Amber Rudd commits a serious crime – of gross incompetence | John Crace

The home secretary’s launch of her violent crime strategy was devoid of feeling and substance

Amber Rudd could clearly picture the briefing document that had been left on her desk in February. Perhaps she ought to have taken a quick peek at it after all. But back then the home secretary hadn’t been entirely sure she had the necessary clearance to read something stamped “official – sensitive” and she had been awfully busy working on other things. So she had just left it in the pile marked “embarrassing documents to be leaked to the Guardian”.

That decision clearly haunted Rudd as she took the platform at a central London community centre to launch her serious violence strategy. This was meant to be her big day out. Her chance to dominate the news agenda for the day and show that the government meant business in tackling the rise in violent crime.

Instead it had all gone pear-shaped long before the start. Only the previous day she had gone on TV to assert that the 14% fall in police numbers since 2010 was entirely coincidental, but now it had emerged that the policy wonks in her own department had come to precisely the opposite conclusion. Somehow she was going to have to try and muddle her way through.

Even on her better days, the home secretary can frequently sound if she has been dosed with large quantities of valium, her delivery a deadened monotone and her expression disengaged. This most definitely was not one of her good days. Rudd looked and sounded as if someone had increased her medication. If she couldn’t physically remove herself from the torment of the ordeal, she could at least remove herself from any of the feelings associated with the experience.

She began by reading out a list of people who had been killed in recent weeks. Names to which she couldn’t put a face as she hadn’t made the time to meet a single victim’s family. “People are asking ‘Why? Why? Why?’,” she said. “And as home secretary, I have been searching for an answer.” Though not so hard as to actually bother to read all the evidence that her researchers had made the effort to compile for her.

Rather, after highlighting some other key social issues, she chose to press on by doubling down on her insistence that there was no correlation between violent crime and police numbers. “We can’t be distracted by political tit for tat,” she mumbled. “I want to hear solutions from other parties, not just cries of ‘cuts, cuts, cuts’.” By now Rudd was so lost she was unable to make the connection that reversing cuts both to police and social care budgets might go some way to making the situation a little better.

In little more than 10 minutes – or 12 seconds for each person who had been knifed to death in London this year – the home secretary had faltered to a close. A hint of panic crossed her face as she invited questions. Inevitably, the first one was on police numbers. How come she had not read the documents, and how come there was no mention of the police in her entire 140-page strategy document?

It was like this, she said unconvincingly. She wasn’t at all sure that the document she hadn’t got round to reading had even been a Home Office document. It could have just been a rogue piece of disinformation slipped in to the department by Russian sleeper agents. Besides which, she wanted her strategy to be be informed by evidence not anecdote. At this half the audience did a double-take. They could have sworn the document she hadn’t read and they had was called “Violent Crime: Latest Evidence of its Drivers”.

Now the home secretary went for broke. There weren’t actually more crimes taking place. All that had happened was that more crimes were being reported as previously no one had ever bothered to count the bodies. So we were all actually a lot safer than we had been because we just hadn’t known how much danger we were in. And as this had all happened through a reduction in police numbers it made sense to try to abolish the police force entirely.

Rudd wisely chose not to take any more questions from the media and scuttled off as quickly as indecently possible. In the time she had been standing, the crime figures had just gone up by one. Though this had been more of a white-collar crime. A crime of gross incompetence.


John Crace

The GuardianTramp

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