John Harris

Journalist & Author

Britain’s bootboys may be gone, but are we really more at peace? | John Harris

Punch-ups were a routine hazard of my adolescence in the 1980s. But this pacified Britain may be less tranquil than it feels

Welcome to a new pacified utopia. "Is this the end of the age of violence?" asked the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. The next day, the Times announced the arrival of something called Generation Zero. "No drinking. No smoking. No fighting," ran their front-page trail; inside, a piece reckoned that increasing numbers of 16- to 25-year-olds "really don’t do a whole lot, or at least, not when it comes to traditional vices". What happened to such worn-out old tropes as feral youth, yob culture, and the prime minister’s own golden oldie, broken Britain?

The trigger for all this feelgood coverage was the latest report from Cardiff University’s Violence and Society Research Group, which for more than 10 years has been publishing an annual analysis of figures for injuries from violence recorded by 117 NHS emergency departments. Last year’s showed a 12% drop in the number of people treated after violent crimes. In 2011-12, the decrease was 14%. In fact, only one year since 2002 has seen an increase. "Each time, before we’ve crunched the data, I’ve thought, ‘We’re going to see a spike back up again it can’t happen again, can it?’" says Professor Jonathan Shepherd, a surgery specialist who leads the work. But the numbers keep tumbling.

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