the French Civil War, when the ultra Royalists sat on the right side of the French Parliament. We are currently under a Conservative Government in its second term, with groups like UKIP and English Democrats gaining popularity from an increasingly disenfranchised populace, while the only significant offerings on the Left are a Labour Party struggling to find a way forward and a smattering of others who still don’t garner that much support Nationally.
In this atmosphere, it has been with growing alarm that I have watched voices around Policing become increasingly right wing. Self proclaimed leaders, ex Officers who do a bit of TV here or there and the odd PCC, have begun espousing longer sentences, more prisons, even wishing violence on offenders. As little to no challenge comes, more and more disenfranchised people, public and sadly Police Officers, join in.
When you hear people discussing Thatcherism, they are discussing neoliberal right wing Politics – the support of privatisation, reduced Government spending, fiscal austerity and pushing the private sector forward. Neoliberal ideals were first used in West Germany to build back the economy after the Second World War. Let me say that again – AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR. Lets explore that for a moment. The population of West Germany had been at the epicentre of an evil we now openly condemn. In the 1920’s and ’30s, the German populace was subjected to what we would recognise as Drip Theory today. Disabled people were labelled as a drain on society, wasteful and irrelevant. They were dehumanised and it became acceptable by 1939 to have an official sterilisation programme in place. Sadly this quickly changed to killing disabled people in vast numbers in what would be the precursor for the gas chambers in concentration camps across Nazi Europe. Very few spoke out against the regime, even in the face of such wide scale murder. People we would today identify as LGBT were also killed in their thousands, along with Romany Gypsies, Priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who did not fit the pre determined societal norms. A brainwashed and shocked populace was left in West Germany, with a steady infill of Germans and even 2nd or 3rd generation German’s who had been expelled from other European Countries after the Allies won the war. (There is a separate discussion to be had on this alone as the wish for secure borders containing only the home race of people in each distinct Country looms large again.)
So West Germany, under much pressure from the US, a then burgeoning world economy, set about growing its assets quickly and harshly, but here is the difference – they’d killed off most of the state dependents already. People who espouse neoliberal fiscal policies seem to think they can overlay previous successes on current situations, but they really can’t because we will never be the same again. Or will we? A shocking thought, isn’t it? Of course we are not that inhumane. Are we? Last week MPs voted overwhelmingly to take £30 a week off disabled people, in order to offer a tax break to the healthy middle classes. Kit Malthouse MP has today been told to resign his position as patron for the Andover MS Society for his part in the vote. In 2009, disabled people faced a ‘legal downgrade’ in their right to life alongside terminally ill people, to allow assisted suicide to be easier for them than for non disabled. Effectively saying their lives were of a different – lesser – value to able bodied people, who would not be allowed assisted suicide. In 2012 newspapers began reporting the high numbers of suicides by disabled people fighting Government sanctions and fitness to work assessments. The sanctions, assessments and pressure on disabled people have increased since then, as have the numbers of deaths. This also covers people with Mental Health issues, vulnerable people with learning difficulties and so on.
Increasingly I read serving Police Officers agreeing with and then voicing, truly shocking opinions. They dehumanise the vulnerable, whilst soothing themselves by thinking they are protecting victims whilst they do so. They paint ‘criminals’ as ‘bad’ people whilst ‘victims’ are ‘good’ people. It is unbelievable that people employed in today’s modern Police Force can think this is an effective or suitable descriptor. How many times is a victim a victim before they become the aggressor?
http://www.theguardian.com/society/joepublic/2008/dec/03/learning-disability-prison-learning-difficultieshttp://www.theguardian.com/society/joepublic/2008/dec/03/learning-disability-prison-learning-difficulties contains quotes from a variety of prisoners with learning difficulties. Most went to Special Schools or were in care before prison. I have always maintained that very few people are simply ‘bad’ and that most offenders do so because of circumstance. Many will sneer at this, I know, because they think they would not behave in such a way. Unless they have the learning disability and experience the lifestyle of that person, how does anyone know what they would be like? I have seen first hand what circumstance, expectation and discrimination do to behaviour.
With more Police Officers seemingly falling in with other retired Officers on Social Media, the cry for more prisons, longer sentences and a general thirst for punishment is becoming louder. Despite these same people loudly decrying privatisation, austerity and the tightening of public purse strings. In the unlikely event that any of those following the loud shouty voices actually reads this, I ask one question: Why are you helping the very regime you hate? The people within Policing who espouse these very right wing things are playing their part perfectly. They are pawns, whipping up a disenfranchised populace, until they just want someone, anyone, to suffer.
All the while, other good people are working in Integrated Offender Management, Restorative Justice, Education, Health and myriad other endeavours to actually make a difference and value each individual. Numerous groups are working with Young Offenders to redirect them at an early stage and get them supported and into gainful employment with prospects for a future. This is how to prevent reoffending and if we extend this further and look to the care homes an the special schools, we can prevent a lot of first offending too. Policing is NOT a right wing tool of the state, despite what Thatcherism did to it. It is still of the people and for the people, but only just. With the elitist degree entry qualification upon us, Policing will soon look a lot like the middle classes who are getting that tax break on the back of the disabled people’s suffering. See? Then it will be an arm of the state. Please don’t let this happen. Please think about what you are saying and who you represent. Victims mostly come from the more vulnerable parts of society. So do offenders. They are frequently one and the same at different parts of their lives. Do you want your Police to mindlessly fight crime or do you want your Police to thoughtfully prevent crime?
In reality there will always be plenty of both styles of Policing to be done. The question is, however, pertinent. If the loudest voices ignore the vulnerability of many offenders, they will become an arm of the Government they despise. Do not let this happen.