Boris Johnson’s crime strategy was another pile of mud

Earlier this week a pile of mud was dumped at the west end of Oxford Street. Then some squares of grass were stuck on the mud. Then people were charged £8 to go up it. Visitor Emma Wright tweeted that going up the mud was “the worst thing I have ever done in London”. But I believe it was Dr Johnson who wrote: “A woman who thinks going up some mud is the worst thing she has ever done in London has not visited the ladies’ toilets in Crystal Palace park. And neither have I.”

The mud’s purpose is to promote Oxford Street, waar 17% of shops have closed since March 2020. But in the long term, the best way to save shops is to force Amazon to pay proper tax, so it cannot undercut them. Making people pay £8 to go up mud will not do this. Though British Amazon goods are delivered from British Amazon warehouses to British Amazon customers on British roads by British drivers, the sales of those goods are processed in lightly regulated Luxembourg. Can it be a coincidence that as the net tightens on Amazon, its founder, Jeff Bezos, is lobbying Nasa to put Amazon in charge of outer space?

What tax would Bezos pay on a transaction that was processed on the moon, byvoorbeeld, or on a planet so far away that by the time the light from it reached us the financial exchange could legitimately be viewed as having taken place in a previous tax year? Would Bezos be able to avoid international shipping charges on goods provided from a “lunar fulfilment center”? Would the same employment regulations that give human warehouse staff minimal but profit-damaging rights be applicable to staff enslaved from some as yet unknown alien race? Would an alien with no bladder require costly toilet breaks? Would an alien with no concept of time as we understand it need to be paid by the hour, if at all? Would Bezos eventually be able to rule all of space, like Thanos, Marvel Comics’ cosmic nihilist? To Jeff Thanos, some mud on Oxford Street is but mere dust. He can wish worlds away with a click of his fingers.

But the Oxford Street pile of mud did its job. It got people talking. In that respect, Boris Johnson’s Tuesday crime strategy announcement was also a pile of mud. Expect to see “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs” of offenders, the prime minister declared, the words immediately ringing my woke alarm bells. I consulted humanity’s hive mind. As I thought. Oor 65% of the Google image search results for the words “chain gang” were shackled black men, terwyl 4% were of a convict Mickey Mouse, and of some chained babies, doing time for cheese theft and milk concealment offences respectively.

Boris Johnson may of course have invoked the hot potato of race here deliberately, under instructions from his culture war guru, the former sex party fixer Dougie Smith (though it’s understood Smith may have been reined in now the government are being blamed for the football racism they actively encouraged). Was the chain gang idea announced to appeal to horrible Tory voters knowing that it would have to be quietly withdrawn later, a classic strategy of the Boris Johnson government?

In die Daily Telegraph, Britain’s worst newspaper, an unnamed spokesperson swiftly clarified that “chain gang” was just “a turn of phrase”, like “piccaninnies”, “watermelon smiles”, and “bum boys”. But one could be forgiven for thinking there were plans to shackle litter-pickers, given that the home secretary floated stashing child migrants on Ascension Island and is in the process of criminalising lifeboat volunteers if they assist drowning foreigners. If Priti Patel announced she was personally going to tar and feather shoplifters it would seem plausible.

The shoe repair millionaire James Timpson took to Twitter to say he employs lots of ex-offenders and makes them wear not shackles and luminous waistcoats but a shirt and tie – “same people, different approach, a much better outcome”. Come the revolution Timpson will be home secretary while Priti Patel will be in a booth at Oxford Circus tube station reheeling a pair of Topshop sling heels and burping.

Next we learned that a Boris Johnson crackdown on drugs will focus on London, Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and Wakefield. But surely this must include Westminster itself where, in 2019, Vice magazine found cocaine in four out of nine parliamentary nooks – toilets mainly – that could only be accessed by passholders, or their guests. That can’t all have been Michael Gove in the 1990s, or the young Boris Johnson, sneezing his way through his single ineffectual snort.

Black Lives Matter want to defund the police and invest instead in community resources to keep people out of crime. Doing the Marxists’ work for them, the Conservatives have been defunding the police generally since 2010 (officer numbers still have not recovered), and personally in 2021 by refusing them the pay rise given to other public service workers. But dumping the mud of these unworkable new law and order pronouncements has worked. A prime minister who as London mayor allowed £126,000 of public money (£11,500 of which came from a City Hall-funded agency) to go to a pole-dancing businesswoman he was having sex with, and whose ministers routinely appear to have awarded without due process contracts worth millions to cronies, continually escapes imprisonment, while petty offenders will be paraded in fluorescent jackets, like Chinese thought criminals in the Cultural Revolution.

But it’s always edifying to hear a lecture on criminal behaviour from a prime minister who, after a simple YouTube search, can be heard agreeing to conspire with a convicted fraudster to have a journalist beaten up on the understanding that he remains anonymous. Done. Nou, maybe I will go up that mud after all.

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