Anti-social Behaviour Action Plan – Rehashed Spin? – UPDATED 3rd April 2023

In the heady days of the first New Labour government, a promise was made that anti-social behaviour would be tackled with both carrot and stick. The RESPECT Agenda was born. So were ASBOs, Parenting Orders, new data sharing initiatives and diversion routes. Those initiatives provided no real legacy because resources did not match the ambition, the law behind them was flawed, and the public didn’t support them. Now, with much fewer resources, the Sunak government is at it again. Benjamin Knight takes a look at the plans and finds them lacking. 

Benjamin Knight on Antisocial Behaviour reform

UPDATED 03/04/23: See below article for the Labour Party proposals and the problems with them.

On 27th March 2023, the Sunak government announced its Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan. It began with something fairly uncontroversial and mildly sophomoric from the Prime Minister (at time of writing): 

Strong communities are bound by a golden thread – the idea that we should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. I know that’s how the vast majority of people in this country act. So much of our happiness and pride stems from that idea and having peace of mind in the places we call home. Yet, there’s a small minority whose anti-social behaviour makes other people’s lives a misery.

The foreword goes on to summarise the three areas in which the Action Plan would improve all of our lives. Mr Sunak sermonised that:

“First, we will treat anti-social behaviour with the urgency it deserves by bringing in hotspot policing to target the worst affected areas […] before rolling out across England and Wales next year. It means we will have more police and more uniformed officers tackling the most prolific offenders. We will also introduce a new approach called Immediate Justice to make perpetrators repair the damage they have done. They will be forced to pick up litter, wash police cars or clean up graffiti within as little as 48 hours of being caught. And to restore public trust we will launch a new digital tool for people to report anti-social behaviour and take a tougher approach in holding the police and other agencies to account.

Second, we will take a zero-tolerance approach – including cracking down on the illegal drugs that blight communities. We are going to ban nitrous oxide and expand the use of drug testing on arrest. We will broaden not just the types of drugs that police test for, but also the situations where tests are used to include anti-social behaviour and violence against women and girls. In addition, we will make it easier to evict tenants who are persistently disrespectful and disruptive to their neighbours, and we will bring in new tools to help those on the streets into proper support and care, and to prevent intimidation and loitering.

Third, we will give the police and other agencies the tools they need to act and restore pride in our communities. We will increase the amount for on-the-spot fines for litter, graffiti and fly-tipping and seek to increase their use. Councils will be given new funding to restore local parks and greater powers to revive their high streets by bringing empty shops back into use. And we will provide more help for young people to find positive ways to focus their energies, including one million extra hours of youth support in hotspot areas.

Depending upon your political views, this may seem like music to your ears, empty promises, or a veiled threat of draconian action without due process or protection from abuse.

It may be all of the above in various measures because, despite the perpetual encouragement for us to pick a team and cheer for it no matter what it is doing, there is usually nuance to be found in the details. 

Let me preface this analysis with a disclaimer of sorts: the “Action Plan” is presently lacking detail. The full announcement contains some rather selective (and rather unscientific) data and we must remember that it is being released in the run-up to the May 2023 local elections. Those elections are about local issues. Political plans about local issues (like ASB) are usually woolly, no matter which party is announcing them. 

 

The headline problems with the Action Plan 

I will get into details on a few of the obvious legal problems that arise from the announcement and the Plan itself. I have sought to categorise the themes, however. 

Ambiguity and vagueness in defining ‘anti-social behaviour’: The plan does not provide a clear definition of anti-social behaviour, which may result in inconsistent enforcement and potential abuse of power. Different interpretations of anti-social behaviour may lead to unjust and arbitrary punishment. It was very clear during Charlie Falconer’s time as Lord Chancellor that, by way of an example, the use of his new ‘Parenting Orders’ was a postcode lottery. It became clear that poorer families and non-caucasian families were significantly less likely to have such an order imposed upon them by the Youth Courts than was the case for more affluent, caucasian families – for the same types of offending. 

ASBOs were a mess from top-to-bottom as most lawyers will recall but there was also a concern that they were also used disproportionately, unlawfully, inconsistently, and bizarrely at times. Indeed, even those thirsty for retribution on some imagined ‘yob generation’ did not like ASBOs because certain newspapers claimed they had become a ‘badge of honour’ for some.

