I don't know where to start with this. 'Respect Squad to troubleshoot inaction on Anti-Social Behaviour' screams Home Office press release. If you go to the HO website, it says: 'Home Secretary hits the streets for Respect.' More here. All of a sudden I've run out of derision.
The Home Secretary has marshalled ten experienced professionals to form the 'Squad,' 'a team of troubleshooters who can be called in to help local agencies tackle anti-social behaviour incidents causing misery to local communities up and down the country.' Someone pointed out to me that a few members of the team do not yet have MBEs, but that is presumably just a matter of timing. Once they've been issued with regulation hoodies and spray cans so they can mark their territory, the Squad will respond to specific calls by forming, wait for it, a 'Mission Squad.'
'The mission squad will be assigned to make contact with those on the receiving end of the anti-social behaviour and with the local agencies that have a role in finding solutions. They will make an assessment, based on the facts of the case as can be established, of the strengths and weaknesses of the action being taken and any planned future interventions by local agencies, and make recommendations back to the Chair of the local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership.'
Residents, meanwhile, are entitled to ask why their difficulties are not swept up routinely by municipal responsibilities. Are there not sufficient powers and resources available to authorities to deal with problems that arise, without the need for this ministerial attention-seeking?
As far as I can tell this is not a spoof. Has this government lost it completely? The respect agenda is desperately partial, clumsy and heavy-handed. It totally ignores the main features of disrespect in our society, such as the system of individual consumption, heavily endorsed by other parts of government; and the widespread phenomenon of civic absence whereby residents find themselves living on estates that have been abandoned by housing agencies, health services, environmental services and police. That's systematised, legitimised disrespect. And instead of recognising this and addressing it, we get military mentalities producing a relentless stream of belligerence against individuals and families who have been failed by those around them.
Here's another clue to the underlying arrogance of the approach. The sub-heading for the HO press release says: 'New squad has no respect for persistent anti-social behaviour.' So it's now overtly acknowledged, as if with pride. The government is not at all embarrassed to be using devices that are not respectful, in order to promote respect.