April 11, 2018 Abdul Haqq

Amber Rudd’s denial: Was she taking the P?

In light of Rudd’s resignation on 29th April 2018, it appears that her efforts to mislead not only the public, but also the Home Affairs Select Committee, have come back to haunt her – especially over the Windrush generation and immigrant quota fiasco. Her disingenuous approach throughout this saga should not, however, obscure her recent conduct surrounding the spate of gang and youth violence that continues to plague the capital.

Two years ago, I received news that has become alarmingly familiar to many communities today; one of our young (aged 20 years) had been murdered – stabbed to death by a rival.[1]As many of us try to make sense of the recent unprecedented spate of murders – 52 between January and the beginning of April 2018[2]– questions are invariably being asked about the reasons for such wanton violence. Some answers are obvious, others less so.  However, what is clear is that communities most affected by this rising epidemic not only have answers, but also solutions to tackle it;[3]yet they continue to be overlooked while the government flounders in its own ineptitude, trying to get ahead of a problem of its own making:

Amber Rudd dismissed claims on Sunday that police cuts were to blame for the rise in violent crime as she prepared to publish a new strategy to tackle the problem.[4]

She went on to acknowledge that although police faced new challenges resulting in increased investment for policing:

‘…the evidence does not bear out claims that resources are to blame for the rising violence.’[5]

If 50+ murders over a period of 100 days do not amount to sufficient evidence that police cuts have, to some degree, contributed to this current crisis, it will be interesting to hear from Rudd as to what actually constitutes satisfactory proof. If this is what she firmly believed, a further question of why then are increased investment for policing and a new strategy necessary?  The Serious Violence Strategy was launched recently and by its very name, sounds like the usual kneejerk reaction many have become accustomed to from this government. Isn’t all violence serious or does the government have a perception of non-serious violence being less of a priority? Is this similar to the non-violent extremist terminology coined in 2010 to distinguish between varying degrees of extremism?

Lights, camera…inaction

The latest strategy has, more than likely, been quickly formulated to assuage public and media concern regarding the current crisis. It would not have been necessary had the former home secretary and current Prime Minister, Theresa May, implemented the steps outlined in her 2011 dossier, ‘Ending Gang and Youth Violence: A Cross-Government Report.[6]This included a multipronged plan of action for:

  1. Preventing young people becoming involved in serious violence in the first place, with a new emphasis on early intervention and prevention.
  2. Providing support to local areas to tackle their gang or youth violence problem.
  3. Pathways out of violence and the gang culture for young people wanting to make a break with the past.
  4. Punishment and enforcement to suppress the violence of those refusing to exit violent lifestyles.
  5. Partnership working to join up the way local areas respond to gang and other youth violence.’ [7]

It should come as no surprise to note that this plan has had little or no effect. Indeed, many have become accustomed to the government’s inability to deliver short-lived strategies, developed in response to whatever crisis is prevalent at the time. It is incomprehensible therefore to witness the government taking the ‘P’ by driving forward policies, which remain contentious. The current counter-terrorism strategy and its 4-pronged objective to Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare is an example to cite – particularly, Prevent – due to established perceptions that it disproportionately targets Muslim communities.[8]The overambitious remit of May’s report also included undertakings to:

  1. provide a virtual network of 100 expert advisors,
  2. inject £10 million funding in up to 30 areas identified as having significant youth and gang violence challenges,
  3. introduce ‘Multi-Systemic Therapy’ for 1,200 troubled families and by the end of Parliament to have;

‘…turned around the lives of 120,000 of the most troubled families, reducing their involvement in violent crime and disorder…’[9]

The report assertively concluded that society ‘…will have seen a reduction in the number of young people killed or seriously wounded by youth or gang-related violence.’[10]

Today, we are witnessing exactly the opposite.

Compared to Rudd’s new 111-page report, Theresa May’s 26-page dossier certainly appeared to provide the type of coherency required to address existing challenges of youth and gang violence. However, it should be noted that this report was also compiled as a reaction to the social disorder at that time following the death of Mark Duggan in 2011.[11]Rudd’s current rhetoric resembles May’s during that period and it is not too difficult to discern that her contribution towards the latest publication has been minimal:

‘I am clear that we cannot arrest our way out of this issue and that tackling serious violence requires a multiplestrand approach involving police, local authorities, health and education partners to name but a few.’ [12]

These words echo those of Theresa May’s, in 2011:

‘We understand that you can’t arrest your way out of the problem, and that is why we have been clear that only with full cross-departmental support can we make an impact. Tackling gangs and serious youth violence will take a fully coordinated, multi-agency response, and full and public local authority leadership…’[13]

Rudd’s lack of foresight was further illustrated when she appeared to contradict specific intimations contained in the very report she had commissioned:

On the morning she was due to launch the government’s new strategy for tackling the problem, Rudd insisted that a recent rise in violent crime, including a high-profile series of murders in London, was not connected to police funding cuts. “It is not all about police numbers,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme…’[14]

In  stark contrast, the report highlights government cuts to the police as having ‘likely contributed’ to a rise in violent crime.[15]

Rudderless leadership

Author Eliane Glaser’s recent article in The Guardian referred to a poignant characteristic of effective leadership, stating that, ‘Without leadership, it’s impossible to produce coherent, lasting change.[16]The tenures of both May and Rudd as respective home secretaries have witnessed a reduction of policing on UK streets by 21,000 officers.[17]These and other far reaching cuts to youth services since 2011 have contributed to the rise in youth related violence and deaths. This cannot and should not be denied:

