Wednesday 30 June 2010

English Tories adopt SNP policy

Kenneth Clarke the English Justice Secretary will set himself on a collision course with traditional Conservatives today by raising the prospect of thousands fewer criminals being sent to jail. Reports the Times.

In his first major speech since returning to government, the Justice Secretary will say that short-term sentences are ineffectual warehousing at best and often turn petty crooks into serious offenders.

“Many a man has gone into prison without a drug problem and come out drug-dependent,” Mr Clarke will say at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in King’s College London. His speech will be a devastating criticism of the “prison works” policy first proclaimed by Michael Howard, then the Home Secretary, in 1993. The speech has caused nervousness in No 10, which is concerned that it marks a dramatic shift in recent Tory party policy on law and order. David Cameron was special adviser to Mr Howard when he first advocated the policy.

The Ministry of Justice is seeking to find huge savings in its £9.6 billion annual budget. Mr Clarke will argue that Britain cannot afford to build more jails and should use the economic crisis to reform the criminal justice system.

Here is that usual lack of coherence between what goes on in England and what goes on in Scotland. No doubt the above mantra will sound familiar as it is something that the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacKaskill has been advocating for years. In Scotland the Tories jumped up and down at the very thought of not locking up minor malfeasants, as I think did the Lib Dems the current monkey to the Tory organ grinder in England. Do the Tories north and south bother to confer? Or don’t they care that they lack any semblance of coherence? No wonder a north/south divorce is on the cards. I’m sure that the Tory policy north was as a result of Tory attitudes south and now the south change tack without bothering to concern themselves with the north.

To be fair of course it seems that English Tories are not likely to be all that happy at the thought of drug addicts and the mentally ill being free to walk the streets of Tonbridge Wells. All the more so in light of Theresa May’s telling them all yesterday that 25% savings will have to be made in policing.

So is this a case of social democracy winning through? Are the Lib Dems finally going to act as a brake on the worst excesses of Toryism, at last? No sadly not they are just going to keep cranking that organ handle despite their support collapsing round them. The real crux of the matter is that keeping people in jail is expensive, and Clarke is right, putting people in prison for trivial offences creates a whole bunch of hardened recidivists and balloons minor social problems into major aspects of the broke Britain. Oh and of course once free these people become the unemployable underclass (or the lazy and idle depending on how you look at it) that spend the rest of their lives extorting dole out of the outraged of Royal Lemington Spa.

I have said that in order to make these people do something they don’t want to do (i.e. work where available) you will need a massive stick, no amount of carrots will do the job. But that is a subject for another post.


  1. Unfortunately these day your criminal record is open to most employers(who dont then give you a chance) so going to prison doesn't make a lot of difference to future employment....

  2. There was rather a good debate on FiveLive about this this morning Munguin. A magistrate spoke the most sense.

  3. This policy by the scummy Torys is all about saving a few Bob which is fine and dandy.
    But if you want to help people keep on the straight and narrow you will probably in the short term(Till they stop nicking things) have to increase spending.

    Frankly Ken Clarke as Justice Secretary is just one big joke W.T.F does he know about law and order

  4. Good post Munguin. Ken Clarke was interviewed by John Humphries and was his usual good humoured easy going self. He must be the only politician in the country, maybe apart from Alex Salmond, who doesn't get in the least phased by an interview with Humphries.

    So Liberalism is coming from the coalition, but it's from Ken Clarke, a Tory.

    Subrosa, can you maybe let us know what was on the Five Live interview... briefly, and what the magistrate (is that a sort of unpaid judge?) said?

    Niko. I'd say Mr Clarke has just demonstrated that he knows a good deal about law and order... more than that nob that was Lord Chancellor in the last administration at any rate. The man of Straw was a real old Tory if ever there was one. In any case I'm not sure if criminal records checks are that bad an idea. After all I don't want to inflict a rapist on my female staff, or a murderer on any of my staff, unless I can be certain that they are well and truly reformed, and frankly your party's policy of locking people up was expensive and did not give that assurance.

    Likewise the policy followed by your government gave no reparation and had the highest rate of recidivism in Europe.

  5. Mr MixedPickle: maybe the Tories will reverse that in the interests of small government and less libertarianism, after all we all are at liberty to break the law aren’t we? And anyway laws are just somebody else’s big government aren’t they?

  6. Sorry I missed it S/R I will go and look on line. Thanks.

  7. Mr MixedPickle: that last post should read more libertarianism not less. Who would have believed it social democracy by the back door in the interests of saving money. Of course you are right rehabilitation will cost big money so we wont get that aspect of it. Just more criminals on the streets and less police. I imagine most Tories will be heading for gated communities where you only get the best class of criminals usually members of the house of lords, those that can remember where they live.

