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Has Chris Grayling got his wires crossed?

The shadow home secretary faces criticism over his comparison of Moss Side to fictional US drama The Wire

Published on August 26th 2009.


Has Chris Grayling got his wires crossed?

Shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, ruffled a few feathers yesterday in his speech about Britain's inner city gang culture.

“It's the world of the drama series The Wire – a series that tracks the nightmare of drugs, gangs and organised crime in inner city west Baltimore.”

In it, he drew comparisons between violent gang culture in Britain’s inner cities and similarly afflicted Baltimore communities depicted in US drama, The Wire. In case you're unfamiliar with the series, Confidential writer Paddy Hoey described it in his review earlier this year. It read: 'Here politicians, the media, police and community leaders all put self-interest first as people live and die on the drug corners. Characters exit and re-enter the saga, often in different series. We see people grow-up and fall victim, become rehabilitated and fall again and become brutalised by the harsh realities in the ghetto....The Wire is a twisted love ode to a city, tied up in the form of a protest song about the inequalities in modern society.'

Likening Moss Side's “urban war” to the Baltimore-based series after a visit to the suburb, Grayling said: “Over the past decade, violence in our society has become a norm and not an exception. It's the world of the drama series The Wire – a series that tracks the nightmare of drugs, gangs and organised crime in inner city west Baltimore. It's a horrendous portrayal of the collapse of civilised life and of human despair.”

Does this sound like Moss Side and other inner city areas in the UK? Leading Manchester figures don't think so.

Manchester City Council's deputy leader, councillor Jim Battle, has today added his voice to the community of Moss Side in responding to the allegations made by the shadow home secretary.

He said: “We fully support our community partners and the police in condemning these outrageous allegations against the neighbourhood of Moss Side. We recognise that the job has not been easy at times but we continue to work closely with our community partners to address the issue. Our hard work has made a significant impact on gun crime and we will continue to tackle this issue head on as a priority.”

Chief constable Peter Fahy of Greater Manchester Police said the allegations were damaging to the next generation, commenting: "I am disappointed in anything which paints a misleading picture of this great city because it makes it more difficult for the young people growing up here who have to labour under an unfair reputation. Gang activity involves a very small group of young people in a relatively very small area and we are determined to continue to reduce the impact of that activity.

"We have always been clear that there is still much to be done and we have not conquered the problem. However, I know from my conversations with American police chief colleagues that they are hugely envious and admiring of our record, and in truth our challenges are small compared to what is being faced in some of the inner cities over there. Greater Manchester Police hosts many visits from politicians, civil servants, international colleagues and others. We show our policing, warts and all. We have nothing to hide.”

Councillor Roy Walters (chairman of the Independent Advisory Group who work closely with the community of Moss Side and the police) said: “The community of Moss Side are shocked and surprised at the comments of the shadow minister. I have been a resident of Moss Side for 50 years and I can tell you that the picture painted is not one that matches the reality of the neighbourhood in which I live. We work hard with the police and partner agencies on community projects that are transforming Moss Side into a vibrant and dynamic place to live and that should be the real story that is told today.”

The Tory MP's comments on Britain's blighted gang areas is just one part of an ongoing criticism of what they are calling 'broken Britain.' Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson's TV documentary depiction of 'broken Britain' last week focused on Northern Moor and was greeted by a similar backlash from locals.

The criticism of Moss Side is part of a bigger battle between the two main political parties. The Conservatives are blaming Labour for “a steady growth in welfare ghettos” and Labour have responded by saying it's “two-faced nonsense from the Tory party. Our reforms have been reversing the damage of the Tory years.”

In the run-up to next year's general election, fixing broken Britain appears to be easier said than done, with both parties passing the blame. Do you think the shadow home secretary was wrong to liken Moss Side to The Wire?

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20 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

CasAugust 26th 2009.

I don't think there is anything underhand or sneaky about saying what the guy said. They've got the middle class votes of the southern counties pretty much sewn up. I think the most condescending viewpoint is that of Labour Councillor Roy Walters 'transforming Moss Side into a vibrant and dynamic place to live' - really? Then Labour Councillor Jim Battle 'outrageous allegations against the neighbourhood of Moss Side' - oh come on, it's a shithole. And the second to last paragraph is the best, according to Labour you can't blame them as they're only trying to reverse what the Conservatives did! YOU'VE BEEN IN OVER 10 YEARS. Finally ManCon can you make it clear when referring to these councillors which party they are from, thanks.

