UK streets ‘like The Wire’

By Liz Stephens

Some parts of the UK have such high levels of crime they now resemble gritty urban American drama ‘The Wire’, the shadow home secretary has warned.

Mr Grayling argued in his speech that the poorest parts of Britain are now interchangeable with the background of the hit TV show, which realistically portrays the struggle between police and violent drug-dealing gangs on the streets of Baltimore.

“The Wire has become a byword for urban deprivation and societal breakdown in modern America,” he said.

Feature: What does The Wire say about the Tories?

“When The Wire comes to Britain’s streets, it is the poor who suffer most. It is the poor who are the ones who have borne the brunt of the surge in violence under this government.

“Far too many of those features of what we have always seen as a US phenomenon are now to be found on the streets of Britain as well.”

Mr Grayling said that British police are fighting an “urban war” against gangs and that violence has reached epic levels in some areas.

Home secretary Alan Johnson said: “The connection between The Wire and Chris Grayling’s grasp on the problems of modern Britain is that they’re both fictional.

“The serious problems being tackled in our communities will not be diminished by his embarrassing habit of making glib references to television programmes that he thinks will make him sound ‘cool’.”

The shadow home secretary also came under fire from front-line police for ‘sensationalising’ crime in Manchester.

Detective superintendent Darren Shenton, who heads Greater Manchester Police’s Xcalibre anti-gang crime unit, told the Manchester Evening News today that he considered Mr Grayling’s use of the phrase “urban war” was a “really sensationalistic term”.

He also said gang-related shootings in the area had dropped by 82 per cent on the previous year’s figures.

The government launched a defence against Mr Grayling’s accusations earlier, pointing out that crime had fallen by 36 per cent since it came to power.

Home Office minister Alan Campbell said the government was helping areas with high crime rates: “We have initiatives to tackle crime that target funding to the areas with most need.”

He added: “Drug use has fallen since 1997.”

However, drug offences have greatly increased in many of the top 20 most deprived areas of the country.

Salford saw offences increase 312 per cent while Hackney saw a rise of 259 per cent in the last five years.

Mr Grayling said: “The politics of New Labour have failed. The progressive torch has now passed to a new generation of politicians, from the Conservative Party, who believe we can only transform our country if we break people free from the ghettos in which this government has left them.”

His speech forms the latest in a series of Tory attacks on the government’s record on tackling poverty and crime as the Conservatives seek to shore up support among working class voters by claiming the title of ‘progressive’ party.