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Election candidates' promises are just criminal

By Nick Ross

Published 02/05/2015

Nick Ross is a former presenter of BBC's Crimewatch
Nick Ross is a former presenter of BBC's Crimewatch

Never in living memory has an election been so hard to call with so many voters unsure what to do. But the politicians still don't get it.

Promises, pledges are mere weasel words

Rarely before has politics itself, rather than parties or party leaders, been subject to so much scepticism. Every last-minute bribe seems more desperate than the last.

This time, the electorate seems to sense that the populism is shallow. Spin doctors seem to think that they can make things up as they go along.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies has torn apart their facile pledges on tax and spending, and now Sense About Science has shown how threadbare their policies are when it comes to crime.

Its analysis shows there is virtually no evidence to support anything that any of the candidates is pledging when it comes to crime reduction. It's a world of make-believe, of evidence-free fantasy, where assertion passes for fact and slogans pass for policy.

Whether it's putting more officers on the beat, deporting foreign criminals, believing in rehabilitation schemes, being tougher with longer prison terms or having more sentences in the community, there's remarkably little scientific evidence that what's being proposed will do what it says on the tin.

The reality is that politicians have had virtually no significant influence on rates of crime. For all the huffing and puffing, crime rates have followed strikingly similar trajectories in all industrialised countries around the world. If crime policy is a litmus test of political sophistication, then, sadly, the Russell Brands have got it right.

Politics seems to live in a pre-internet past, where there's an assumption that we believe what our putative leaders tell us.

Politics is too important to be drowned in cynicism, but if crime policy is anything to go by then cynicism may be the proper and proportionate response. Politics is shamed by its ignorance, its cherry-picking of facts to suit ideology, and of its desperate need for headline-seeking initiatives.

We deserve better. We deserve an evidence-based approach to public policy - just as we should expect it from medicine, or anything else that really matters.

Never mind what candidates say, or even what they honestly believe: where's the evidence?

Nick Ross is a former presenter of BBC's Crimewatch

Belfast Telegraph

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