The British Social Attitudes survey, reported in the media this week, revealed a public drift rightwards on certain issues, such as welfare and public expenditure. The truth is of course that on longer-term big issues Britain has remained remarkably conservative – despite the left/liberal cultural onslaught of the past thirty years.
Despite the elites’ unwavering support of the environmentalists’ case over the past decade, it was recently reported that a majority of people remained ‘unconvinced’ that global warming was man-made. Similarly, at the time of the Live Eight bonanza a few years ago, and despite massive sympathetic media coverage on the causes of third world famine, a poll at the time revealed that a majority of people thought that ‘bad governance’ in Africa was at the root of the problem.
On one issue there has however been a shift over the past couple of decades, at least in the sphere of public debate, which has not been commented on: the link which was automatically made between economic deprivation and crime.
It used to be taken as read. Now, it is rare to hear voices, even from the left, make the glib claim that of course, crime is down to poverty and unemployment.
Crime – especially of the violent sort - has risen sharply during a decade of huge public consumption and prosperity. People increasingly live with the kinds of anti-social behaviour which crosses economic barriers; they see a breakdown of the rules at every level. They no longer believe that a random, unprovoked knife attack in a city street is automatically the result of poverty.
It was always a colossal insult to assume that poorer people would automatically turn to crime. As if to confirm the point, it was also reported this week that the crime wave which we were told would come with the recession has, in fact, not happened.
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