Here are my New Year’s resolutions. 1-9 are within my control, more or less. 10 depends on some other people.
By the end of 2011 I intend/hope to have:
1) Resolved some outstanding intellectual incoherencies around a) the current limits vs. the desirability of social democracy; b) leftwing small statism in the context of the necessary shorter term defence of the welfare state; c) libertarianism vs. using social and economic power to take liberties; d) how the best bits of Modern Monetary theory might be adapted to the socialist cause.
2) Published two books – one about politics and one about cricket;
3) Read the whole Habermas’ Theory of Communicative Action;
4) Set up a social enterprise which picks the bones out of the dismantling of the NHS;
5) Had measurable influence in the third sector world over the roll-out of Social Impact Bonds in the context of the Coalition’s commissioning plans, if they proceed as planned;
6) Become a street pastor;
7) Got back to my fighting weight, done some regular cricket umpiring and and started flute lessons;
8) Written a paper on internal Labour party democracy reform which actually gets read;
9) Completed my tax returns without having to stay up all night to meet the deadline;
10) Been a small part of a big movement which brings down the government.
The other day I posted a whimsical little number, pretending to be utterly outraged at the cost of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), as measured by the cost per crime detected, following the release of data showing it costs £1.2 m per crime detected by a PCSO.
The point was simple enough. Using these statistics is wholly and utterly misleading, because:
a) crime detection is simply not part of a PCSO’s role; they are there for visible crime prevention, reassurance and more general community intelligence gathering;
b) while the odd crime detection statistic might be recorded against a PCSO’s name, in general any such crime will be recorded against as a Police Officer detection; this avoids any double counting. Indeed, it is possible that the ‘crimes detected’ figure which actually does show up against PCSOs more or less represents the on-the-spot fines that PCSOs are empowered to impose e.g. for littering.
This basic logic didn’t stop the stats being splashed across national newspapers, with the usual TPA rent-a-quote, and the Press Association being uncritically copied across dozens of local newspaper websites.
The comments on the papers’ websites reflected the expected split of those whose prejudices about ‘plastic policemen’ were confirmed (prejudices started by those same newspapers in earlier coverage), and a smaller number who called the papers out for their ridiculous coverage e.g.:
It is very clear to me and other PCSOs that this is a puerile attempt to discredit all police forces and PCSOs. In relation to your financial research it is both inaccurate and has the senslesss ramblings of a struggling reporter. PCSOs are not employed to detect crime. However, during the course of their duties they furnish the police with huge amounts of information to assist in the detection of crime. Police officers value their role as they take on the lower level problems. This allows them to deal with the more serious issues that papers like yours love nothing better than to rubbish the hard working police officers such as.
In my own whimsy piece I made use of the fact that, when the Daily Mail covered these statistics just two months ago, the cost per crime detected (from the statistics for only one police force area) was calculated at £156,000 crime, but that this had ‘risen’ eightfold to £1.2m when all force data was aggregated.
The massive discrepancy, I suggested, might just be a clue to the fact that the data is wholly misleading, and the fact that the paper had not even cross-checked its own coverage from 8 weeks previously was indicative of tabloid journalism at its worst.
That was criticism of the Daily Mail, and valid enough.
But then there’s the Daily Express, which chose to run this ‘story’ as its front page headline yesterday. It gets the ‘public spending campaigner’ from the TPA in early to do its dirty work, and then gets on to this little gem:
The latest figures show that the cost of PCSOs per crime in Nottinghamshire rose from £354,000 in 2008-09, when they detected 19 crimes, to £6.7million in 2009-10.
Shockingly crap statistics have revealed how the cost of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) surged by a massive 769% in two months.
But in figures revealed today by the Press Association, it has emerged that these costs have increased to a staggering £1.2 million per detection.
That an increase of nearly 8 times in 8 weeks, or a 100% increase per week.
In October, the apolitical thinktank The Taxpayers Association were left fuming about the costs, with a spokesman only able to splutter:
Taxpayers want real bobbies on the beat, not these plastic policemen. With no powers of arrest and incredibly low productivity, it is hard to see how these PCSOs are value for money for taxpayers, or indeed useful.
There has been no reaction from the well-regarded thinkthank today, and it is thought that all its spokespeople may simply be too apopleptic with rage even to speak.
The usual mealy-mouthed, politically correct voices have been wheeled out again to point out that detecting crime is not what PCSOs do anyway, with Assistant Chief Constable Julian Kirby, of South Wales Police, who should obviously be sacked, bleating incoherently:
The role of Police Community Support Officers is to develop and sustain community cohesion, which they are valued for here in South Wales. Their work to improve the quality of life for residents comes to fruition in a variety of ways and has made a real difference.
