In my role as Cabinet Lead for Community Safety, people often concentrate on the ‘hard edged’ aspects of what I am up to. Police. Enforcement officers. Violence. Victims.
I’ve never been a big supporter of Tony Blair, at least when it comes to doing it inside the Labour Party. But one thing I feel that he was absolutely right on was The framing of crime – ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ is a wonderful piece of political rhetoric. It perfectly sums up the protection aspect that the state plays for people as they go about their lives, and sums up how the public feel about that role – grateful but expectant. But it also gets to the bottom of something profound, a socialist insight, that crime and disorder are not just caused by the morality of individuals, but by their circumstances and experiences – community, society, and the economy.
For that reason, it would be no good for me to be a ‘hard edged’ community safety type politician without understanding that we can only prevent crime by giving people support, chances in life, and the ability to interact with each other. By using the natural urge people have as active citizens, in charities, faith and community groups. By looking to the things we already have, our assets. Strength. Mutuality. Cohesion.
There are many other reasons why people coming together across barriers and understanding each other can make a difference. Consider how easy it can be to be blind to culture-specific problems like FGM, or how norms can differ between people from different backgrounds over mental health, for example. For a moment, let’s think about whether we also consider people equally when some people’s need is greater – can we really say we don’t have a problem with educational attainment for black British-Caribbean boys? Are we honestly able to say that two people are as likely to develop well at work when on grows up on a modest income in a council estate, but another on a house in a private road? How are we treating our recent arrivals, particularly whilst Brexit is going on?
So today we have launched our Stronger Communities Strategy, aimed at getting to the bottom of the toughest issues in our communities, bringing people together around the values we all hold in common, and making sure that all of us come first. You can find out more about it here.
We are far more united and have more in common than that which divides us.