CasAugust 26th 2009.

Just a correction... that bit about the plastics plant is bollocks, silly me mis-read something! However doesn't change my points, the guy's a prick.

Cllr Mike AmesburyAugust 26th 2009.

Not a fan then Cas I suppose. At least we agree on one thing that most Manchester confidential readers are an intelligent bunch. Given your rather abusive and factually incorrect posting, you clearly are not one of them!

johnthebriefAugust 26th 2009.

Councillor, it's one of the rules of public office that however abusive or unreasonable the public are towards you, you don't stoop to their level or respond in kind. You've just lost my vote.

rosieAugust 26th 2009.

it's completely wrong to compare moss side to the wire.the wire has police...........

CasAugust 26th 2009.

Mike, your post is so party political it's embarassing. Firstly may I request you let us know whether you posted this, and all the other comments you put on various message boards, during time being paid to represent your community of Fallowfield? In fact I found a freakily similar post by you under another Grayling article made at 4.10 on a weekday (blogs.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/…/the_wi.html…), do the people of Fallowfield not need you so much at the moment? Secondly you bring Mr Grayling's background and circumstances into it: 'Surrey Tory boy', from his 'Epsom home', why is that relevant? Surely we are still not living in the 1970's when anyone with money or a posh accent was ridiculed by the 'working classes', his views count. To dismiss them because of his background is just the same as someone dismissing a bright kid from Moss Side because of how they sound and where they are from. Anyway Cllr, why don't you tell us about that plastics company you inherited, born into money eh? I don't believe anyone's views should be judged on where they are from, what circumstances they were born into etc, you do think it matters so full disclosure about your own advantages in life is relevant. Cllr, have you actually read what Grayling said? I could forgive many of the other posters on here for reading the headlines and the put-together quotes like above and forming an opinion, but as a Cllr surely you should have a read it. Here's a snip 'In the ensuing conflict a local gang member had been shot through the upstairs window of a house and was seriously ill in hospital.', now surely any Tory boy from Surrey is going to be put aback by that? The thing is Cllr, I'm from Lower Broughton, though not as bad as the worst of Moss Side, I've seen a lot. I know how when someone from outside criticises your area it hurts, however I'm also awake enough to know that painting over the cracks in Moss Side isn't going to help. Yes there is great work being done by many, however there is a long long way to go which Grayling was getting at. And the more the usual tribe of Cllrs waste everyone's time by trying to gain political mileage out of this, the less attention is fixed on helping those people. You bring up the usual 'Thatcher' lines and 'cutting public services'. May I suggest that when public services are cut, which they will have to be due to us re-mortgaging the country, you won't let the cold financial truth get in the way of a bit of party political lecturing? I respect the views of the residents from Moss Side on here, even if I totally disagree with what they are saying - but you and your cronies jumping on for political gainage is pathetic. Cllr, I googled you (bit sad but was annoyed) to see what your past politics said about you, apart from numerous blog, twitter, message board entries slagging off opposing parties (nearly always in 'work time'), I found the link I'm going to put at the end of this article. ManCon readers, you're an intelligent bunch, make your own minds up about what you think happened and about this Cllr. If anyone is in Fallowfield, is this the guy you want working for you? That is when he's not using your time for party political gains ... www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/…/i_salute.html…

SarahAugust 26th 2009.

Oh for goodness' sake. This is just another example of the Tories' total divorce from any kind of reality. This is the party of duck islands and us all being 'jealous' when we complain about MPs creaming off thousands to look after their 'Balmoral-like' homes. What do these people know about ANYTHING??? I've lived in Moss Side for years. Yes it's rough sometimes, but it's also got a hell of a lot going for it and some great people, and I'd certainly rather live here than amongst the spewing students of West Dids and the palpable smugness of Chorlton.

GregAugust 26th 2009.

"That he's a southerner, a bit rich and a and 'Tory' cannot make him automatically wrong" .... You can have the first two but HAVE to take issue with the Tory bit.

StaffaniAugust 26th 2009.

Sarah, if you would rather live in moss side than in chorlton etc, then you sure as hell have a lot to learn about aspirations and ambitions... I would rather live "amongst the spewing students of West Dids and the palpable smugness of Chorlton” than live in that shithole were you risk being shot/mugged/raped/burgaled everyday. Just because it isn't reported on the news all the time doesn't mean it doesn't happen, it just means it is covered up to not encourage reprisal attacks etc.... and yes, I am orginally from there and moved out as quick as I could.

lucky-chrisAugust 26th 2009.

