Monday 5 October 2009

Grayling records over Wire speech

Fraser Nelson reports on the Victoria Derbyshire show in Manchester, including that Chris Grayling was rather more of a man of the people than Phillip Hammond. But then this ....

Grayling in trouble. Edward, a student who looks like a mini Vernon, denounced Grayling for comparing Mosside in Manchester to The Wire.” It’s “snobby” he says – huge cheers from the crowd. Dogged wee Grayling fights back immediately: “did you read my speech?” “No.” “Well, I didn’t say that. “I don’t come from an inner-city area,” says Grayling – to quiet laughs from the audience, as if this were the understatement of the year. This isn’t a cross-section: they all look quite young, and most under-25s don’t vote in Britain. So Grayling shouldn’t take it too hard.

Ah. The "did you read my speech" defence in a public meeting. Very useful with the under-25 audience.

Poor Mr Grayling. Did those nasty newspapers take his Newsnight Review style discussion of popular culture entirely out of context and foist unanticipated headlines on him?

And is Grayling really now claiming that he didn't compare Moss Side in Manchester to The Wire?

He did. And he went much further than that. His absurdly hyperbolic claim was that "in many parts of British cities, The Wire has become a part of real life in this country too".

That is why he was so widely mocked, along with his apparent lack of knowledge of what he was talking about in TV terms certainly, though many felt that the shadow frontbench might study the rather Cameronesque Carcetti administration for some important lessons in the dangers of promising "more for less".

But if Grayling hasn't read his own speech, the Conservative Party website have kindly archived it.

A few weeks ago, I spent one of the most illuminating evenings that I have had since entering politics out with the specialist police team in Manchester's Moss Side that works to tackle the gang issues in the area.

Even as someone well aware of the gang problem in our society, it was a shocking and enlightening experience. What was going on there at the time was nothing short of an urban war.


An urban war taking place on the streets of one of our biggest cities.

Over the past decade violence in our society has become a norm and not an exception.


The culture of violence that was a feature of US cities a generation ago is now a feature of British cities.

The same is true of the culture of deprivation, harm, addiction and failure that is a feature of the worst US urban areas.

That world too is also following the culture of gangs and violence across the Atlantic.

It's the world of the drama series The Wire. A series that tracks the nightmare of drugs, gangs and organised crime in inner city West Baltimore.

It's a horrendous portrayal of the collapse of civilised life and of human despair.

Neighbourhoods where drug dealing and deprivation is rife.

A constant threat of robbery to fund drug dependency.

Communities dogged by violence and by violent crime.

The Wire used to be just a work of fiction for British viewers. But under this Government, in many parts of British cities, The Wire has become a part of real life in this country too.


Stuart White said...

Great post, Sunder. But is Carcetti really Cameronite? He struck me as rather Blairite....

Bob Piper said...

Stuart, do you mean you think Cameron isn't rather Blairite?

Stuart White said...

Bob: hmmm, I'm not sure. For all his faults, I think Blair did have some rock-bottom commitments around poverty or 'social inclusion' which I am not sure Cameron has. Or, if Cameron sincerely wills the same ends, I don't think he has Blair's realism about the need for concerted state action to do something about the problem. Still, my main point is that Carcetti, who is a Democrat, looks just as much like a typical New Lab politico as a New Tory one.

Sunder Katwala said...


Thanks. Its an important debate! Carcetti is interesting as a fictional politician, because he is attractive but flawed. Mostly, we have slightly unlikely paragons of virtue (Bartlet, Santos, Vinick in the West Wing; President Palmer in 24) or Nixonian crooks. He is in some ways similar to the Robert Redford politician in 'The Candidate'

Like most viewers, I would vote for him against Royce in the primary (though we don't see much of the third candidate) but he is a pretty awful Mayor, focused only on becoming Governor.

Though it is a Democratic primary, I think he is somewhat more Cameroonian than Blairite (though his personal infidelties are rather more Clintonian). In a way his candidacy could be either, but I think he campaigns and especially governs on a broadly Cameroonian agenda. (I am somewhat relying on similar distinctions to yours about Blair/Cameron above)

It is the third candidate, Anthony Gray, who runs on an education, education, education and opportunity ticket, while Carcetti goes for a harder crime and broken society agenda, and he runs on a very vague 'change' and new politics ticket.

So in many ways, the campaign dividing lines are similar to those of Boris vs Ken, though Carcetti needs more of a 'crossover' appeal into his opponent's core vote given the demogaphics of Baltimore, esp around race, and makes sue he keeps Gray viable.

He sometimes does go for a compassion and inclusion theme, for example arguing that it is the neglect of West Baltimore that has led to the Hamsterdam experiment - which seems to me q.similar to the Tory analysis. He opportunistically making a good deal of the homelessness issue to generate a state-wide profile, which is a somewhat more left-leaning issue, but again there is a good deal of 'New Boris' in much of this.