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Cameron tries to show he’s still got it with tough crime announcement

22 October 2012

It’s clear the government has had a bad week when the Prime Minister pops up on a Monday with a crowd-pleasing policy announcement. Recent re-launches have been shared by senior Lib Dems and Tories following the collapse of Lords reform, for example, to demonstrate that the Coalition is still working well. But today, the Lib Dems are nowhere to be seen: the Prime Minister’s big crime announcement is a response to a terrible week for the Conservative party, rather than the coalition as a whole.

Cameron is using law and order as a traditional Conservative area, arguing that ‘retribution is not a dirty word’ and that alongside a ‘tough’ approach to crime, all but the most high-risk prisoners will be offered rehabilitation by the end of 2015. He could have made this announcement at any point since Chris Grayling was made Justice Secretary in September’s reshuffle: Grayling’s was one of the smartest appointments the Prime Minister made because of his commitment to rehabilitation as well as his tougher approach than his predecessor Ken Clarke. But this is useful timing for the Prime Minister as he comes under pressure from his own party to show that he’s still got it (hopefully his No 10 team will back that up, too: the Telegraph has a great story on Oliver Dowden, the PM’s deputy chief of staff, admitting most of his time ‘is spent on day-to-day crisis management’)


Though it’s tempting to bill this as a departure from the Conservative leader’s 2006 ‘hug a hoodie’ speech, there are still parallels. This is what Cameron said in the original infamous lecture:

‘Of course people who commit crime should be held responsible. But I think people want their politicians to ask the question: “what is it that brought that young person to commit that crime at that time? What’s the background to it, what are the long-term causes of crime?’

Today he will say:

‘Just being tough isn’t a successful strategy in itself. Come with me to any prison in his country. There you’ll meet muggers, robbers, and burglars. But you’ll also meet young men who can’t read, teenagers on drugs, people who’ve never worked a day in their life. These people need help so they can become part of the solution and not remain part of the problem.’

The plan is to create a payment-by-results scheme for private firms to help offenders to go straight. When it comes to prisons themselves, Grayling received a tough warning last week from Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. In his annual report, Hardwick wrote:

‘Resources are now stretched very thinly. There is a risk of undermining the progress made in recent years. If a rehabilitation revolution is to be delivered, there is a clear choice for politicians and policy makers – reduce prison populations of increase prison budgets.’

The most important thing today is that the announcement doesn’t end up mired in a row or a mistake over details. The Telegraph’s story on Dowden also quotes a Cabinet minister saying the Tories will be judged on ‘competence, not compassion’. The last thing Number 10 needs is to be demonstrating more of its crisis management procedures today.

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  • Iain Hill

    Rehabilitation is essential. It must be sustained over a long time. It is expensive, but it works. Read the studies done by those who have practised it seriously, and not just as a sound bite.

  • Troika21

    The problem with our prison system is that it is designed to scare the middle classes and anyone else who never expects to see the inside of a prison.

    ‘Spartan’, ‘harsh’ and other words I see written here will mean nothing to people for who prison is part of their background – visiting a relative for example. Young people will become acclimatised to it, worse, they might expect a spell inside themselves.

    I think a payment-by-results scheme, mentioned in the article, will be a good idea as it will hopefully allow new providers into the system who can do something a lot more innovative than ‘bread and water’.

  • Daniel Maris

    My recommendations would be:

    1. Longer sentences for the worst crimes but in more civilised circumstances – long term prisoners should be located in working communities on some isolated islands where they would enjoy a good deal of personal freedom.

    2. More use of solitary confinement or “controlled confinement” – so prisoners only interact with staff and education/welfare workers, not other prisoners. There should be no “Sky TV”, nice gyms or whatever. A more spartan regime should be used. Young people who offend more than once or twice should be sent to prison for short terms e.g. one month.

    3. Repeat young offenders should be sent on round the world training cruises. There they won’t be subject to drugs or unhealthy peer influence. They can be educated on board and learn how to work.

    Cameron is useless.

