Friday, February 26, 2010

Heretical Politicians

In those short moments when HP's lift their snout from the teat of the public purse, just to take a quick breath, they could turn their attention to the pertinent substance of their existence -political ideas, policies, that sort of thing.

They could, but they don't. Well, not often. But for the venal and power-hungry, the prospect of losing it all has the effect of raising their gaze from the gutters to the stars. With a startling speed, the political class begins to wobble a little in sight of a General Election, particularly one where the nation stares bankruptcy in the face.

Ideas begin to sprout in odd, un-policed, corners of their brain. Some of these even see the light of day, even if they are later muffled in platitudes and assurances of continuity of thought.

Alan Duncan, the Shadow Home Secretary, has spoken the bleeding obvious. In denouncing that the bare policy of 'prison works' is political thought worthy of a primary school attendee, he has broken faith with his party’s policy of the last 15 years. Not since Douglas Kurd declared that 'prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse' has a significant Tory given the appearance of doing anything more cerebral than echo the Daily Mail leader.

Duncan's foray into the wilderness of truth has been swiftly echoed by John Redwood. Hardly a softy in the nest of Conservatism, Redwood suggests that non-violent offenders could be more properly dealt with without the necessity of high walls, bars and a huge bill to the taxpayer.

As with Hurd, these are likely to be brief intrusions into the normal course of events, though none the less remarkable for their brief existence. It demonstrates that, in times of crisis, politicians are capable of abandoning the chase for the adulation of the mob and actually attempting to think and to lead. With some gentle encouragement, this may even become a habit.

The prospect of election victory is obviously a marvellous fertiliser for policy. However, the central force behind these latest offerings is far more likely to be financial. The nation is broke and the arms race of promises to bang up ever increasing numbers of people is suddenly unaffordable.

Should we care whether the abandonment of stagnant political thought is driven by the lust for power, financial crisis or genuine belief? The latter would be nice, but I am a realist in these things. The prospect of strategic shifts in criminal justice thinking is welcome, no matter what the impetus. Cameron can take advice from the Goblins in his flowerbeds for all I care. If it leads to change, then there is potential for positive change and this must be grabbed firmly, nurtured with hope, and let us all cross our fingers - the party most strongly wedded to imprisonment may be the one that abandons it the fastest.


  1. Prison reform would be really good to see, if the change is for the better for all, however I really dread the Tories under Cameron getting elected, because of what they are threatening to do and would do to public services if they got in.

    Cameron and his ilk don't need public services, they have their private schools and clubs, but they do need the population with its workers to make the world turn and cream off the exploits. At the end of the day, what we do and campaign for can make a real difference. I can see the irony in what you are saying about the Tory party and prison reform; goes to show how shallow and greedy they are.

    The Tories would probably have slightly less chance of being elected if the prison population were allowed to vote; prisoners should be enfranchised anyway, Good luck to Ben and co in their campaign.

  2. It might be politically easier for the Conservatives to change prison policy and punitive policy.

  3. Sophie J

    Political naivity and ignorance is not relevant to the post. Remember, whatever the results of the election our bloated public sector must be reduced; there is no choice. If you are pro-Labour then your own voting choice is to blame for impoverishing the country to require sudden reduction in government spending.

    The necessity of broad public services is a myth; we need very few services from central government (one of which is law and order, and well-designed sentencing and prison reform would make that cheaper), and a handful more from local government. The only reason we need government to pay for anything else is that we are taxed into poverty, as a deliberate policy of our socialist masters.

    However this has little to do with prison reform.

  4. OK Doubting Richard, please excuse my dumb naivety and ignorance for a minute and consider whether it is possible to live on just a monetary wage?

    Surely we have and need to continue with and in my view expand our social wage too (schools, hospitals, care services etc) all things that the tories are intending to cut.

    Oh and I am more of an old Labour type anyway fyi, it is quite funny to hear of the likes of Gordon Brown his predecessor being described as socialist, that surely is a hell of a stretch of the imagination.

    There is nothing wrong with going OT, everyone does it, but the title of this post is about politicians anyway, OK? (you haughty snob!)

  5. There is no evidence that the Conservatives are going to cut any of those things; I would say that you made it up, but actually you are just parroting that violent, ignorant, boorish partisan Brown.

    I have not said that education should not be paid for in many cases by government, or that healthcare costs should not in some cases, be supported and even occasionally wholly met by government. However that does not make them public services. The government should have no role in running them, except to monitor the honesty and availability of information, and basically honest operation. People should have the freedom to choose their own healthcare and education arrangements.

    Brown is a socialist. He believes in taking people's hard-earned money and giving it to people he thinks deserving, and people he thinks will then vote for him. That is what socialists have always done. He believes that government is always the answer, even when government is the problem. That is what socialists have always believed.

    I am no snob, as far from it as you can imagine, that is why I give people credit that they can run their lives without the government to coddle them. I am not haughty. It is haughty to think that your naive utopian ideas will save people, that you and your socialist buddies should really be responsible for people, rather than giving them the liberty to run their own lives. Why is it that socialists so often project their own flaws onto their opponents in debate?

  6. Actually there is evidence that not only will the conservatives cut services but unfortunately so might new labour, unless there is resistance to them.

    Yes, and you may wonder about socialists Doubting Richard, but equally, I wonder why it is that Tories gits like you are such greedy, uncaring, money loving shit bags.

  7. sorry, that should read 'money worshiping shit bags'

  8. If there is evidence then why do you just assert it, not refer directly to that evidence.

    The greedy uncaring, money-worshipping Tory is a myth. They have exactly the same number of greedy, uncaring people as any similarly-sized group. In fact socialists are far greedier, as they want other people's money, Conservatives just want to keep their own which is at least fair. Socialists don't want to have to provide anything of value in exchange for that money, they want to take it by force.

    Not that I am a Conservative; you should realise from what I have said, much of which is not their policy, that I am a libertarian. I believe the government should be beholden to the people, not the other way round, and that the people should be allowed responsibility for their own choices, and the government should not try to make such choices without very good reason.

    I believe that when anyone takes choices for other people they are absolutely responsible for a good outcome in terms defined by the person denied choice. That is why the NHS is so terrible, not because it produces awful service (which it does) but because I am forced to pay for it, yet those forcing me take no responsibility for ensuring it fits my needs, which it does not. So I pay for something I am not allowed to use.

    That is where this circles back to be relevant to Ben's case. People have taken Ben's liberty in almost every way. Those people now have a duty of care to him, in every matter beyond punishment for the crime of the young boy he was, for which he is responsible due to that crime. A duty in which they are failing in many ways. The people entrusted with that care appear to be unable to understand the concept of their responsibility, let alone uphold it.

    Boorish insults, without any rational basis given, just show the poverty of your argument. Sorry, but that is the last refuge of someone who cannot justify her own case rationally.

  9. Fat cat bosses and bankers and their Tory representatives in Parliament are the ones who rob and steal from the majority of people on a daily basis Doubting Richard, through exploitation and cuts (that have been going on for years) for example in care and other social and environmental services. And it is about time it stopped.

    Your disdain for the NHS for example shows that in practice you speak for those who can afford private health care and are happy to see the dismantling of a great service to the majority population that is the NHS.

    It is an abhorrent and typically tory ideology 'I'm alright jack' position.

    Meanwhile prisons are overflowing with people whose lives have been wrecked and ruined by the unelected elite.

    We are not here on the earth to personally enrich ourselves (is that called libertarian ? strange twist of meaning there) at the cost and on the backs of others, but our purpose is to serve God and our fellow human beings.