Tony Blair return to his original political theme tune on Friday with blistering condemnation of soaring crime rates in British cities, claiming the situation was “out of control”.
The former prime minister called for significant change in crime fighting polices to “break the cycle” of anarchy on the streets.
In an essay published in the Evening Standard, Mr Blair strongly criticised his successor, Theresa May and regional officials, such as Labour's London mayor, Sadiq Khan for their approach to crime.
Not only is it not hard to see why the crime rate is rising as “poor educational opportunities” and “broken family circumstances and neighbourhoods” festered unchallenged. There was an proliferation of ever more criminal networks.
“If gangs operate with impunity, criminals believe they can get away with it and the police feel powerless even to keep a lid on crime. The signal received will encourage all types of criminality to proliferate," he said.
“People will become anxious and crime, barely an issue in the 2015 or 2017 elections, will once again dominate as it used to 25 years ago.”
Tony Blair’s legacy, and a crucial part of his 1997 campaign for Prime Minister, centred around his policies on crime, inspired by his campaign slogan: “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime”.
Over the course of his tenure, Mr. Blair introduced policies such as Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) for what Mr. Blair called “problem families” at the “focal point of crime”, the use of stop-and-search policing, high numbers of police on the streets and harsh sentencing for gang-related violent offences.
Consequently, the crime rate under the Blair government fell by 44% from 1997 – 2007, Blair becoming the first Prime Minister in British history to preside over a fall in recorded crime since wartime.
Mr. Blair condemned Ms. May, Mr. Khan and others for rolling back the policies his government introduced at the turn of the century, particularly relating to what he called the “systematic weakening of the powers of the police”. The former Prime Minister took aim at Theresa May’s decision to cut police budgets by 18%, and reduce police officer numbers by 19,000, in what critics called a “Christmas for Criminals” in the holiday season.
Furthermore, Blair’s criticised Theresa May for rolling back stop-and-search powers for police, saying this was a “serious mistake” as the measure was a “critical part of police armoury”.
In his essay, Mr. Blair cites the crime prevention strategy of the Glasgow project called the Violence Reduction Unit, which is mirrored in Chicago, which he argues stresses the idea of coordinated responses to tackle criminality. He argues that by embracing strategies such as these, Britain could make a “sharp change of direction”, reducing the rate of violent crime once again.
“The Government and city mayors need to act together. The prime minister should convene a summit —properly prepared with senior police and community representatives — and thrash out a comprehensive plan that gives the police the powers they need to tackle gang-related activity — including the use of new civil injunctions, if necessary — and targets the resources presently available in the most effective way.”
Over the last few years, the level of violent crime in the UK has been increasing in various forms. According to the Office of National Statistics, last year gun crime has increased by 11 per cent and offences involving knives and sharp objects rose 22 per cent.
“Neither main political party has taken crime very seriously these past years, and naturally here, as elsewhere, Brexit distracts. But that is really no excuse.”
“It is time to act.”