Frank Field has been Birkenhead's MP since 1979. He was, for the first year of Blair's Administration, the Minister for Welfare Reform in Harriet Harman's DSS. Harman and Field didn't get on very well, and both were anyway sacked after 15 months. Not being a minister has given the former Young Conservative more time for writing. His 24th book is Neighbours from Hell: The Politics of Behaviour (Politico's, £8.99). As its subtitle suggests, it isn't a spin-off from the television programme of the same name, but a tract on anti-social behaviour, its supposed causes and a proposed solution. The problem was first brought to Field's attention a few years ago, when a group of pensioners came to his surgery at Birkenhead Town Hall to report 'young lads who ran across their bungalow roofs, peed through their letterboxes, jumped out of the shadows as they returned home at night, and, when they were watching television, tried to break their sitting-room windows'. It's an unpleasant tale. Field tells others like it, and worse: teenagers throwing slates at passers-by from the roof of an abandoned pub; an ambulance station being vandalised. There's a petition in my local off-licence in North London asking the police to do something about the prostitutes and crack dealers on a nearby estate. Accounts of their activities can be found in recent editions of the Highbury & Islington Express, alongside stories about 'youths' who regularly gather in a street in Finsbury to 'smoke, drink, ride mopeds and generally make life a misery for the people living there', vandalising cars, robbing houses and threatening residents with crowbars.
LRB 25 September 2003 | PDF Download