May Brought Statistics to a Knife Fight

Armed and dangerous they roam the dingy streets of London at night, drink fuelled and deadly, with nothing less than murderous intent. Increasingly they are the talk of Britain: in newspaper headlines their threats are made with malice, this is an outbreak, a veritable epidemic, some have said, a wave, little less than a plague. Yes, Theresa May’s Cabinet presents a knife crime threat like no other London gang, and as Jeremy Corbyn tried and failed to slam the PM to rights over law and order it was her own front bench that sat sharpening their weapons. As the pair traded barbs over crime numbers – recorded or otherwise –  it was the unknown, secret statistic that increasingly played on the Prime Minister’s mind. The precise number of letters of no confidence in Graham Brady’s safe… 

Theresa May, embattled as she is, cannot afford to cede ground on crime to Jeremy Bernard Corbyn. Crime, for God’s sake, Crime: the Garden of Eden in the landscape of Tory policy, in the name of sweet Jesus above do not let her lose the argument on crime. Her voice trembling like a probationer cop making his first arrest, it looked as if she might – until Jezza once again helpfully mugged himself off. As he fluffed his lines, the Labour leader demonstrated his grasp of the fundamentals of justice policy like a two-year-old on the way back from nursery:

“Let me be clear – crime is, of course, wrong.”

A silliness, perhaps, yet another throwaway mumble from the geriatric to be thrown on the smouldering waste dump that is his Hansard entry. But it is worth remembering that Mr Corbyn himself, little less than 24 hours earlier, was on TV proudly confessing to committing criminal damage in Parliament. Along with fellow reprobate Tony Benn, in the dead of night, he recounted how he had contrived to sneak into the Palace of Westminster’s chapel and erect an unapproved plaque to a suffragette. He smuggled an electric drill into the Parliamentary Estate and hammered the thing into its ancient walls with abandon. A mere footnote in the Special Branch file…

But as the exchange drew to a close, the judgement was certain: Theresa May’s verbal assault on crime would barely pass the prosecution threshold for a breach of the peace. When the PM needs to step up and deliver the full, traditional British GBH, the archetypal bruising outside the boozer, she shrinks from the task and lets Jezza slip away unscathed, allowing him to play both thug and victim. She was stronger when she turned the exchange to the economy and quoted another “run on the pound” gaffe from the loons advising John McDonnell, yet the Prime Minister brought a rolled-up stats report to a knife fight when she should have taken a gun. Like an amateur bank robber with a banana in her pocket instead of a pistol, the PM threatened more than she fired, and Jeremy Corbyn, the real criminal, again escaped justice. This hoped for duel-to-the-death once more became… just another Wednesday. 




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