  • PC 49

    Rehabilitation might start by stopping the unnecessary criminalising and prosecutions that have resulted from New Labour’s serial legislation – for example those heinous Twitter offenders and careless car drivers getting prison time – since repeal of all that nonsense is another broken promise. On the one hand we have law makers bemoaning the number of people in prison and the need to rehabilitate them whilst on the other the same people are gleefully passing more and more new laws to entrap more and more citizens in “crime” and gleefully encouraging the idiots in the CPS to prosecute thought, speech and “unacceptable behaviour” for political imperatives. I envisage a time when all the real criminals are rehabilitated, out on licence or serving their sentences in the community whilst the prisons are full of people who said or wrote the wrong thing, drove their cars with insufficient attention, failed to pay their council tax on time or caused psychological harm to a woman (that’s a good one).

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Every time an MP cheats on his exes and goes unpunished, every time a minister behaves badly, it validates a thousand yobs to commit crime. Of course, there is no real equivalence, but it’s true anyway, because the mind of the yob or the MP does not work on logic. Anyway, the first thing they could do would be to clean up their own house in order to at least have the semblance of a moral position. The second thing is to make the law equitable in terms of consistency and detection/conviction. Right now the law is largely optional for the clever.

    The above being serious assessment of the subject. I am convinced, however, that those who opine that this is a stupid PR stunt empty announcement by an empty suit have the right of it.

  • dalai guevara

    Did you not realise, that since the HoL/boundary reform debacle, there is no such thing as a coalition? What goes on here is plain and simple clutching power – without the backing of the electorate.

    • Farmer Giles

      It is vexing to the rural English that because of a lot of left-wing agitators in a few specific cities and Scottish Labour they do not have a Conservative government. So do not speak of “electorate” as though you know its collective mind. I suggest you check the voting demographics of the last election to understand just how much rural England wanted and mandated a Conservative government in the face of nasty, vociferous and prolific left-wing agitators like you – who are the real minority “clutching power” in this country.

      • dalai guevara

        I am not denying that – yet again assumptions on my supposed ‘leftie stance’. It is the clear mandate that was missed then, and is missed now, not due to the Conservative position, but due to the position of its coalition partner. I repeat: the coalition is dead – all we see is ‘clutching power’.

        • Algernon Should-be

          Your leftie stance is not supposed. The content of your prolific commenting speaks for itself – unless you are deliberately practicing to deceive.

          • dalai guevara

            So avoiding criticism just for the sake of the party line is what’s needed right now?

        • Baron

          dalai, quite, the question is ‘should we have had QE over and above the first tranche that aided liquidity, and the answer should be a firm NO. It’s madness. The Bank has now printed money to the tune of some 25% of our GDP, yet it ain’t reflected in the GDP growth figures at all. Since the money could not have just disappeared into thin air, it must be somewhere, those who sit on it waiting to release it into the Main Street. When that happens the inflationary levels of the 70s last century will look like golden panacea.

          But then the man who is presiding over this, and who fugged up big before 2007 will be in the Lords, drawing juicy pensionm. Arghhh

          • dalai guevara

            Well said, Baron – and I might add that the PFI financing model would add to this blatant fudging of the figures. One simply needs to conduct one’s own maths excel spreadsheet analysis these days.

  • Mirtha Tidville

    If it comes from Dave it will be hot air, lies and spin and something he will totally deny/u turn on the week after….Farage must be loving it!!

  • james102

    Again Cameron and his advisers believe government is about PR initiatives.
    What is needed is action such as doing something about:
    Or about:
    What happens when the first Poppy seller is attacked in Bradford?

    • Austin Barry

      Rein, nada, zilch, zero. Our elites are terrified of offending Islam with its hair-trigger temper and sociopathic tendencies.

