We live in strange times. What the storm over the remarks by Ken Clarke have shown is just how many on his own side of the political debate want to knife him in the back.
In today’s papers it appears that Ed Miliband and the Labour leadership has signed an unholy alliance with the Daily Mail and others in the right wing press. While the more left/liberal leading publications appear to be the only ones backing him. Not for his form of words yesterday, but rather there is something else going on.
The right and the core support for the Tory party do not like the way the new law and order reforms are going. They don’t want to “educate” or give out “community sentencing”, they want to “hang and flog” and “lock them up and throw away the key”.
15 years ago if someone would have told me that the Labour party would be seen as more tough on crime than the Tories I would have laughed. If someone would have said that labour would have a more right wing criminal justice policy than the Tories I would have had pains in my stomach laughing. These however, are the times we live in.
Blairism has done something strange to labour, it has stripped away the liberal veneer and has made it ok to scare people over security, national defence and crime. 90 days detention; identity cards, and the ever increasing prison population is labour’s right wing policy, that is ever moving further in that direction.
The Ken Clarke debacle shows who his friends are, or rather who they are not. David Cameron is rumoured not to particularly like the policy but is using the deficit to justify all that the government does. The core vote of the Tory party does not like it, Labour does not like it and the over whelming press that politicians court everyday don’t like it.
In their minds, the cutting of public services is fine; reducing pensions and devouring the NHS is fine; but giving people shorter sentencing or educating the criminal classes; cutting the Police force and reducing prison places is certainly not.
It is ironic that David Cameron, WITH the support of the Liberal Democrats is destroying the Tories own core support by attacking the areas that traditionally they always defend.
Theresa May got a rough reception at the Police Federation conference yesterday and now the right rather than the left wants to oust Ken Clarke, who would be a Europhile scalp.
What this puts into focus is the actual policy of the government on the criminal justice system and law and order.
There is no doubt in my mind that there will be fewer Police on the streets or in any capacity fighting crime in 3 years time than there are now. Efficiency savings can only account for a small number on the savings scale. To go to 20% cuts will cut services.
People ignorantly talk about cutting administration and back room staff. Back room staff that has been employed because they do a job that has to be done and can be employed for LESS and will cost less to be trained. Take away a substantial number of these people and all that happens is that Police Officers have to do their job. Ironically this turns an EFFICIENT SERVICE into an inefficient one.
With prisons, Ken Clarke on the one hand wishes to introduce a more effective criminal justice system, and most other than at the fringes agree this is a good thing. The problem arises when he brings in the arbitrary numbers to justify policy decisions.
First he cuts 3000 prison places, not on the basis that they are not needed but because it will save money. Then he wishes to bring in bigger cuts in sentencing for guilty pleas. Criminals already get a third off their sentence for this and then only serve around half their sentence anyway. Is there rhyme or reason, other than money, why we should go further down this road?
The language used by Ken Clarke yesterday, has brought into focus, not just his lack of understanding over the technicalities of the crime of rape, but also details of a proposed policy that neither the government or the public really want.