Posts Tagged ‘Ken Clarke’

There’s no excuse. Ken Clarke should be sacked.

21/05/2011, 10:30:40 AM

by Dennis Kavanagh

It’s 1991. A young and charismatic Bill Clinton indicates that he will seek the nomination of the Democrat party for president; the Super Nintendo is launched; the first gulf war is in full swing and good old Lord Lane in the UK abolishes the “anachronistic and offensive” marital rape exemption in R v R.

Shocked? Don’t be. The current rape debate really is taking place in a country where you could quite lawfully rape your wife up until the invention of 16 bit gaming technology. While Bush Snr was threatening to bomb Sadaam back to the stone age, Fred Flinstone sexual values were in full swing over in Blighty. Little surprise, then, that the backdrop to the latest discussion over rape takes place in a country where around 60,000 women are raped every year – the majority by partners or men they know – and only a tiny fraction, around one in ten, report it to the police. Of these few cases, less than 7% result in conviction according to rape crises England and Wales.

Rape and offences of assault by penetration are in this unique position because they’re often difficult evidentially. They’re not taken seriously and a set of myths have grown up around rape that make securing convictions the exception rather than the rule.


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All men are potential rapists

20/05/2011, 05:45:33 PM

by Alex Hilton

There has been a huge fuss over Ken Clarke’s suggestion that there are different levels of seriousness of rape. In calling for the justice secretary’s resignation over the issue, Ed Miliband was telling us that his interest in headline chasing came above getting to the root of rape.

Whether we like it or not, and the justice system recognised this in sentencing and in parole criteria throughout the last government, there are different levels of seriousness of rape. There are also different levels of seriousness in murder, manslaughter, burglary and a range of crimes.

To say this is not the same as suggesting that the “less” serious form of rape isn’t serious at all; simply that a crime that is serious can be made worse depending on the level of brutality.

Our society’s approach to rape is one of the clearest indications of the extent to which we still live in a patriarchy. Estimates of the number of women raped each year range from 47,000 to 85,000 but we have only a 6% conviction rate of those reported.

The media interest in false allegations of rape so excessively outweighs rape itself that there is a real movement to protect the anonymity of those accused. Yet in trial, despite reforms in recent years, there is no other crime where the victim’s victimhood is so comprehensively scrutinised and tested.


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Friday News Review

20/05/2011, 06:40:19 AM

Going, going…why has Ken not gone yet?

One of the most recognisable formats in British television – BBC1’s Question Time – displayed two startling variations, becoming, in a rare conflation of two elements of the judicial system, both a prison and the dock of a courtroom. But, however many criminals were in the audience, it was the justice secretary who spent the night on trial, following his suggestion on BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday that some rapes were less serious than others. The first question asked of the panel was whether Clarke’s remarks had been “clumsy, wrong or misconstrued?” and this issue, more Westminster than Wormwood, occupied the first half hour of the show. Clarke apologised again for giving offence, but in his characteristic bluff, elucidation-for-idiots voice, which risked seeming inappropriate from a politician whose best recovery tactic would surely be contrition and humility. He said he got “bogged down in a silly exchange”, which resulted in a “media brouhaha”. – the Guardian

The slide from grace of Ken Clarke has caused some glum faces amongst those who believe in a better penal. People who share my belief in prison reform as part of a policy to cut crime are worried as they see him being edged towards the cabinet room exit door. They are wrong. The necessary reforms to our justice system will never be carried out successfully by a government, and by those like Ken Clarke and David Cameron, who are so woefully out of touch with the real world. On Wednesday I heard Mr Clarke repeatedly fail to show that he understood his brief or demonstrate his ability to stand up for victims. In interviews he talked of “serious rape” involving “violence and an unwilling woman”. He differentiated between “serious attacks” and “date rape”. He talked of “classic rape”. In this he wasn’t just insensitive. He was wrong. Their prison policy is based not on the need for reform or increased rehabilitation for offenders. It is based on the need to cut costs. Their police policy isn’t based on what will make the streets safer but how to quickly find a 20 per cent cut in the police budget. Prison reformers should not support them. – the Independent, Ed Miliband

Kenneth Clarke yesterday came under fire again over his attitude to women – after it emerged he is closing 23 specialist rape and domestic violence courts. The Justice Secretary’s job was already on the line after he questioned whether date rape was a serious crime. Mr Clarke yesterday laughed off suggestions he should resign for his deeply offensive comments. But the Mirror can reveal he is proposing to axe one-in-six courts which help women who are victims of traumatic rape and domestic violence cases. Mr Clarke plans to close 142 courts – and 23 which house specialist domestic violence courts are on his hit list. The SDVCs were set up by Labour in 2005 to help women through the highly sensitive process of giving evidence in rape and domestic violence cases. – Daily Mirror

