Over the weekend, Labour produced what it seems we must now call a meme, associating Rishi Sunak with Tory policies of being ineffective and soft on crimes against children.  This may have been in response to some disgusting things said by Braverman who wrongly sought to associate British Pakistani men with child grooming. The meme and the sub-text have repelled a number of anti-racism, pro-migrant activists and almost certainly some ethnic minority voters if you want to see more of the debate then it’s easy enough to find.

The response of Labour’s bureaucracy has been as expected particularly brutal. But then half of the ad’s goals is to troll the left in the party together with Labour’s core urban vote. It may also indicate the growing tendency of Starmer’ LOTO to deny other members of the front bench any limelight. Yvette Cooper has disassociated herself from the ad and the response has been a vicious, anonymous, whispering campaign about her suitability to remain shadow home secretary.

The bureaucracy claim they are trying to win the election, check out the Indy article linked above, and those that oppose their messages are not. This claim needs to be examined. The problem with this sort of provocative advertisement is that, the conversation becomes about the ad , not about the message. Labour’s message on this issue is particularly uninspiring but having an argument about whether they should have associated Rishi Sunak so personally with this policy failure is unwanted.

It’s not the first time Labour have made this mistake. Labour’s 92 election broadcast on the NHS, was one of the first movie style party political broadcasts. However, the Tories turned its success into an argument about its truthfulness; the baby depicted was not suffering from the ailment claimed. The arguments became one of integrity, not of health service provision. In London in 2019 European Parliament elections, London Labour produced a final GOTV leaflet with the sole picture being of Nigel Farage. Some apparatchik obviously thought this was being tough and given that Corbyn and the NEC hadn’t truly got to grips with Jeremy’s new ‘Brexit red lines’, Labour was always going to have difficulty with a line that ‘honoured the referendum’ in a strongly remain city. The leaflets were rarely used because activists didn’t want to advertise UKIP who were an opponent and there was no positive message.

So for all those realists who think this is a good idea, i suggest you look at the evidence. It seems to me all this sort of attack ad does is debase the debate, even when well done, which this isn’t.

I have two further thoughts.

Crime is a difficult issue for politicians and those seeking to prevent crime. At Labour Conference 22 I heard Steve Reed MP, now the justice shadow justice secretary speak on crime prevention. My first take was that this required a marxist’s interpretation of Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”, i.e. the marxism allows us to see it in a historical context, “the first time as tragedy the second time as farce”. I said at the time, “they i.e. the front bench seem to be considering some form of early action to disrupt social inheritance of criminal behaviour, it all reminded me of the ‘Precrime’ unit from Minority Report, …” However, the following month, I read the Secret Barrister’s book, ‘Stories of the Law …’, and in the chapter, ‘The Big Sentencing Con’ the goals of judicial sanctions are listed and then a whole series of circumstances where these are inappropriate is catalogued, from arguing that prison is a training ground for the criminality to the fact that many criminals are mentally disturbed and/or victims of violence and crime in their youth themselves. These are circumstances where early intervention can help and when writing this, I am reminded of the work done by the Lewisham MPs and council with the public health approach, inspired by Glasgow Council’s work on youth violence. However, I doubt that the Labour front bench think about things that hard.

Politicians can make things better, but the complexity of the problem needs to be understood. This is an issue where one needs a bit more understanding and bit less condemnation. Labour’s graphic does the reverse.

I originally wrote this as a campaigning critique, but suggest you look at David Osland’s article and Phil BC’s, the former identifies the threat of losing ethnic minority votes and the latter that part of Starmer’s strategy is to make his Party the enemy to make him safe for Tory votes, a mistaken replay of parts of Blair’s strategy.

Image Credit: by Jessica Flavia from Unsplash, meant to refer to Jennifer’s ear.

Crime, memes and politics
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