  • Shorne

    Two years ago I took early retirement after thirty years as
    a Probation Officer; including thirteen years working in a prison. As I am
    retired I can now say something that I gradually came to realise, but didn’t
    dare say whilst working and perhaps which no politician can ever say. Quite
    simply, the fact that there is a crime problem does not automatically mean
    there is a solution. Some offenders can be diverted away from crime and these
    provided an incentive for me to carry on working. But regardless of how harsh
    prisons are, and much as you might like to think so they are not like holiday
    camps, there will ALWAYS remain a sizeable hardcore who will only be dissuaded
    from offending by age and infirmity, and not always then in some cases. Also
    there will ALWAYS be new ‘recruits’ to this hardcore group. It has always been
    so, the oldest criminal code found to date is the Code of Ur-Nammu written in
    the Sumerian Language c. 2100–2050 BC and the problems it tried to address
    still remain.

    • james102

      Which is why many of us just want that hardcore separated from society in the way the USA does: for very long periods of time, sometimes indefinitely.

      • Austin Barry

        Yes, rather than the pleasing prospect of Sky TV and inter-landing ping-pong tournaments, incarceration in a US prison comes with the involuntary, eye-watering friendship of a 300lb guy called Bubba.

        • Daniel Maris

          It doesn’t seem to work in the USA though, does it?

          Nearly a million incarcerated…most of them members of the ex-slave community selling drugs to members of the middle classes who want them but don’t want the risk of dealing themselves.

          • Austin Barry

            The “ex-slave community”? You might as well describe Germans as the “ex-Nazi community”. It’s just silly.

            • telemachus

              Dan’s comment might sound silly but yours resonates

      • telemachus

        I know we should attach an oubliette to every Town Hall

    • Stiffit

      But Shorne, you were working in the public sector, you weren’t making a profit, you had no financial interest in success, and suffered no penalty for failure.

      As soon as G4S A4E and a whole bunch of people from the Ministry of Justice Agile Supply Chain and their Third Sector subcontractors pick up the rehabilitation gauntlet this will all change. Petty thieves will turn vegetarian and start charities, arsonist will club together to sponsor fire-brigades, hardened psychopaths will cast off their chains and help old ladies across the road while shyly stuffing the odd tenner in their pockets. Prison governors will desperately bid to accommodate the few reining incarcerated.*

      Only believe Shorne! Isabel does! And Dave did (Well, while he was saying it. Two more impossible things and he’ll be ready for breakfast).

      *(Yea, footnotes in comments)

      (over phone) How many convicts have you got in?

      Well, let me see now, there’s Jim the crazy vicar… hoo hoo oh no, no he escaped. There’s um’, meat-axe George .. oh no no no, no he bought himself out, yes. Then there’s that confidence trickster… hno, he became an MP. Hmm. Number 34128 was released, Fred was transferred… You know, ha ha, I do believe we’ve run completely out of them.

      • Shorne

        Actually Prison Governors ‘hire’ Probation Officers from the local Probation area and if they don’t think they are getting value for money they get rid of them – this does happen and were were paid extra for working in prisons

    • Baron

      Shome, sir, good points except that one can never have a criminal justice system that eradicates crime fully, that’s just undiluted dreaming, an ideal state of affairs in an ideal world. We ain’t an ideal world, never will be what with the mutational DNA and stuff.

      Listen though to Edmund Burke: ‘Society cannot exists unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, there more there must be without’.

      Think now, look around what happened to those institutions that in the past installed the ‘controlling power from within’ – the family, the school, the Church, the voluntary organizations, how ineffective these institutions have become in infusing the young generation with the values, manners, attitudes, conduct beneficial to the society,

      Have we then beefed up the ‘controlling powers from without?’ Nope, just the opposite. The last resort any society has to control crime, the criminal justice system, has become a charade, a joke, even the judges complain. The left-leaning tossers, following the philosophy of the flower people from the 60s of ‘all we need is love’ have eradicated punishment from the system so well that the hard criminals feel anything but punished. We switched fro a retributive to restorative justice, quite apt as the system now restores dangerous criminals back to crime in no time. How else would one explain that since we abolished capital punishment almost 150 murderers, released after they served their laughable tariffs, murdered again.

      Madness, my blogging friend, 24 carat madness.