Another blow to Brown’s IMF bid

Gordon Brown will stake his claim to be the next head of the International Monetary Fund with a speech in South Africa on Friday urging rich western nations to meet their pledges on education to the world’s poor. As jockeying began to fill the job of managing director of the Washington-based organisation left vacant by the resignation ofDominique Strauss-Kahn, the former prime minister will seek to negate opposition to his candidature from David Cameron’s coalition government with a direct appeal to developing countries. Brown will share a platform with Graça Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, to launch his review of education, criticising the G8 countries for their failure to provide the aid necessary to meet the United Nations target of putting every child into school by 2015. Bookmakers have made Brown an outsider for the IMF job, installing the French finance minister Christine Lagarde as favourite to succeed her fellow countryman following his arrest at the weekendin New York over sexual assault allegations. – the Guardian

Gordon Brown’s dream of replacing disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF has been hit by yet more criticism from within Britain. Business Secretary Vince Cable said that the IMF’s top job should go to someone who understands the internal problems of the Eurozone. That follows on from the refusal by Prime Minister David Cameron to back Brown for the post and his chances now appear limited as the French finance minister Christine Lagarde emerges as the favourite for the job. The IMF’s board could meet as soon as tomorrow to kick off the process of replacing him and the favoured Eurozone candidates appear to be Ms. Lagarde, 55, and former Turkish finance minister Kemal Dervis. – Daily Mail

Goodwin causes gag concessions

The Master of the Roll, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, is expected to address concerns over the secrecy of the gagging orders. It comes after the High Court partially lifted an injunction obtained by the former head of Royal Bank of Scotland, Sir Fred Goodwin. Lord Neuberger, the most senior civil judge in England and Wales, has chaired a year-long inquiry by a committee of judges and lawyers. The report – to be published later – comes at a time of unprecedented public interest and debate about the use of injunctions. On Thursday, Lib Dem peer Lord Stoneham used parliamentary privilege to tell the Lords that Sir Fred Goodwin had obtained an injunction to prevent reporting of a relationship he is alleged to have had with a senior colleague. Lord Stoneham’s intervention caused the anonymity element of his injunction to be lifted at the High Court. – BBC News

Repression in Bahrain, handshakes and smiles in Downing Street

In Bahrain, it was another day of violence and repression as the Saudi-backed Al-Khalifa dynasty continued to clamp down on protesters demanding a better life for the repressed Shia majority. But in Downing Street, David Cameron exchanged a warm handshake with Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa. While other Arab tyrants feel the full force of British disapproval, Sheikh Salman is here on a mission to repair the damaged reputation of his dynasty. His visit prompted an outcry from politicians and civil rights campaigners. It came on the day when President Obama delivered his first major speech on the Arab Spring, which he said would open a “new chapter in American diplomacy”. “It will be the policy of the US to promote reform, and to support transitions to democracy,” he promised. – the Independent

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Thursday News Review

19/05/2011, 06:53:47 AM

The Tory mask slips…

The suggestion by his junior minister, Crispin Blunt, that rapists could have their jail sentences cut by half in return for a guilty plea, had triggered furious accusations of “soft justice”. But if the situation was bad before Mr Clarke decided to take to the airwaves to defuse the row, it was considerably worse soon afterwards as he managed, during the course of a radio interview, to suggest that some types of rape were less serious than others. The remarks triggered a “car crash” of a day, during which the Justice Secretary conducted a further two rounds of broadcast interviews in an attempt to ‘qualify’ his remarks yet succeeded only in muddying the waters even further. – Daily Telegraph

The Justice Secretary suggested in a radio interview that teenage and date rape were not “proper” offences. When he was told that “rape is rape”, he then replied: “No it’s not”. Mr Clarke, who was confronted in the street in Westminster yesterday afternoon by campaigners, then refused to apologise and said he was “astonished” by the reaction. Labour leader Ed Miliband led calls for Mr Clarke to be sacked, saying he “cannot speak for the women of this country when he makes comments like that”. He told David Cameron: “Let me say very clearly – the Justice Secretary should not be in his post at the end of today.” Mr Clarke wants to halve jail sentences for offenders who plead guilty – and in the Commons on Monday he revealed this could also apply to rapists. But during a Radio 5 Live radio interview yesterday, an attempted rape victim warned him of the dangers of an early release for sex offenders. The caller, Gabrielle, told Mr Clarke she was attacked by a man who had been released early on licence despite being convicted of six previous sex attacks. Breaking down in tears, she told Mr Clarke his plans were a “disaster”. – Daily Mirror
Mr Clarke sparked an outcry while defending controversial Government proposals to halve the sentences of some rapists if they made early guilty pleas. He angrily rejected reports sex attackers could face just 15 months behind bars as a result, insisting “classic” rapes involving violence and unwilling women resulted in longer sentences. Mr Clarke insisted less clear-cut “date rapes” and consensual sex between teens, one of whom was under age, skewed average sentencing figures. Rape victim support groups in Merseyside stopped short of calling for Mr Clarke to lose his job, saying the debate should be kept to sentencing. Jo Wood, from Merseyside’s Rape And Sexual Abuse Centre (RASA), said: “He has gone off policy and started coming out with personal opinion, because nobody in their right mind is going to have a policy statement that there are different types of rape. – Liverpool Daily Post