The term “anti-social behaviour” is already defined in existing law, of course. Firstly, it is within the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (as amended):

(a) conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person,

(b) conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises, or

(c) conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person.

Secondly, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 provided that:

[…]‘anti-social behaviour’ means behaviour by a person which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more other persons not of the same household as the person.

It is difficult to imagine how the definition could be further broadened by new legislation. The 2011 (David Cameron) definition appears ‘softer’ than that of the Blair-era, which may cause you to remember the so-called ‘Hug-A-Hoodie’ jibes from those to Cameron’s right and left. 

What is clear from other recent legislation (see: restrictions on right to protest) is that the present tendency of the Legislature is to borrow from the language of the easily-riled because it makes good PR. “Annoyance” may cover that already but I wouldn’t be surprised to see an even weaker term such as, “irritation” find its way into new legislation. 

In any event, without a very clear definition of the term as it is meant in the Action Plan, almost all of its content is rendered a little meaningless as an outline for criminal legislation. 

Hi-viz and the potential violation of human rights:

Making perpetrators wear jumpsuits or high-vis vests while performing reparative work may be seen as a violation of their dignity and privacy. This public shaming could be seen as a violation of human rights and may not be an effective deterrent to anti-social behaviour.

Well, I say that… In reality, this is not a new idea. One need not dig too far into history to see that hi-viz jackets (the modern stocks or dunce-cap?) have been used many times. 

Let’s go back to Johnson’s time as PM. In 2021, Johnson proposed exactly the same thing in his “Beating Crime Plan”. He went so far as to call their use, “…a kind and loving thing to do”. Mind you, he also called for “chain gangs” in the same announcement. And that plan wasn’t new either. In 2008, when running for Mayor of London, he made precisely the same proposal. His plans were never enacted because the statistics showed that the Stop-and-Search powers were already encouraging profiling and victimisation of young black males and the plan was likely to increase mistrust in the police as well as perpetuate the ethnicity-based myths about criminality. 

Despite the concerns, in 2021, Priti Patel (Home Secretary for a little while, if you can recall) doubled-down on Johnson’s plan. She said, ‘[…] we are relaunching unpaid work so it is more visible, to ensure offenders are publicly making reparations for their crimes by undertaking work that is valuable to their local areas, such as cleaning the streets, estates, alleyways and open spaces of litter and other visible signs of disorder in local neighbourhoods.‘  Except that never came to pass. 

Obviously, other political parties criticised the raft of proposals as being rehashes of old ideas that didn’t work. But what may have surprised many was the take-down of the additional powers and ‘gimmicks’ by the then-Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales. Just after the organisation declared it had no confidence in Patel, the Chair sent a letter to No.10 saying that, ‘Police officers are sick of gimmicks. Sick of underfunding. Sick of mixed messaging putting police at risk. Sick of Government contempt for police. It’s time for a total reset.‘ They were not calling for new powers or demonstrative retribution initiatives. They were calling for proper funding, better working conditions, and reversal of the cuts of around 20,000 police officers under the same government. 

New Labour (as they then were) went further than just talking about it, though. In 2008, Jack Straw made an identical announcement. And 10,000 bright orange bibs were ordered and deployed. You may have seen this before (see above from the pen of Priti Patel) but Straw pontificated that, “…the purpose of having these high-visibility jackets is, above all, to strengthen the confidence of the public in community punishments because too few of the public believe at the moment these are effective and are other than a soft option.

However, even as Straw announced the ‘vests of shame’, there were countless professionals within the criminal justice system explaining why it was a bad idea. 

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, told the BBC’s Today programme: “Wearing the so-called vests of shame introduces unnecessary risk” and that there were already instances where offenders doing community service had been targeted by rival gangs for attacks,and in two cases offenders had been shot. This was considered suboptimal by his officers and for those who were out working in bibs with gang members but who were not gang members themselves. It seems that the latter two groups did not like the idea of being literally caught in the cross-fire. 

The Chair of the Probation Chiefs Association at the time raised another issue. He told the BBC that he had concerns about reprisal attacks and said children could be bullied if their parents were readily identifiable in a small community because of the new scheme. 

