Government minister Jack Straw insisted this morning that gun crime was not out of control. When pressed on the shooting of an eleven year old in Liverpool, Straw countered by saying that, in general, crime rates were reducing in the United Kingdom.
Straw said, "In my own constituency of Blackburn, burglaries are down from the twenties or thirties a week under the Conservatives to just two or three a week under Labour. That's still two or three too many but it represents real progress."
He continued, "Look, the press always focus on the bad news. Instead of Liverpool, why not look at other areas of the country? Take South Petherton in Somerset. Nobody has ever been shot in that village so how can you say gun crime is out of control?"
When challenged with the need to reduce bureaucracy to get more bobbies out on the beat, Straw said, "We have just introduced a new ten page survey on bureaucracy to be completed every day by every policeman for the next five years to monitor just how much paperwork they have to complete. After that we should have a much clearer picture."
He added, "Look, bobbies on the beat isn't necessarily the answer. There was only one crime reported in South Petherton last week, the theft of a bicycle, and that was later found in the bush where the forgetful owner had parked it. There isn't one single village bobby, so what does that tell you? Maybe we should reduce the number of police on the streets to reduce the level of crime."
When asked about the yob culture in Britain, Straw responded by saying, "In 1996 there was a fourteen year old yob terrorising the village of South Petherton and where is he now? Holding down a perfectly responsible job in W H Smiths in Yeovil. That's thanks to Labour coming to power."
When pressed on gun crime, Straw countered. "I'll go back to my example of South Petherton if I may? Nobody in the village carries a gun. Why? Well, perhaps if you're not afraid of being arrested, you don't need to carry a gun. Perhaps it is the fear of arrest that forces criminals to carry guns."
When asked again about inner city violence, Straw hit back by saying, "If you don't like it, move. Who wants to live in Nottingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Lambeth anyway? There are lots of places in Britain where guns are never fired, not just South Petherton. And if you want to live in a city, why not move to Islington? Our former prime minister Tony Blair lived there for years without once being shot."
He continued, "This whole inner city violence thing is being grossly exaggerated anyway. Do you know, in 1996 there were almost as many murders in British cities as in Baghdad. Now, in 2007, there is a fraction of the number of violent deaths on Britain's streets as there are in Baghdad. That is directly down to this government's policies!"