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History repeating itself

Nick Robinson | 17:54 UK time, Friday, 16 February 2007

Compare and contrast.

A single crime horrifies the nation and captures the imagination - it is the death of a child. A young leader of the opposition declares that this crime typifies what is wrong with British values. His message is clear - only his election can bring about the necessary change.

The killing - Politician A says - is 'a hammer-blow against the sleeping conscience of the country'. It is time, he went on, that we accepted we 'couldn't have rights without responsibilities'.

Listen now to Politician B talking about another crime. He called for a "complete change in our values" declaring that "we have got to sit up and realise we are running things by the wrong values".

Politician A was Tony Blair speaking about the murder of James Bulger in 1993.

Politician B is David Cameron speaking about the murder of Billy Cox in 2007.

In response, no wonder Prime Minister Tony Blair said the killings were not "a metaphor for the state of British society". He knows the power of a single speech. It transformed his image as shadow home secretary and catapulted him towards Number 10. David Cameron knows that too.


As a BBC reporter I covered the death of James Bulger. There was a palpable sense of communal shock on Mersyside which I'm certain is also felt in South London.

Now I write and podcast about communities and how they might flourish.

I live in Balsall Heath in Birmingham, which I know David Cameron has visited frequently. He has learnt from our community that the answer does not lie in vilifying parents but in building straightforward human links which strengthen trust.

Slagging off families though is the best way to grab headlines.

  • 2.
  • At 12:53 PM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

What has begun seriously to worry me of late is that this government - but the opposition too - seems to have lost its way on policy-making. When something like the murder of Billy Cox happens the response appears to be to commission the nameless pimply-faced 20-something policy wonks to come up with a 'thinking out of the box' solution (so it is absolutely credible that Downing Street will announce a 'trade your gun for an iPod' scheme...sadly) instead of looking at the boring but vital mechanics of the problem.

We don't actually have a policy on gun control; we have a policy on gun licensing. We don't have the mechanisms and powers for customs to detect and impound illegal firearms at source. We don't have clear and unambiguous mechanisms for 'tip-offs' of gun caches. Above all we don't have a means of taking guns out of circulation on suspicion of use.

So, dear Messrs Blair and Cameron, can you hold back on the zany new thinking and get someone, urgently, to review the basic - pretty boring admittedly but vitally important - question of how we can improve on, or use, what we have now in the way of policy and procedure to stop more needless gun deaths of young men?

(And while you're at it, Mr Blair, can you make sure that Mr Brown agrees on what you come up so we don't have to 'wait for Gordon' before we are allowed to take the steps needed to save young lives?)

  • 3.
  • At 12:35 PM on 20 Feb 2007,
  • Chris Wills wrote:

I don't live in South London but I bet (until recently) you could walk around at night (if you dared) and rarely see a police person except outside rowdy pubs and clubs.
The answer to lots of crime problems are simple - get more police on the streets. This helps prevent crime, decreases public fear of crime and allows for earlier and better detection. In addition, the roots of crime need to be addressed - poverty and boredom amongst the disaffected, especially the young. Youth clubs, basketball courts, ice rinks, football clubs; I'm sure there are many better ideas out there. But of course all this costs money and under Blair & Brown we seem to do everything on the cheap whilst money is frittered away on big projects that serve little benefit to society like the Dome, the Iraq war, the London Olympics (I'm glad I'm not a ratepayer in London).
If we want less crime we must pay for it - although like most people, I don't trust the current government to spend our money wisely.

The most powerful words in politics are 'for the children' - regardless of which mouth utters them.

  • 5.
  • At 04:45 PM on 23 Feb 2007,
  • Ronnie wrote:

Murder is murder you cannot make it a lesser crime even if you send men in battle fatigues and toys on loan from the Illuminati killing innocent people under the guise of so called re-instalation of democracy when really the prime objective is oil and a land grab for strategic reasons, we all know that we have reached peak oil so why continue to lie? is it any wonder that the kids in any country think it is cool to carry guns as it seems to be cool to go out and kill darker skinned people for Queen and country and rob them of their resources, this type of action just would not happen to a sovereign European state and furthermore is proof that there is a re-emergence of empire building or maybe it never did end and now is called democratising states that do not follow the puppeteer state policies that the Illuminati and the Bankers require.

  • 6.
  • At 12:41 PM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Paul Dockree wrote:

"The child is paramount" is the mantra as Suricou Raven writes. But not all the children are at risk and a small percentage are the threat to other children and adults alike. We seem to treat ALL children as precious despite a few of them carrying and using weapons like knives and guns. In most cases these children armed themselves - they were not being misguided by adults but searching for some "respect" or prestige be it money or admiration from their peers.

Until we start treating this violent minority of children with seriousness - the gun crimes and death of our youngster will mount up.

  • 7.
  • At 11:02 AM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • jim evans wrote:


  • 8.
  • At 10:41 PM on 28 Feb 2007,
  • David k wrote:

I agree labour are finished [ref Jim Evans]But what is the alternative?There are no credible Parties waiting in the sidelines with any different policies either left or right.Talk about being politcaly correct Hmmm

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