He added that, “There is also the risk of the loss of valued local community schemes in rural areas because it will not be possible to run separate groups for 16 and 17 year olds. These would be required if offenders aged 17 are to wear HVVs.

The BBC spoke to some youths about the plans and found out that the Probation Service had “...been using yellow ones already, anyway” and that he didn’t see what difference their being orange would make. Out of the mouths of young offenders…

I suppose there may be some who think that the Probation Service (NOMS) and police chiefs were being too soft. It may interest such people to know that, before we had all “had enough of experts”, many studies had been done into the use of hi-viz jackets in community payback work (as well as other “shaming” methods) and efficacy in crime reduction. 

The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice (in 2009) published the spoiler-titled paper, ‘A Retrograde Step: The Potential Impact of High Visibility Uniforms Within Youth Justice Reparation’. 

Using a very different methodology, Alon Harel and Alon Klement (2005) reached the conclusion that increasing the use of “shaming penalties” seemed to lead to lower-than-expected sanction for offenders. Being conservative in their findings, they provided in the abstract that, “…the inverse relation between the rate of shaming penalties and their effectiveness is later used to show that increasing the probability of detection, increasing the magnitude of shaming penalties or reducing the number of wrongful acquittals does not necessarily increase the deterrent effects of shaming penalties (and may, in fact, decrease these effects).” – THE ECONOMICS OF SHAME: WHY MORE SHAMING MAY DETER LESS

One may think that the announcement of shaming penalties by a government rather on the ropes is a play to their core voters and little more. Even if you don’t think that, the reality is that it is already used informally in England and Wales, that it is not considered effective in reducing crime, and that most people do not really notice these Day-Glo® ne’er do wells on their roadsides in any event. Also, they are probably indistinguishable from the employees of contractors. 

Privacy concerns with the digital tool:

The proposed digital tool for reporting anti-social behaviour may raise privacy concerns, as citizens’ personal information could be at risk of being exposed or misused. 

The UK does not have a great record of managing data. Since 2007, there have been more than 28 serious incidents of civil servants and government departments losing, misappropriating, selling, distributing, deleting and otherwise mishandling private information about members of the public (and even government staff). Those are just the ones that caused enough of a media storm to result in press coverage. 

Then there are the UK Government IT project fiascos. It’s a very long list. Track and Trace might be the most obvious to a reader in early 2023 but there have been literally billions of pounds of taxpayers money written-off in just a couple of decades as a result of gimmicky, badly planned, utterly unsuitable, leaky IT projects. There is a sense of mistrust from the public because of fears of misappropriation of health/wealth data (because of the continued slide towards an NHS sold to the highest bidder). The UK performs exceptionally poorly on failed IT compared to state projects in all the G7 and across Europe. You get the idea. 

Perhaps the most worrying thing about the UK’s history with sensitive data is that there never seem to be consequences for those who mess-up and nobody can enumerate the consequences for those whose data is lost/stolen etc. A shiny new app feels like a potentially dangerous distraction. 

Overcriminalization and disproportionate punishment:

Banning substances like nitrous oxide and introducing harsher punishments for anti-social behaviour could lead to overcriminalization, with individuals receiving disproportionately severe penalties for relatively minor offences.

This is another recycled policy of Ms Patel’s. In 2021, she asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to review the harm caused by nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, after over half a million young people reported taking the drug in 2019-20. The result was that long-term use of N2O could lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. In very rare and severe cases, that may cause neurological changes. These are less significant harms than for other controlled drugs and far less common risks than are associated with alcohol use in the same age group. In short, you may not think that the recreational use of N2O is not a high priority for any government. 

Even before 2021,because it is classed as a psychoactive substance,producing, supplying and importing/exporting of N2O (as well as possessing it in a prison) is illegal where the offender “…knows, or is reckless as to whether, the psychoactive substance is likely to be consumed by some other person for its psychoactive effects.” (Emphasis added) 

It is fair to say that N2O does pose some legal problems under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 because the Act contains exemptions for things like alcohol, tobacco, medicines etc. and N2O does have a legitimate use in foodstuffs. Specifically, it is used as the propellant in whipped cream dispensers. It is also a medical product (in labour wards and such). In August 2017, two prosecutions were unsuccessful because of the exemptions in the legislation. The two unconnected prosecutions were met with defence expert evidence which, on the facts, resulted in findings that the N2O in question fell into an exemption under the Act. The Government said at the time that it had no plans to change the legislation and that it was for the courts to determine the facts of any individual case. 

