The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Can I have my England back, please'

Is Britain becoming the most violent country in the world or even in Europe' Of course not.

But the impression that Britain is a “broken society” was strengthened by a speech made in Lancashire last week by David Cameron, the Tory leader, who said: “Two weekends ago, not far from here, a young couple were viciously attacked in a skate park, leaving both unconscious. Last weekend a man was stabbed to death here, and a 16-year-old was murdered, also with a knife, down the road. These terrible events are part of a national trend — a crisis of order on Britain’s streets. A dead father, Gary Newlove, who went outside to confront a gang of youths, ended up bleeding to death on his doorstep. Seventeen dead children in London this year alone.”

He went on: “In the last 10 years violent crime has doubled. Knife crime — mostly robberies committed at knife point — has doubled in the last two years.”

The country Cameron described could not be more different from the idyllic England depicted in the picture books my mother used to teach me English words in her kitchen all those years ago in India: “Vomit and broken glass in the town centres, graffiti and litter and urine in the stairways of blocks of flats, fly-tipping in country lanes, aggression and foul language on the train and the bus, general disrespect, all the little acts of aggression and ugliness that people have to put up with in the course of a day.”

Cameron wanted to tackle “social and family breakdown in Britain” by stressing the need for “cultural changes”: “We need to make men realise that having children is an 18-year commitment — not a one-night stand.”

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to the England of my childhood imagination of “a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils” and of that mythical land where no schoolboy ever left a gap between bat and pad.

Is Cameron stringing together a few high profile cases in order to embarrass the Labour government ahead of a general election or is he painting an honest portrait of contemporary Britain'

Last week, before I threw away an untidy pile of newspapers, I picked out admittedly a random selection of recent crime stories:

27 years for rap DJ who shot rival dead in club (The Evening Standard; July 12)

A man who shot dead a rival rap DJ in a crowded London nightclub has been sentenced to life and told he must serve at least 27 years. Sean Samuels, 27, was convicted yesterday of murdering 18-year-old Sharif Zaiden in the Egg Club.

Armed gang holds Atomic Kitten singer in £200,000 raid (The Daily Telegraph; July 17)

An armed gang threatened to kill the former Atomic Kitten singer Kerry Katona as she tried to protect her daughter during a raid at their Cheshire home.

Vandalism by girl yobs costing bus firms £10 m (The Evening Standard; July 18)

Transport for London has released images of teenage girls and young women caught on bus cameras attempting arson, breaking seats, writing graffiti and breaking windows.

Shop attacked 200 times in 10 years (The Daily Telegraph; July 18)

A corner shop run by an Asian couple has been attacked 200 times in the past decade by thieves and robbers using guns, knives and CS spray. Leaders of the organisation representing small businesses believe the experiences of Suresh Kumar and his wife, Sebah, are typical of shop owners.

Boy, 16, shot dead by teen bicycle gang: Assassins claim latest victim of London’s gun culture (London Lite; July 26)

A 16-year-old boy has been shot dead in south London today after being chased by a gang on bicycles. He is the 17th teenager to be killed in the capital this year, with five of the deaths involving guns.

Boxer dies after shooting at club (The Times; July 28)

The former champion heavyweight boxer James Oyebola has died in a London hospital. Mr Oyebola, 47, suffered severe head injuries when he was shot in the early hours of Monday after asking three men at a West End London bar to stop smoking.

Ten years for girl, 17, in viaduct murder (The Daily Telegraph, July 31):

Sarah Bullock, 17, was jailed for 10 years yesterday for the sadistic murder of Steven Hoskins, 39. Hoskins, who had learning difficulties, was tortured and drugged by a gang who had abused him for months — but it was Bullock who forced him to dangle from railings at the viaduct, then stamped on his fingers until he plunged 100ft to his death. Bullock’s boyfriend, Darren Stewart, 30, was jailed for life.

Cannabis addicts ‘as young as six’ (The Daily Telegraph; Aug 1)

Children as young as six have been treated for addiction, drugs experts said yesterday.

Father died playing cricket with son ‘after gang pelted them with stones’ (The Daily Telegraph; Aug 1)

A man collapsed and died as he played cricket with his son after they were pelted with stones in a “pointless and random attack”, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday. Five youths, aged between 12 and 14, are among the youngest defendants to appear before the court.

Idi Amin’s son jailed for Camden gang killing (The Evening Standard; Aug 3):

A son of former Uganda dictator Idi Amin has been jailed for five years at the Old Bailey after his gang stabbed a student 17 times in 30 seconds outside a tube station. Faisal Wangita was part of a 40-strong mob armed with knives, hammers, bottles and scaffolding poles on the rampage.

Girl, 15, charged with murder (The Daily Telegraph; Aug 8)

A 15-year-old girl was charged last night with murdering young mother Samantha Madgin who died after she was stabbed in a back lane soon after an argument between two groups of people last Thursday in Wallsend, North Tyneside.

Biker on M40 killed by shot to back of the head at close range (The Evening Standard; Aug 14)

A biker from south-east London killed on the M40 died from a single shot to the head. Gerard Tobin, 35, of Mottingham, was executed while riding in the middle lane of the busy motorway in Warwickshire as he returned home from a motorcycle festival on Sunday.

Father left in coma for tackling underage drinkers (Daily Mail; Aug 18)

A young father was left in a coma after being savagely beaten by a gang of teenagers for refusing to buy alcohol for their underage friends.

Schoolboy, 11, dies after shooting in pub car park by ‘hoodie on a BMX’ (Daily Mail; Aug 24)

A schoolboy of 11 was gunned down by another youth in a pub car park as Britain’s growing gang culture claimed another victim last night. The youngster (later named as Rhys Jones) was on his way home from a football match with friends when he was attacked. Witnesses claimed he was shot in the head by another boy, possibly as young as 12, who was wearing a hooded top and riding a BMX bicycle, after a ‘turf war’ erupted between rival gangs in the Croxteth district of Liverpool. His body was found slumped in a pool of blood.

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