The decision to focus on chicken-shop customers for this iteration of #knifefree met with fierce criticism.
A Home Office press release on 14 August announced the rollout of chicken boxes featuring anti-knife-crime messages to more than 210 outlets, including those owned by Morley’s, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken.
The choice of outlet led to accusations of racism from, among others, MPs David Lammy and Diane Abbott, internet star Elijah Quashie (AKA The Chicken Connoisseur), and many PR professionals. Negative media coverage ensured.
Above all, this was a failure of messaging.
The chicken-box idea originated from Morley's, which was involved in a Home Office-funded trial in March. There was little or no criticism then. The perception was of a business trying a novel idea in its own premises to help address a horrific problem in its London heartland.
But the Home Office release suggested a 'top-down' initiative from an out-of-touch elite resorting to crude racial stereotypes and using a gimmick. Its muted responses to the criticism has left the department on the back foot.
The frustrating part is #knifefree is a wide-ranging, long-running initiative featuring several elements.
Commentators may see the chicken-shop campaign as the first high-profile failure of Priti Patel as Home Secretary. Much more importantly, it risks alienating many who could help address one of the most pressing law and disorder issues of today.
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