Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: When is a hate crime not a hate crime?

What the papers say: When is a hate crime not a hate crime?
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Amber Rudd’s speech on foreign workers at the Tory party conference has been reported to police as a hate crime. The Oxford professor who made the complaint said he took issue with what he described as the Home Secretary's discrimination against workers from overseas. The Home Office has hit back, saying the (now scrapped) suggestion that firms might be asked to say how many overseas staff they employ was not a hate crime. But the way in which police must deal with reports like this mean that if someone reports an incident as a hate crime, police are obliged to record it as such. And the row has provoked an angry reaction in the newspaper editorials this morning:

The Daily Telegraph says this incident should teach Amber Rudd a lesson. In the aftermath of the referendum, a spike in hate crimes was said by the Home Secretary to be proof that the way police were recording such figures was working. ‘But those who live by the sword risk dying by it,’ says the Daily Telegraph. The paper points out that even if the complain against Rudd is obviously ‘vexatious’ there’s a wider argument here. For the Telegraph, this is an issue which delves into ‘the tyranny of elite liberal thinking which labels anything that contradicts political correctness as wicked and wrong’. It’s true that police are no longer investigating this matter. Yet even the incident’s appearance in crime stats should hopefully make Rudd take a closer look at the way crimes are monitored. After all, ‘If something is not a crime then why is data on it being gathered', asks the paper.

The Sun agrees wholeheartedly and says its time for the Home Secretary to take a look at a ‘politically correct’ policy which ‘blew up in her face’. Of course a reduction in hate crimes is a good thing, the paper says in its editorial. Yet the definition of a hate crime - that someone, somewhere thought the incident in question was ‘based on prejudice about race, religion or gender’ - is troubling. Yes, it’s true that some unpleasant elements have used Brexit as an excuse for racism. But this episode shows the idea of a huge hate crime spike is almost certainly nonsense. The ‘next time you hear that “hate incidents” are soaring, remember how meaningless their woolly definition has made them’, the Sun concludes.

For the Daily Mail it’s obvious: it’s not a hate crime to talk about migration. The paper describes Rudd’s Tory party conference speech as ‘innocuous’ and says the ‘only controversy’ at the time was caused by Labour politicians who ‘seized’ on one policy put forward by the Home Secretary: that firms say how many foreign workers they employ. Instead, the Mail bemoans, this ‘incident’ will now be recorded as a hate crime. So what can we learn from this matter? The Mail says one solution would be to ‘now tear up these rules, and tackle the political correctness which has warped the police's priorities’. After all, with so many crimes now going unsolved each year, haven’t the police got better things to do, asks the Mail.