Haha! Could you imagine an expenses scandal on the next series of The Wire? Can't wait for the next U.S. writers' strike!

Cllr Mike AmesburyAugust 26th 2009.

First it was the progressive conservative approach of "hug a huddy, then broken Britain", now the Wire and Urban warfare. The new Thatcherite assault on public services and the welfare state has started to emerge over the last few months. Talking down the NHS, schools, policing and local councils will pave the way for huge cuts in public services if Cameron wins the next General Election. State provided services will shrink while the role of the private sector will fill the void, hailed as the saviour of broken Britain. In his “getting down with the people” tour Grayling fails to mention the excellent work done by the police together with the local community to put dozens of of known thugs behind bars for a long, long time. While this Surrey Tory boy may feel that he is all hip watching episodes of the Wire from his Epsom home, to compare Moss Side with the Baltimore work of fiction is both irresponsible and dated.

JohnAugust 26th 2009.

I loathe the Tories but that doesn't mean they can't be right on certain issues and this is one of them.I've spent a lot of time in Moss Side and know full well that there is an embedded criminal culture there that deals in drugs, guns and violence. Nowhere near as bad as the portrait of Baltimore painted by The Wire but there are similarities none the less and many unpleasant trends from McDonalds to retards' television have started in the US and appeared here a few years later. There are, of course, a lot of decent people there but over the years they have been failed by Government and the police.

CasAugust 26th 2009.

You don't get points for effort and the guy was right in what he said. It is certainly not nonsense. That he's a southerner, a bit rich and a and 'Tory' cannot make him automatically wrong, that would be using the stereotyping that Moss Side residents are apparently so against being used againt themselves?! Agreed it isn't the only shithole but why you'd want to take visitors there, I don't know.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2009.

What a load of tish from another MP, seen as he is making comparisons to the hit show "The Wire" shall we? The show also illustrated corruption within political parties with fingers in variouse pies, the expenses scandel within Westmisnter has given us the proof that they are indeed up to other stuff, maybe the Shadow secretary was speaking freudently.

whatsoeverAugust 26th 2009.

And there was me telling vistors to our city at the weekend that Moss Side has been working really hard to sort itself out and that gun deaths have gone down loads in the last couple of years.And then this nonsense. Moss Side, and other inner city areas, have loads of problems but there are a lot of residents fighting tooth and nail to make them better places to live, so stop knocking them Tory Boy.

lucky-chrisAugust 26th 2009.

A shithole it may be, but c'mon... comparing it to The Wire? Please don't tell me you agree. When I was growing up, Moss Side was a place that was drilled into you as more terrifying than Elm Street. Nowadays I can happily walk (well, I don't know about "happily walking" when I'd much prefer a chauffer-driven Bentley) through Moss Side without fear of a drive-by or being offered crack or whatever. I got a drive-by wolf-whistle once, but I hardly crapped myself. Gordon Burns mentioned that there've been no fatal shootings in Moss Side in the last 18 months, compared with 180-something in Baltimore. Tells a tale. It's not such a great place, but if I saw Jimmy McNulty cruising Great Western Street, I'd be more likely to wet myself laughing than sprint for cover.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2009.

As always, it seems a lot of comments from people who just want to moan and not feedback any positivity. Moss Side is a safe as anywhere else in Britain. Crime is all around it just it when good people do nothing that criminality abounds. Moss Side is slowly improving and will take a lot longer with people putting it down and not taking any action, giving power to those who would abuse it. I grew up and spent most of my youth in Moss Side and so did my Children. I felt safer there and was never robbed until I moved to Sale (where I thought was better), I've lived in Chorlton where I was threatened and Whalley Range where I was and my father was mugged. Now I live in O.T. where my children were bullied.... all in all my best memories were when I lived in Moss Side go figure!

lucky-chrisAugust 26th 2009.

Just read that MEN article. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. What a bell-end.

JAugust 26th 2009.

Cllr Mike Amesbury - the factually incorrect bit was corrected. Anyway, I have little respect for any councillor at the moment and you have just confirmed that I'm right!

CoughyAugust 26th 2009.

Its all part of the Conservatives plan of getting the middle class voters of the southern counties to vote for them. By making it look so bad in these so called ghetto areas the middle classes no there is only really one party that knows how to deal with it!

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