Friday, 18 May 2007

No more hugs for hoodies

Can you guess who said this?

Aggressive hoodies who threaten the rest of us must be punished. They need to know the difference between right and wrong, and it's our job to tell them.

I'm a Conservative. I believe in punishment, I believe in deterrence, I believe in the difference between right and wrong.

Astonishingly enough, it was David Cameron, speaking at the Police Federation conference on Thursday morning. Perhaps the most (or, indeed, the only) sensible words he has ever said.

This brief flash of common sense came as Cameron defended himself from criticism over his previous "hug a hoodie" speech, which was, apparently, "the most misrepresented thing he had ever said". Indeed, he is quite correct, in that he did not actually use the words "hug a hoodie". Rather he said:

If the police and criminal justice system guard the boundaries of acceptable behaviour - patrolling the territory beyond the pale - then community groups populate the interior.

If the police stand for sanctions and penalties, you stand for love.

And not a soppy love! I don't see anyone soppy here.

But it is about relationships.

It is about emotional security.

It is about love.


What is the quality of the care and support we give young people?

We sometimes see young people described as "feral", as if they have turned wild.

But no child is ever really feral.

No child is beyond recovery, beyond civilisation.

That girl who stole smiles, who suffered so much, and who made others suffer so much, is getting better now.

It is an achievement that the police, or prison, or government itself rarely manages.

"That girl who stole smiles" was a criminal thug who made it her mission to physically assault people who she saw smiling. According to Cameron, "all she needs is love". Which presumably entails plenty of hugs.

He also appears to disagree with Michael Howard's well-publicised view that "prison works".

So, while Cameron is quite correct to say that there has to be a social aspect to tackling crime, I think that "hug a hoodie" was a fair representation of his previous speech. These thugs do not need love, they need chastisement. That they also need to be taught morals and decency does not detract from that. Although Cameron might have slightly toughened up the rhetoric for yesterday's speech, he still shouldn't get the vote of anyone even remotely concerned about crime.

Originally posted at ATW.

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