The Tory Government’s latest ‘hard line’ policy on laughing gas is no laughing matter, as far as ANDREW FISHER is concerned, as he outlines how Labour’s ban on Jeremy Corbyn could cost another MP their seat in Croydon
These past seven days have been “anti-social behaviour week” for the Conservatives.
No, I don’t mean Tory MPs offering to moonlight for foreign companies for £10,000 a day, ministers funnelling dodgy contracts to their mates, or ex- and current Prime Ministers breaking the law during lockdown …
What I have in mind is those virtuous moral paragons, Conservative MPs, who have been lecturing the rest of us about anti-social behaviour. Fronting much of this initiative has been Chris Philp, the MP for Croydon South and a former cheerleader for Liz Truss, who is now passing the time as policing minister.
“People, young people especially, loitering in public places like parks” has really got Philp’s goat.
I have gone through my entire life thinking that the whole point of parks was, in fact, to loiter in them. To sit, to play and to enjoy the environs, rather than pass through as rapidly and functionally as possible. But then I’m probably some out-of-touch “woke” lefty, according to current Tory rhetoric.
It’s perhaps my lefty liberal principles that drive me to disagree with the decision of the Government this week to criminalise the possession of nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas).
Although in my disagreement, I appear to have allies in the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. This is a panel of experts appointed by the Home Secretary – Philp’s boss – to advise on drugs policy. The ACMD say that they oppose banning the substance. “Current evidence suggests that the health and social harms are not commensurate with control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971,” they say.
According to the former chair of the advisory council, Professor David Nutt, there was only one death linked to nitrous oxide in the last year, when during the same period there were 28,000 deaths linked to alcohol.
Like many people I suspect, the proliferation of those little metallic cannisters cluttering the kerbs of every other street in Croydon irritates me. But it irritates me a lot less than the dog mess that stains our pavements. Littering is already illegal, as is not clearing up after your dog.
In an ideal world, I’d like there to be more police enforcing the law and more severe fines for people who litter and don’t clear up after their dogs. And don’t get me started on speeding drivers and those who don’t stop at zebra crossings…
But when just 1.6per cent of reported rapes end in conviction and only around 1 in 20 burglaries are crimes that are solved, I’m not sure that I want police resources being used to target young people in parks who may or may not be using laughing gas.
Every generation of young people hangs around in parks and used illegal substances or consumed legal substances underage – whether that’s cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, magic mushrooms or nitrous oxide. It’s a rite of passage, a period of independence and experimentation. And it soon passes.
What is much more problematic is that a small proportion of young people in Croydon are stabbing each other, and personally I want much more resource going into preventing that – both in terms of policing and youth services.
The last decade has seen 750 youth centres closed, youth worker jobs cut and charities defunded, as has happened here in Croydon in the Mayor’s latest budget.
Just this week the murder trial began following the death of 15-year-old Zaian Aimable-Lina in Ashburton Park in December 2021. It’s a park to which I regularly take my own children. It’s tragic that young lives like Zaian’s are being taken.
It needs a serious holistic approach that understands how such violence has become normalised among some young people.
When my local MP warns of a “crime surge” in the town centre following a spate of stabbings, then it confirms my belief that diverting police attention on to harassing kids “loitering” in parks is a waste of police time and would be a dereliction of duty.
But when you’ve trashed the economy, made a mess of the NHS and are mired in scandal after scandal, then the tried and tested Conservative trick is to create a moral panic and sound tough about it.
Whether it’s taking migrants off small boats to place them on bigger boats, transgender people or kids “loitering” in parks, the one thing that the Tories are exceptionally good at is finding a scapegoat, instead of finding solutions to real problems.
This week, Labour’s National Executive Committee, the NEC, voted to block former leader Jeremy Corbyn from standing as the party’s election candidate in Islington North – the seat he has represented, with the support of local party members and voters, for 40 years. The Islington North Labour Party immediately condemned the decision.
But the ramifications of the decision will reach much further than one-half of a north London borough. Let’s take the previously marginal seat of Croydon Central, held by Labour’s Sarah Jones, which is due to become Croydon East at the next election, and becomes even more marginal with the boundary changes.
Labour only regained the seat in 2017, in large part due to the enthusiastic surge of activists piling into Croydon to campaign. It’s hard to see how that will be replicated at the next General Election, especially if the party centrally is going to have to put resources into what was the ultra-safe Labour seat of Islington North.
I’ve written in more detail on this for the i paper.
- From 2015 to 2019, Andrew Fisher, pictured right, worked as the Labour Party’s Director of Policy under Jeremy Corbyn. He is the chair of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party. Fisher is also the author of The Failed Experiment – and how to build an economy that works, and now writes regular columns for InsideCroydon in a personal capacity
Andrew Fisher’s recent columns:
- A Budget that subsidises profiteers and bungs £1bn to wealthy
- The solution to Perry’s finance problem: Fund Croydon Fairly
- Croydon is in a right Pickles and it is easy to work out why
- Fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is not too much to ask
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- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine
Another thing that really annoys and angers local Labour members is the fact that ex Councillors Andrew Pelling and Jamie Audsley, and long term member and activist David White have been got rid of under a disciplinary procedure that is glacially slow, – a kangarooo court where the accused is tried in absentia– and thus unfair and unfit for purpose.
Plus of course, the conclusions of the Forde report.
Labour needs to embrace diverse opinions, embrace fairness, be a broad church, and revise its disciplinary code to be both fair, transparent and faster, while having due process.
750 youth centres closed. What a damning statistic.
The elimination of Labour’s Sure Start programme, which was very successful in getting thousands of families a good start in life, was also a really mean and short-sighted action of the Conservatives. The investment of time and advice / education resources into parents and families would have provided a payback , multiple times, in terms of happier families and children with improved life skills, especially in deprived neighbourhoods of our cities and towns.
Giving young people good things to do is a moral duty of society.
Really, what do we offer our teenagers today?.
School, homework, exams?
So so boring.
No wonder people go off the rails.