Magazine article The Spectator

Mr Blair and the Mysterious Affair of Crime and Crony

Magazine article The Spectator

Mr Blair and the Mysterious Affair of Crime and Crony

Article excerpt

Blair has made it known that, in view of our criminals' persistence in committing crimes, he intends to set Lord Birt on them for one day a week. I am sorry it has come to this, but the criminals have been asking for it for some time. Now they will have a taste of the management theory and practice which Lord Birt, as Mr John Birt, deployed when BBC director-general.

The press has rightly greeted Lord Birt's new task by describing him as Birtman. Holy Consultancies! Or is that not Superman, but Batman? Not having watched or listened to much of the Birt-Dyke BBC, apart from the news and the Proms, I am not well up on dumbing down. But if Lord Birt really is the Gaped crusader - and if the Gaped crusader is Batman rather than Superman - the criminal class can as yet have little idea what committees, focus groups, mission statements, and day-long conferences in Home Counties hotels are going to be brought to bear against them. Our criminals can expect many a memo drafted by the appropriate executive task force appointed by Lord Birt: `The practice of certain Yardies killing one another in north London is to be discontinued. Under our revised autumn scheduling, Yardie murders must be confined to south London. This is in no sense ghettoisation. Our most recent studies show that more Yardies live in south London than in north London, though a fact-finding visit to the Caribbean by a sub-committee of qualified cronies, headed up by Lord Birt, ascertained that a larger percentage of the Yardie community lives in Jamaica than in either north or south London with the result that more murders by, and of, Yardies take place in the West Indies than in London as a whole, which is grounds for satisfaction, though not for complacency.'

It may work. A well-known public figure devoting a whole day every week to fighting crime! No one has ever tried that before. We should wish Lord Birt well. But if most of us had to choose the sort of figure to fight crime one day a week, we would not choose someone like Lord Birt, but someone like Lord Tebbit, Lady Thatcher or Attila the Hun. Lord Birt has no known views about crime. But it is fair to assume that they veer towards the liberal. We did not associate the BBC, during his custodianship, with the alternative. People who run parts of the media do not always agree with what their organisation disseminates. But had Lord Birt felt strongly enough that the BBC's attitude to crime was wrong, it is reasonable to suppose that he would have done something about it. Yet, instead of zero tolerance, Lord Birt is associated with zero intolerance of the criminal disposition.

This is not to assume that all liberal theories about crime are wrong. It is, however, fair to assume that the Prime Minister, with a general election looming, does not want his one-day-a-week crime fighter to spend that day being all liberal about it. But Birt as crimebuster? More likely crime as Birtbuster. And are there not already those who are supposed to spend even more of their time busting crime? They are called chief constables. There is also the Home Secretary. What will Lord Birt do that they are not doing already?

Mr Blair's reasons for this appointment are therefore a mystery - a crime ministry. Perhaps there will be a surprise ending. If I knew, I would naturally spoil it by giving it away. But I do not. Lord Birt's is, then, Mr Blair's strangest appointment so far; The Mysterious Affair of Crime and Crony, as Agatha Christie would have called it. `Something in the Prime Minister's past made him make the appointment,' her tale would have begun. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.