Thursday, April 12, 2007

What MacPherson Wrought.

In February 1999 Lord MacPherson's inquiry into the murder investigation into Stephen Lawrence was published. It's conclusion that the Metropolitan Police was 'institutionally racist' ( despite the fact that the report had to acknowledge that 'In this Inquiry we have not heard evidence of overt racism or discrimination'), was eagerly seized upon by the Blair government and many of the recommendations were implemented, including those which lead to a curtailment of police use of stop and search. It might seem strange that an investigation into the stabbing of a teenager would lead any sensible person to conclude that we should restrict the power of the police to search young people for things like knives, but Lord MacPherson thought it was good idea.

The report didn't actually compare the treatment of Stephen Lawrence's murder with how other murder investigations were conducted, to see if any consistent difference in the approaches taken to black and white victims. Instead it highlighted the failings of one murder investigation and arbitarily assigned the cause to racism. This approach has all the intellectual rigour of blaming it on the alignment of the stars. This isn't to say that serious mistakes were not made by the police for example, the first officer who arrived at the scene called an ambulance and sat in his car instead of attempting first aid, but the witch hunt at the inquiry made all sorts of wild accusations many of which were demonstrably false.

Eight years on and Tony Blair is expressing his shock at a wave of stabbings and shootings of black children by other black youths:
..."The black community - the vast majority of whom in these communities are decent, law-abiding people horrified at what is happening - need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids. But we won't stop this by pretending it isn't young black kids doing it."
It seems pretty unlikely to me that the problem is a failiure of 'the black community' ( to the extent that that there is any such thing ) to denounce violent crime. There has not been much reluctance by anyone, except perhaps professional race activists, to criticise violent crime. Tony Blair has created a situation where large sections of the public are effectively exempt from policing and the police know that if they do try and do something that involves tackling criminals of an ethnic miority background, then the government will denounce them as jack booted racists and their careers and reputations will be destroyed. The sheer cyncism with which Blair has played with the issue of race and crime throughout his tenure in office makes his pitiful buck passing even more contemptible.
During his Wednesday Commons question session Mr Blair said of the Tory leader: "I'll make it quite clear. I am not suggesting that the right honourable member is a racist, I am simply suggesting that he is an opportunist."

Mr Blair was responding to a question from Conservative MP Crispin Blunt who asked him: "Will the prime minister reflect on just who played the race card recently?"

Mr Blair went on to say that rather than playing up the issue of police stop and search, Mr Hague "should employ a policy of stop and think".

Earlier during prime minister's questions, Mr Hague had launched a strong attack on the government's record on law and order.

He was pressing Mr Blair on police numbers, nearly a week after he first criticised the Macpherson report of destroying police morale by creating a climate in which officers feared using stop and search powers in case they were accused of racism.
So seven years ago when William Hague raised concerns about the decline in stop and search, he suffered the sly insinuations of racism and now in 2007 the Prime Minister has decided that black on black crime isn't in fact his responsibilty at all but that of the 'black community'.

Update: I have made some minor edits to this post because it was originally quite rushed and full of typos and sentences that didn't make sense. No substance has been changed.

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