In the same year, the Court of Appeal provided a pretty definitive view on the question of N2O’s exemption status and all but closed the door to those seeking to run a similar defence. The ruling in R v Chapman & Others [2017] EWCA Crim 1743 negated the need for further legislation unless the Government now intends to make N2O completely illegal in the UK. This would be impractical, undesirable, and disproportionate to the stated intent in the Action Plan. Moreover, it would potentially criminalise something like 8% of 16-24 year olds according to recent statistics on recreational usage. One may think that vapes, cigarettes, and alcohol would be a better target if the concern was health. 

The additional problem with the Government’s announcement is that the announcement seemed to centre around the littering caused by “ballooning” N2O. There is a reasonable chance that you will have seen the little silver cartridges in which N2O is sold. You may have seen a few of the bigger canisters, perhaps. They are certainly not rare in cities but they are vastly less ubiquitous than cigarette butts, beer bottles, drinks cans, broken/disposable vapes and the like. So, if the Government’s main reason for wanting to get tough on the sale of N2O is littering, the banning of those other products/containers would be more justified than this move.

In context, the effects of doing what has been announced are far removed from the stated intention for the legislation. When could be justified, no doubt. If that is all that is planned, the law already includes powers to do just that. 

Because some are worried about the disturbance caused by those using N2O in public and dropping the associated litter, local authorities (e.g.; Middlesbrough and Tower Hamlets) have stepped up their efforts to discourage its use. They have powers to do so by making a public space protection order (PSPO). In order to do so they must show that the persistent use of psychoactive substances is causing a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality.” That is not a high threshold to meet, one might think. 

Those who break a PSPO can be issued a ‘fixed penalty notice’ fining them up to £100. Clearly, members of the current Government are familiar with FPNs. Those two local authorities have not yet made PSPOs because the test has not been met, in their assessment. Scarborough, Lambeth and Tower Hamlets have already both made PSPOs banning the consumption of nitrous oxide in public places.  In nearly 3 years, Tower Hamlets has issued warnings about N2O on around 50 occasions but only confiscated N2O on around 20 occasions. 

The problem may not be that significant, however, because there is almost no publicly-available data on the scale of enforcement nationally. 

In any event, the law to do what the present government has announced already exists. 

Impact on vulnerable populations:

The plan’s approach to tackling begging and vagrancy may disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, such as the homeless and those suffering from addiction or mental health issues. Criminalising these behaviours without addressing the underlying causes may further marginalise these individuals. 

I am not a housing lawyer or an immigration lawyer – but I have some experience of both and have seen the consequences of governments getting both wrong. I čome into contact with many homeless people and people made homeless by failings in the criminal justice, immigration and welfare systems. I have read what the likes of Shelter  and Homeless Link have to say about this aspect of the Action Plan and note this: the powers being discussed almost all exist already. The 2003 Act (see above) dealt extensively with the consequences of anti-social behaviour within the context of social housing and rented properties. Housing for asylum-seekers and other non-regularised immigrants is a national disgrace. The press are still somehow getting away with leading people to think that there are palaces given to all. It is against that backdrop that we must assess the new proposals. 

The proposal to deprioritise previous anti-social behaviour offenders for social housing may result in unfair treatment and perpetuate cycles of poverty and crime. Instead of focusing on punitive measures, the Government should consider addressing the root causes of anti-social behaviour and providing support and rehabilitation. Sadly, as with the New Labour approach in 2003, the causes of anti-social behaviour are expensive to fix and gain no political capital from core electorates of either main party. Mental health assistance, poverty, debt, and disenfranchisement have all been linked to anti-social behaviour over the past few decades and, in 2023, we appear to be at a record low ebb in all of these. There is less free-at-point-of-access mental health provision than in 2003. There is a bigger poverty gap now than in 2003. Personal debt is higher amongst lower socioeconomic groups than in 2003. The run of political scandals, inquiries, and the barrier of photo ID to fix a non-existent voter fraud “problem” have resulted in remarkable levels of disenfranchisement. 

