The growth of laws, surveillance and policing across British society can be linked back to changes under the Conservative governments of the 1970s and 1980s. However, despite some `authoritarian' developments at this time, it was not until Margaret Thatcher's demise, that there was a quantitative and qualitative shift in governing towards a form of `governing through crime'. Many of these developments have been associated with the rise of a right wing, or neo-liberal dynamic in society. However, this article argues that the obsession with crime, antisocial behaviour and the regulation of everyday life did not emerge as part of an aggressive form of neo-liberalism. Rather than their being an energetic politics behind these developments, it is more accurate to see the growth in law and the more direct regulation of society as a consequence of the collapse of politics on both the left and the right. Rather than competing for the conflicting political subject in society, the role of politicians now became to act as advocates for a diminished subject — the crime victim and the vulnerable public. Crime expanded as a field of governance due both to the political elite's sense of diminished capacity and control over society, and with the construction of a more fragile subject that needed ever more protections.