Fictional Crime Drama: Chris Grayling's warped view of Moss Side

Article published: Thursday, August 27th 2009

Epsom in Surrey, an affluent commuter town on the chalk downs of Surrey that Location, Location, Location named the ‘Best place to Live in the UK’ in 2005. It’s just the kind of place you might expect to find a man like Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary. Grayling is an Oxbridge graduate, and before becoming MP for this Tory stronghold, was a high flier in the media and management consultancy.

Moss SideIt’s very far removed from Moss Side, a small, culturally rich but economically hard-done-by part of inner-city Manchester. Grayling this week compared Moss Side to the ultra-violent US crime drama The Wire, claiming that the conditions on the streets are ‘nothing short of urban war.’

Moss Side has had serious problems with gang violence in the past, and still does today, but ‘urban war’? Anyone living in the area will get a strong whiff of bullshit at that statement. How did he get that idea? For starters, the closest people like Grayling get to a place like Moss Side is through their TV set, so it’s not surprising he’s swallowed the ‘gunchester’ sensationalism.

Things become clearer when you find out that Graylings sole experience of the area comes from an evening tour with Greater Manchester Police’s finest. They know that this time next year, he’ll be Home Secretary, and he’ll be setting their budget. Scaring him into thinking world war three is raging on the streets is more likely to get them extra cash for all the tasers, surveillance cameras and (millions of) stop and search slips that are the necessities of 21st century policing.

Grayling is of course also doing what politicians do so well over and again: desperately trying to sound cool, and making a terrible mess of it. But there’s a little more going on here.

There’s a rich conservative tradition (which Labour uphold) of presenting the problems faced by places like Moss Side as a matter of ‘law and order’. For them, the inherent savagery of the underclass is to blame for our supposedly ‘broken society’, which can only be cured by stricter, and better armed police. It appeals to ‘lock em up and throw away the key’ middle-Englanders twitching their curtains in quiet suburbs, but does nothing to stop the problem. As The Wire shows, US cops may have tonnes more guns and regularly brutalise the people they ‘protect and serve’, but it does nothing to actually prevent young people turning to gangs.

The best way to combat gun crime and gangs in the short term is going to be through community led initiatives, not yet more heavy handed policing – any victim of police violence and discrimination will know this can be as much of a problem on the streets as the gangs themselves. Good examples of the way forward are the community groups Carisma and Mothers Against Violence, both of which have been achieving great things in the area.

In the long term, the real problem in places like Moss Side, is the effect of gaping social and economic inequalities – if young people are poor, and don’t have opportunities to improve their lot, why be surprised that some turn to drugs and gangs? This is the root cause nobody dares talk about. Under Labour, the gap between rich and poor has been growing, and under the Tories it will almost certainly grow more.

In fact, Grayling thinks that attempts to redistribute wealth are the problem, for him the ‘benefits culture’ is “the biggest problem at the core of our broken society, and…has engendered a culture of irresponsibility in many parts of the country.” Someone should let him know that there were less gangs and guns when the welfare state was at its most generous decades ago, before Thatcher started hacking it to bits.

If Grayling had spent any real time in Moss Side, he would know that for all its problems it’s a vibrant, friendly and creative community. And what problems it does have, won’t be solved by harsher policing.

More: National, Opinion, Policing


  1. Some more interesting stuff here on Spiked!

    Comment by andyl on August 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm
  2. Great article Mulers.

    As well as MAV and Carisma, I’d like to add Hideaway Youth Project to that list of proactive community organisations in Moss Side.

    As someone who has lived and worked for years on a low income it makes me sick to hear the likes of Grayling talking about ‘benefits culture’ being the biggest problem in Britain. The inequality at the heart of Britain’s ‘bonus culture’ is, in my opinion, the real problem.

    Comment by tomato on August 27, 2009 at 2:46 pm
  3. […] See the rest here: Fictional Crime Drama: Chris Grayling's warped view of Moss Side … […]

    Pingback by Fictional Crime Drama: Chris Grayling's warped view of Moss Side … « All In One Blog Information on August 27, 2009 at 7:06 pm
  4. It’s a bit strange Grayling making these comments – he obviously hasn’t watched or understood The Wire.

    The writers are taking shots at the police and politicians in Baltimore – and the political class and socio-economic reality – as much as, if not more than, the drug dealers and gangs.

    City leaders are lining their own pockets, worrying how to get elected or how other powerful players in Baltimore might react to their policies. Meanwhile, the police are too busy making pointless arrests, beating up kids and trying to make rank for anyone to do any thinking.

    Grayling not only looks in from the outside, worse still he looks at the problem through the eyes of the police!

    Comment by Stringer-Bell on August 27, 2009 at 8:32 pm
  5. There’s an idea, politicians actually spending time with the people of the country they run.

    Will the idea catch on. Hmmmm…

    Nice article andyl. To the point. To be fair to Grayling though, he has got his head up his arse and all he can smell is teh shit up there.

    Comment by trackday on September 6, 2009 at 8:13 pm
  6. […] on MULE Andy Bowman responded to Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling’s misguided comments about Moss Side, while Siobhan McGuirk and Andy Bowman previewed the Tory conference in Manchester. […]

    Pingback by Conservatives 2.0  —   MULE on February 19, 2010 at 5:55 pm

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