The plan heavily focuses on punitive measures to address anti-social behaviour, with less emphasis on prevention and addressing the root causes. A more balanced approach that includes investments in education, mental health services, and community support could be more effective in preventing anti-social behaviour in the long run. 

The headline feature of Michael Gove’s (yes, he’s still around) plan on housing is to give landlords the power to evict within two weeks. Whether this will survive into actual legislation is doubtful to most lawyers. The 2003 legislation contained some pretty draconian powers to terminate assured tenancies. And yet, the removal of due process is felt to be a sure vote-winner to the incumbent government. Time will tell.

It is interesting that the Daily Mail was the only newspaper to make clear that it wasn’t noise, partying, and drug-use that could see people out on their ear. The Daily Mail pointed out that the legislation also allows landlords the same two weeks eviction option if a tenant falls behind on their rent. That is at a time when over 20% of households are behind on a ‘must-pay’ bill such as mortgage, rent, utility. Moreover, the pressure of this fast-track to homelessness will fall heavily on the courts who are to be told to expedite any appeals so as not to delay landlords taking vacant possession. The courts are unlikely to be able to cope with the suggested timetable when the courts can barely cope with the work already before them. 

Overall, if this type of legislation was more harmful than helpful when New Labour did it in 2003, doing it again in 2023 may be a recipe for more severe problems – quite apart from it being unnecessary/unrealistic in law. 

Effectiveness of on-the-spot fines:

I mention this only in passing because it is included in the Action Plan. There has yet to be a study that suggests that increasing fines acts as a deterrent to criminal activity. In the USA, studies seem to have concluded that fines are associated with higher rates of re-offending than other forms of sentencing. In the UK, the Sentencing Council’s most recent study shows cautions as having the lowest reoffending rate and fines as the third lowest (after SSOs with no requirements). The SC goes on to say that the figures it used are not statistically sound when it comes to outcomes and no conclusions should be drawn from them. 

Accordingly, increasing the upper limits of on-the-spot fines may not necessarily lead to a reduction in anti-social behaviour. Higher fines could disproportionately impact lower-income individuals, while wealthier individuals may not be deterred by the fines. Additionally, the effectiveness of these fines depends on consistent enforcement, which may be difficult to achieve.

Fines need to be paid if they are to be meaningful. When they are not, there are warrants for non-payment. Those are discharged by payment or a short spell in the court cells. Not a great deal is achieved except the poor getting poorer and fewer cells usable for Operation Safeguard (see previous article on the prison crisis). 

Overburdening law enforcement and other agencies:

The plan’s reliance on increased policing and enforcement may overburden law enforcement agencies and divert resources from other essential tasks. This could also lead to an adversarial relationship between the police and communities, which may not be conducive to reducing anti-social behaviour.

On a more practical point, police forces around England and Wales suffered a loss of approximately 20,000 officers since the start of David Cameron’s premiership. The recruitment currently being undertaken has a target (missed so far) of 20,000 ‘more’ officers. In other words, replacing those lost in those cuts. Sadly the cuts caused a huge loss of experienced officers. The replacement recruitment would appear to be weighted towards ‘cheaper’ civilian staff (such as PCSOs, Specials, private sub-contractors) and some forces are losing more experienced staff as they do not feel able to continue working with these new recruits. 

In addition to this staffing problem, there is the long-overdue lifting of the lid on the criminal allegations against swathes of officers around the jurisdiction. That includes over 80 officers in GMP. The Met is a number that seems to be growing by the week. This cannot be helping capacity or public consent to policing in those areas. 

Efficacy of hotspot policing:

While the plan promotes hotspot policing, research on its effectiveness in reducing anti-social behaviour and crime is mixed. This approach may not address the root causes of such behaviour and could potentially displace the problem to other areas. This is especially the case in relation to crime that works through so-called Organised Crime Groups and ‘county-lines’ operations but exclusions in city centre areas has been shown to move the offending into other urban areas – see Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens and Chinatown for an example. 

Conclusion

In summary, the Government’s Action Plan is like so many criminal reform announcements in that it is as much about spin as it is about crime. It is, on this occasion, a rewording of many previous identical schemes. Most of what is announced already exists in law but is not utilised either because of resources or because there is no statistically significant problem requiring it. 