  8. I do think that this is overhyped. I went to prison for refusing to pay a parking ticket and I have only murdered 37 people since I came out. They were all Scottish MPs so no one will miss them.

    The patio at the back of my house is getting bigger and bigger though!

  9. Never mind Billy you can have a royal garden party on your huge patio. Now that we are all in this together the royals will doubtless be down-sizing their £800,000pa party budget.

  10. LOL @ Billy.... Don't ;et the police into your back garden then. Nothing worse than a big fat constable standing on your patio and it subsiding for lack of solid foundations....

    And pay yer parking tickets in future....

  11. Don't worry Tris...two policemen under the patio now.

    It was a bugger burying their transit though!

  12. Billy, you have obviously become adept at the burial thing.... you might think about a career with the local undertaker if "all in this together" means you lose your job!!

  13. Munguin.

    It is a well known fact that prison is not the answer for everyone who has committed a crime yet we continually send people to prison and as you have highlighted, they often come out far more hardened than when they went in.

    The Tories are like Labour when it comes to North South polices. London Labour were supportive of a minimum price for drink but Iain Grey rubbished it. The same is now happening with the Tories over prisons.

    All it shows is that the Scottish splinter groups of Labour and the Tories are just out to play politics for opposition sake.

  14. Allan: That's what angers me about teh London Parties... they play politics in Scotland. It's not what's good for Scotland, but whats good for them.

    Time to be rid of political parties that are poles apart north (no pun intended with last post).

  15. Tris

    Ha ha poles apart indeed!!

    It is so frustrating when one party is addressing real issues like alcohol abuse and the state of our prisons and the ineffectiveness they have in rehabilitating offenders yet and especially that Iain Grey one MSPs just brush it aside.

    People think by chucking someone into a cell for a few weeks or months will end in roses and everything will be okay. It doesn't work like that and proper resources should be in place in the community to help turn people in the right direction.

    Of course we do need prisons and such disgusting people like pedophiles and rapists should be banged up for good.

  16. Yep Allan. Can't disagree with a word of that.

    Maybe if we cleared out the prison population of silly laddies banged up for daft wee crimes there would be space, and money, for the proper criminals to be banged up.... forever.

    The right wing nonsense of "prison works regardless" maybe wouldn't have been nearly as popular with the Tory party faithful if they had been aware of just how much it was costing each of us in tax to put these miscreants away for 2 months.

    Every time I hear any of these arguments put forward by these people it makes my blood boil for the sheer ignorance of what they are saying.

    When Labour was protesting at Kenny letting people out 2 weeks early on short sentences when there had been perfect behaviour, what the hell were they on about? Was two weeks going to make any difference? Were they any more likely to re offend because their sentence had been cut by 14 days?

    And the irony of it was that their boss in London was doing the same thing, and the Tories were shouting at him...

    Sheesh guys, this is serious business, not some crap for you to barter your next 2 or 5 years of salalry and expenses over. We have to live with it.

  17. Deterence does not work regarding sentences less than 6 months. I realise that I do not speak for grass roots tories, but it is time to face reality.

    1993, Mr Howard may have captured public mood with the prison works stuff; but statistics more than a decade on paints a new story.

    60% of short term sentences result in reoffending, for the same or similar offense. This would suggest that deterence and the "short sharp shock" theory isn't as decisive as Labour, and Tory governments of old would have had us believe since 1993.

    Yet I'd caution both coalition and SNP. While I agree with a presumption against short term sentences [of either less than 6 or 3 months - I also do not want politicians telling our judges and lords of justice how to run their profession.

    Judges must be able to judge each case on its independent merits. Government decree's about 'presumptions against', or outright bans on certain forms of prison sentencing seems to undermine this. Therefore I am reluctant to fully embrace Ken Clarke and the SNP moves, though I agree in principal with what they want to achieve in terms of law and order outcomes.

  18. Dean: Ken seemed to think there were only a few that wouldn't see sense... after all most of them can probably work out that if you try something for twenty years and it fails dismally in its job, it ain't fit for purpose...

    If it also becomes clear to them that we could send about 120,000 children to Eton for the amount it costs us to house these lads, that might copncentrate the minds of the doubters.

    As Ken said, since he was home secretary in the 80s the prison population in England and Wales has doubled +.... and is the biggest per cap in Western Europe, thanks at least in part to these policies. It's time to do something.