Another immediately sackable non-job bureaucrat at Nottinghamshire Police simply wittered on about the fact that PCSOs have been involved in detecting many more crimes than the official figures show, but the detection is allocated to a police officer under standard reporting systems.
But as the totally reliable and entirely appropriately used statistics show, PCSOs are clearly a total waste of money and sacking’s probably too good for them.
The shock figures have been picked up by national and regional media outlets across the country, with more high quality, in-depth reporting on the Press Association figures emerging from the Daily Mail again [update: the TPA spokesman has recovered from apoplexy as this article has been written and has wisely condemned the scheme as ‘a device for politicians’ ].
It is thought likely that at some point Daily Mail reporters will remember that they did the same story with massively different figures just recently, as the newspaper has far too much journalistic credibility just to keep on taking figures given it at face value, making no cross-referencing attempts at all, and then just ringing up the TPA for a quote.
Regional newspaper websitees joining the totally justifiable and impeccably researched condemnations include Pendle Today, the Buchan Observer, The Rye and Battle Observer, The York Star, the Uttoxeter Advertiser, the Leigh Journal and the Mid-Devon Star.
A couple of moments ago, Wes Streeting, who is a Labour Councillor in Redbridge, said this in a tweet:
“Not sure it’s very ‘Tony’ but surely we should support Labour’s most electorally successful leader and PM having a statue?”
Statue aside (in his words, “am I bothered”) it is so easy for some people; we’ll support our tribe come what may, and that’s that (no doubt you’ve heard the argument before; we should support Blair/Mandelson as they bring in the votes, forgetting the price the party has had to pay for that experiment). Only for anyone in the Labour Party who really cares about it, and are politically committed to boot, this will not do. Surely a nodding dog who promised everything to everyone (like Barack Obama at the start of his term) would be more electorally successful, but the Labour Party is a political party, historically it has been a political machine and a socialist one as well. While it’s trying to please everyone it is pleasing nobody; Blair may have won his pathetic game against his contemporaries in the Commons, he may have smiled at the correct moments in a PR attempt to woo the heartstrings of the electorate, but he had no political fire in his belly to win the argument for socialism (in fact, by the end I’m sure he’d rather do anything else) and therefore we in the Labour Party should not “support” him. No way.
Yesterday I played a game that my Grandad received for Christmas. One of the questions raised – aimed at a certain generation – was: “should it be absolutely right for a person to fight for their country over anything else?” I was the elephant in the room, among mostly ex-service people (my parents and grandparents included) who said no – but I stand by my answer; today more than ever nation is a tribe that can serve only as sentimental value, ideas and convictions is a dish best served political, and in an age of postmodern disdain for ideas that can guide your uttermost convictions, it is the task of the left today to fight against that current – nationalism and tribalism were bad for politics in generations previous (obviously I justify British presence in WWII, but Churchill was an imperialist, it’s an old point, unpopular and often disavowed, but it’s true) and are bad today.
But who today are really to blame? Reading the above may lead you to think I’m not myself slightly tribal to a political party, but in many ways I am, but not in the sort of way damaging to my political convictions. My own brand of Labour Party tribalism means that I think TonyBlair was a monster – and it’s because I care about the party so much that I can say this. Those who send messages, such as the one above, are more damaging to the party than they realise.
Who I blame for the rightwards trajectory of the political party I am a member of is not necessarily those rightist figures themselves – it is young members of Trotskyite splinter parties like the Socialist Workers Party (born out of the IS, and founded as the SWP in 1977). In the days during the militancy period in the 80s, people were thrown out in a Kinnock, McCarthy-esque, early New Labour drive to rid the party of socialist ideas – history denialism. There were two elements to emerge; an element who embraced the sectarianism of the left who created the far left pressure groups we know awkwardly selling papers today, and then Grantite-entryists who as best as possible worked inside the Labour Party with the intention of bringing socialists together. Younger generations inside those parties don’t face the same problems; for them the Labour Party is sinking ship composed of capitalists and warmongers. However, these people have less fire in their bellies than the right wing of the Labour Party whose socialism has died with the size of their mortgages.
While sectarian factions choose not to touch the Labour Party with bargepoles, so the right of the party become vindicated in their place, and with the slow death of New Labour, and the sloppiness of Ed Miliband, now is the time to work inside and alongside the party, not against it. Owing to the constitution of the small far left parties, and their continual relevance among young socialists as opposed to working inside the longest existing, and historically the most idea rich socialist party in the UK – the Labour Party – they are by their very nature sectarian, and therefore it is justified to shut the door on their personal vindications to the Labour right wing, while offering a place to them if they wanted, and sharing ideas where possible (like the Labour Representative Committee do with smaller parties).