‘Across England, youth services have been disproportionately hit by government imposed public spending cuts, with more than £100m axed from local authority youth services by April [2011], according to the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services. A survey of 41 of its members found some councils cutting 70, 80 or even 100% of youth services. Almost 3,000 full-time staff have been lost, and universal services such as youth clubs have been hit the hardest: 96% of members who responded said club activities would be either reduced or stopped altogether by April (2012).’[18]

Alarm bells were also sounded that same year regarding the negative effects of funding cuts:

‘A teenager who took part in a shooting which left a 5 year old girl paralysed was known to youth offending teams as a ‘high risk’ to others, it has emerged…Thusha Kamaleswaran was shot in the chest and Roshan Selvakumar, 35, was shot in the face at a Brixton shop last March [2011]. Anthony McCalla, 20, was a ‘top priority’ for the local youth offending team in Lambeth. Local gang mediator, Junior Shabazz claims McCalla fell between the intervention gaps once he turned 18 and ‘the money dried up.’’[19]

Until the government accepts responsibility for the current demise in security on our streets, we will continue to drift towards a growing tide of gang-related violence due to the breakdown of a key component of any sustainable society; its youth. The absence of effective leadership from Rudd should be a cause for concern, especially in view of her obfuscating attempts to deny the reality on the ground. Violent crime among young people is a pernicious issue that requires insightful government leadership. However, while highlighting this, we must also shoulder some of the responsibilities. Glaser’s observations regarding our current challenges extend beyond the political landscape – as she herself acknowledges – and includes the young:

‘The problem for parents and politicians alike is that we have stopped regarding authority as legitimate. The challenge…is to re-establish this legitimacy. We need to disentangle authority from privilege, and find new ways to ensure that authority is constituted knowledge, experience and conduct – and judged as such by a sceptical public. It’s children, not politicians, who need to learn and listen.’[20]

Rudd was culpable for some of the recent failings highlighted in this article and elsewhere; however, she has been cast as the ceremonial scapegoat in order to shield her predecessor, the current prime minister. Theresa May therefore should also do the honourable thing and resign, as it was during her tenure as home secretary that these seriously flawed policies were introduced.

While this remains unlikely for the foreseeable future (she continues to be her party’s human shield for Brexit negotiations), we should nevertheless work decisively as a society to eradicate the scourge of gang and youth violence.  Failure to do so may mean we are in for a very long summer.

 

 

 

 

[1]Othman, H: ‘Tributes paid to man, 20, stabbed to death in Thornton Heath,’ Evening Standard, Tuesday 15thMarch 2016: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/tributes-paid-to-man-20-stabbed-to-death-in-thornton-heath-a3204166.html

[2]BBC News: ‘The names and faces of those killed in London,’ 6thApril 2018: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43640475

[3]SB: RealTalking Inspiration:
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10155717500813068&id=579303067

[4]Crerar, P: ‘Amber Rudd says police cuts not to blame for violent crime,’ The Guardian, Sunday 8thApril 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/08/amber-rudd-says-police-cuts-not-to-blame-for-violent-rise

[5]Ibid

[6]Secretary of State: ‘Ending Gang and Youth Violence: A Cross-Government Report,’ HM Government, November 2011: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/97861/gang-violence-summary.pdf

[7]Ibid, pp. 7, 8

[8]Secretary of State: ‘Pursue, Prevent, Protect, Prepare: The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism,’ Annual Report, HM Government, March 2010: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228907/7833.pdf

[9]Ibid, pp.24, 25

[10]Ibid, p.25

[11]Morgan, F: ‘Mark Duggan: a single death that sparked the riots,’ The Telegraph, 8thJanuary 2014: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10559449/Mark-Duggan-a-single-death-that-sparked-the-riots.html

[12]Home Secretary: ‘Serious Violence Strategy,’ April 2018: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/serious-violence-strategy

[13]Secretary of State: ‘Ending Gang and Youth Violence: A Cross-Government Report,’ HM Government, November 2011: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/97861/gang-violence-summary.pdf

[14]Walker, P & Dodd, V: Amber Rudd denies seeing leaked Home Office violent crime report,’ The Guardian, Monday 9thApril, 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/09/amber-rudd-home-office-violent-crime-report-leaked

[15]Ibid

[16]Glaser, E: ‘We went too far in toppling authority. Some is good for us.’ The Guardian, 9thApril 2018: https://www.google.com/url?hl=en-GB&q=https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/09/toppling-authority-populism&source=gmail&ust=1523489153545000&usg=AFQjCNFvxSYyZ2YfypohYw23wu_UixPx7A

[17]Crerar, P: ‘Amber Rudd says police cuts not to blame for violent crime,’ The Guardian, Sunday 8thApril 2018: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/08/amber-rudd-says-police-cuts-not-to-blame-for-violent-rise

[18]Williams, R: ‘Teens Are Left to Their Own Devices as Council Axes All Youth Services,’ The Guardian, 23rdAugust 2011: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/aug/23/norfolk-axes-youth-services-effect

[19]Barling, K: ‘Stockwell Shooting: ‘Gang Member was “High Risk”, BBC News London, 13thApril 2012: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-17702581

[20]Glaser, E: ‘We went too far in toppling authority. Some is good for us.’ The Guardian, 9thApril 2018: https://www.google.com/url?hl=en-GB&q=https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/09/toppling-authority-populism&source=gmail&ust=1523489153545000&usg=AFQjCNFvxSYyZ2YfypohYw23wu_UixPx7A

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