As always, the bulk of the problems identified could be fixed for the long-term with proper resourcing, evidence-led social support measures, and improved access to health services. As ever, those things don’t win votes in a short space of time and don’t tend to go well with the UK’s tabloid press. 

UPDATE 3rd April 2023

You can tell that we are heading toward a round of local elections. Just days after the flawed and intellectually-dishonest proposals above, the shadow Home-Secretary has spoken about the Labour policies by way of a reply to the above.

Sadly, you couldn’t make it up: just as soon as I (and many others, I am sure) wrote about the New Labour “Respect Agenda” and the problems it caused, Yvette Cooper revives the language of that policy set in an apparent bid to out-flannel the “toughness” of the Tories’ plans.

They have announced a series of proposals, including increasing neighbourhood policing, introducing new “respect orders” giving the police more power to punish adults who breach antisocial behaviour injunctions, and giving victims a say in how offenders are punished.

According to Yvette Cooper, Labour is concerned about the rise in antisocial behaviour in recent years, and believes that the government has not done enough to address the problem. They argue that their plans will help to make communities safer and more secure. However, others have criticised the plans, arguing that they are too tough and will not be effective in addressing the root causes of antisocial behaviour.

Here are some more details on Labour’s plans to tackle anti-social behaviour:

Increase neighbourhood policing: Labour would increase the number of neighbourhood police officers by 13,000. They believe that this would help to improve the visibility of the police and make communities feel safer.

  • Introduce new “respect orders”: Labour would introduce new “respect orders” giving the police more power to punish adults who breach antisocial behaviour injunctions. These orders could include curfews, exclusion zones, and community service.
  • Give victims a say in how offenders are punished: Labour would give victims a say in how offenders are punished. They believe that this would help to ensure that offenders are held accountable for their actions and that victims feel that they have been listened to.
  • Labour has also said that they would work with local authorities to develop new strategies to tackle antisocial behaviour. These strategies would focus on prevention, early intervention, and enforcement. Labour believes that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to tackle antisocial behaviour effectively.

It is important to note that these are just proposals at this stage. If Labour were to be elected, they would need to develop these plans further and implement them. It is also important to note that there is no guarantee that these plans would be successful. However, Labour believes that they are necessary to tackle the problem of antisocial behaviour.

The obvious problems with the (don’t call it the Respect) Agenda is that there’s nothing new here, on the face of it. There is already a mechanism known as the ‘community trigger’, which allows repeat victims of antisocial behaviour to request a case review. It was used less than once a day across the country, according to 2021 data released to the BBC’s Panorama. The government conceded last week that “94% of people surveyed had never heard of the tool” and rebranded it the antisocial behaviour case review. So, here we have a perfect example of what I describe above: a power that exists but is not used, and which would be a potentially useful tool in addressing anti-social behaviour. But it requires resources in the form of police officers and administrative staff.

With this latest election puff-piece, Labour are trying to appear “tough on law and order” by pitching themselves against a Tory party that already gave new, wide-ranging but non-heuristic powers to “tackle” ASB.

The reality is that the causes of ASB are not simple. They are tied to socio-economics, fragmented communities, and a near collapse of the CJS. Adding more people to the queue of the CJS is arguably going to make matters worse within communities because actions will not be seen as having consequences. Public disorder offences took an average of 275 days to complete post-charge in crown courts at the end of 2022 – more than 50% longer than three years ago, Criminal Bar Association (CBA) analysis shows.

Returning to the Respect Agenda and ASBOs is madness. It put hundreds of children into the CJS and did nothing to rehabilitate. It was not an effective deterrent and did nothing to improve communities. And the courts are teetering on collapse already, so would not have capacity to deal with the consequences, even if the 13,000 additional police officers promised by Labour could even be recruited (and trained properly) within the space of a term or two of a Labour government.

Mind you, by way of a demonstration that the current government will not engage at a policy level – and is only interested in dishonest, dog-whistling, and childish clap-backs, this was the Home Office response to the Labour electioneering: “Keir Starmer and scores of Labour MPs would rather campaign to keep dangerous foreign criminals, including rapists, murderers and violent offenders, in the UK rather than remove them to Jamaica.

To quote a certain Welsh character in the sublime W1A, “I don’t want to be negative or anything, but it won’t work.” And neither will dishonest scraps of red meat by way of a reply from an actual, real-life government department.

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