Baltimore on the Thames

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From the Swampland London bureau, Glen Levy reports that conservative pols are looking to “The Wire” (which has been off the air on this side of the pond for more than a year) for inspiration:

A never-ending battle between the police and gangs? Law and order simply impossible to maintain? And the green fields of Britain being replaced by the drug-ridden streets of Baltimore?!? That’s the new message from the U.K.’s Conservative Party shadow home secretary Chris Grayling, who in a speech today compared parts of Britain to HBO’s The Wire. The Tories (not exactly known for their love of cutting edge TV, despite the fact that leader David Cameron went to school with Dominic West, who played Detective Jimmy McNulty) have certainly made some waves with the remarks. Grayling essentially proposed that the Labour party has let down the most deprived communities, saying, “The Wire has become a byword for urban deprivation and societal breakdown in modern America. 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. The Wire used to be just a work of fiction for British viewers. But under this government, in many parts of British cities, The Wire has become a part of real life in this country too. Far too many of those features of what we have always seen as a U.S. phenomenon are now to be found on the streets of Britain as well.”

It’s all a continuing part of what the opposition — strongly favored to win power in the General Election Prime Minster Gordon Brown must call by June 2010 at the very latest — has been calling “Broken Britain” and Grayling was drawing from his recent experiences in Manchester’s Moss Side, a neighborhood often cited as being emblematic of the problems faced by the authorities. But as so often with politics, probe a little deeper and some potential inconsistencies crop up. Upon going on the BBC News channel this morning, Grayling admitted that he’s only watched some of the first season even though there were five series’ worth of creator David Simon’s quite fascinating depiction of Baltimore. And so while Grayling might have been attempting to make some salient points about crime, gangs and drugs, he’s more likely than not to be blissfully unaware of the many scenes of warmth (and even hope) as well as the fact that the show’s fourth season was partially set in a school and the final season in a newsroom.

The ultimate irony is that David Simon himself predicted this exact scenario in the first place: he’s previously gone on record as saying how wary he is of any politician using The Wire as a means to call for a change in policy.

“It is possible that a few thinking viewers, after experiencing a season or two of The Wire, might be inclined, the next time they hear some politician declaring that with more prison cells, more cops, more lawyers, and more mandatory sentences that the war on drugs is winnable, to say, aloud: “You are hopelessly full of s–t.””

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