  • Anthony Makara

    David Cameron must respond to the public’s concerns about crime by giving us a referendum on the Death Penalty. The ultimate sentence and the only one by which the punishment truly fits the crime, was taken away from us without public consent. Give the people an opportunity to bring it back. Capital Punishment would also provide some level of closure for the families of victims, who have to suffer the thought everyday that the killer is in prison fantasizing about his/her vile acts. Nothing would register popularity more than a referendum on the death penalty. The EU would oppose it, so it would be a way of demonstrating the UKs independence too.

    • Baron

      spot on, sir. We should have it on the Statute books even if we do not use it it. The mere threat of our using it may save a life or two.

      Those who oppose it should ask themselves a question – what is more abhorrent, hanging a serial rapist, a murderer, or allowing someone harboring unspeakable evil to serially rape, murder?

  • ScaryBiscuits

    “Cameron tries to show he’s still got it with tough crime announcement” whilst proving that he still doesn’t get it, that all he’s capable of is more of the same.

  • In2minds

    “still got it”? NEVER had it! H2B all over again!

  • RKing

    I’m afraid that Dave’s announcements are getting more non-event every time he makes one.
    He’s just a spent force with no ideas refusing to tackle the issues which WE want addressed.



    • ScaryBiscuits

      I agree with getting out of the EU but I’m not so sure about getting rid of ‘legal’ tax avoidance. I avoid tax quite legally every day, when I choose not to buy something because I can’t afford it and therefore avoid VAT. Actually, I suspect you’re talking about things like Starbucks and eBay. Well the solution to that is to have a flatter fairer tax system and possibly to abolish corporation tax altogether. Then instead of UK companies routing profits through tax havens, we would become the tax haven and would benefit from the increased trade, which in turn creates more jobs and more tax revenue.

      • RKing

        Good point ScaryBiscuits

  • Jebediah

    Well it’s just a matter of time before a senior Tory says or does something stupid… or recent history would suggest that. At least the economic news is improving, time to start preaching that and asking “What would Labour do?” Labour need to be challenged on their “Whatever we would do it wouldn’t be that…” non-policy policy.

  • @PhilKean1

    This is just more political game-playing.

    Just like this………

    ………..” Angela Merkel warns Britain that it will cancel next European summit if Cameron maintains budget increase veto threat “

    But I must be fair and say that, on this occasion, Merkel is being reasonable and conciliatory.

    Let me translate for you. I will first confess that I despise everything about the EU.

    However, what we have here is the result of Cameron trying to pick a bogus fight with the EU – ( one that he hopes will impact very little on the running of the EU, or Britain’s continued membership ) – in order to demonstrate his, ahem, determination to fight for Britain’s national interest.

    Of course, he has no real intention of – or credible plan – to prevent the EU from engineering the mechanisms which will – over time – bring Britain into the same regulatory framework as the other Eurozone Principalities.

    Conclusion? Cameron is insulting our intelligence again. He thinks we can’t see through his latest piece of political game-playing.

    And he’s sort of right. Because, as he does 3 or 4 times a year, he dreams up an idea which will bring those with weaker minds back on board.

    • dalai guevara

      Like your dog – he looks like he has an active mind. Could he teach Farange a lesson or two in life? Coming up with a constructive plan, rather than just moaning?

  • Vulture

    Announcements, speeches, tough-sounding words – but that is all that we hear from Dave: empty words. He never actually DOES anything.

    It should be clear by now to the meanest intelligence and the most slavishly loyal Tory party members that we have an empty sock puppet in 10, Downing Street. (And the other half of the pair living next door).

    Even the right-of-centre half of the country have lost whatever faith they had in Dave. The left-of-centre half merely hate his guts.

    Even if he wanted to do some of the Conservative things he says ( which he emphatically does not) his masters in the EU would not let him do them.

    He is currently attempting to win back lost UKIP votes by mouthing a load of lies but its far too late for that. What was that word Red Ed used about mad Mitch week? Ah yes, ‘Toast’. Mitch was. Dave is.

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