Peter Hoskin

Man on wire

Man on wire
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It's a fairly quiet day in Westminster, so Chris Grayling's comparison between Britain and the gangland ghettos portrayed in The Wire is probably getting more attention than it would normally - after all, it's not like the Tories haven't majored on the "Broken Britain" theme before now.  But, even so, I think he may have erred in mentioning the acclaimed US TV series.  While superb, it is, don't forget, the show that the chattering classes love to chatter about.  So, now, much of the coverage is about the TV programme rather than the problems Grayling is highlighting.  As Paul Waugh points out over at his indispensable blog, Grayling's appearance on the Beeb this morning reduced to questions about how many episodes the shadow Home Secretary has actually seen:

"Interviewer: Have you really seen any more than that first episode?

Grayling: Yes I’ve seen a number of ... I’ve seen most of the first series. I have seen a number of the other episodes yes. I have."

But even when the coverage isn't specifically about the shows, it dwells on statistics which highlight just how bad things are in Baltimore - where The Wire is set - rather than in Britain.  As the Guardian puts it:

"In real-life Baltimore, Maryland state – described sometimes as 'Bodymore, Murderland' – there were 234 murders in 2008, the fewest in 20 years.

The murder rate in the city is still far higher than, say, Greater Manchester, where there were 49 murders in the 12 months leading up to March 2008."

Again detracting from Grayling's central point, and leaving him open - rightly or wrongly - to charges of sensationalism.

Worst of all, though, is the contrast between this and Grayling's last major public appearance.  Now, Britain is The Wire.  Then, the Big Idea for dealing with "young troublemakers" was to confiscate their mobile phone sim cards.  Sure, the Tories have other crime policies.  But I imagine quite a few members of the public will be left thinking: huh?