Ed’s first goal

Mr Miliband might have chosen to urge, more in sorrow than in anger, that Mr Clarke be told to correct any misleading impression of being lenient on rape. The Labour leader instead tried to get Mr Clarke sacked: “The Justice Secretary should not be in his post at the end of the day.” The merciless instincts of a Brownite attack dog had driven out any idea Mr Miliband might have had of presenting himself as a liberal-minded person who recognised Mr Clarke as a kindred spirit. Mr Miliband has recently displayed the same intolerance towards Nick Clegg, with whom he refused to share a platform during the AV referendum campaign. One also detected a hint of ruthlessness in Mr Miliband’s conduct during the Labour leadership campaign, when he carved up the liberal-minded front runner, who happened to be his own brother. – Daily Telegraph

It was a day for dinosaurs. Sir Peter Tapsell reared up among cheers to suggest the PM order an investigation into the death of David Kelly. Dennis Skinner gave a fabulous display of primordial rage (it’s his birthday today: he is 65 million years old). And Ken Clarke got into trouble for his Jurassic views on sex crime. He had said some rapes were worse than others and Ed Miliband demanded he resign. Your sketch writer found himself a bit Triassic on the subject. Isn’t statutory rape (a 17-year-old having consensual sex with his girlfriend just shy of her 16th birthday) less serious than… let’s not imagine the details. Cameron made this defence a bit – but it didn’t quite command the House. Taken with the Coalition proposal to give rape defendants anonymity this was dangerous ground for a Tory. Ed Miliband’s case was a modern one: rape is one single category of offence. That’s the progressive view. Fair enough, that’s probably what Independent readers think too. But wasn’t that the Ed of two weeks ago? Hasn’t he assigned dinosaur status to his “progressive majority”? The modern thing, the mutation of the moment is Blue Labour, isn’t it? That’s the idea that England is more and more like the Daily Mail describes it. You have to wonder whether Ed Miliband is the person – or “guy”, as he calls it – to pitch working-class conservatism. He is after all a hereditary aristocrat of the political class. – the Independent

A demand too far

Nick Clegg has put another obstacle in the path of the Government’s  controversial health reforms. The Liberal Democrat leader announced that he will oppose the establishment of a regulator to promote competition in the NHS – a key plank of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans. But the intervention incensed Tories who yesterday questioned why the Lib Dems were happy to vote for the plans in the Commons, but are now against them following their  disastrous showing in the local elections. Two weeks ago the Deputy Prime Minister promised a more ‘muscular liberalism’ – with the Lib Dems not going along with so many Conservative policies. He has already demanded Mr Lansley change his plans so that hospital doctors and nurses become members of the new GP commissioning boards which will run most of the NHS budget under the reforms. – Daily Mail

People can’t trust Nick Clegg to protect the NHS. After the Lib Dems’ local elections disaster, his concern is to save his party, not safeguard our NHS. As students faced with £9,000 tuition fees know, you can’t take the deputy prime minister at his word. Clegg has backed David Cameron’s NHS plans every step of the way for 12 months. They made and broke together the coalition agreementpromise “to stop top-down reorganisations” and they co-signed the foreword to the NHS white paper in July. Clegg signed off the NHS bill in cabinet in December. He took to the airwaves in January to defend the plans. His MPs have backed the bill in parliament at every stage so far, and in the committee it was his Lib Dem health minister who led rejection of Labour’s amendments to make the changes Clegg now claims he wants. The deputy prime minister has come so late to concern about the legislation, that if the bill were any shorter it might have been on the statute book by now. His Mr Muscle act is born of desperation after the Lib Dem electoral meltdown on 5 May. – John Healey, the Guardian

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Commons sketch: PMQs

18/05/2011, 02:40:49 PM

by Dan Hodges

It’s what they call a tough gig. In his short tenure as PM David Cameron has had to deal with war, international economic crisis and violent social disorder. But it’s unlikely he ever contemplated bowling up at the House of Commons to explain why his justice secretary was roaming the nation’s broadcast studios pledging to give a bunch of convicted sex offenders the keys to their cell. That wasn’t in the job description.

He took respite in the first question, from Philip Hollobone. Would the prime minister look to restore some “sanity” to Britain’s border controls. Sanity? Hell, yes he would. We don’t want lots of illegal migrants running amok on our streets. There’s no room. Especially not with all those rapists. The prime minister pledged to do lots of very tough and very sane things.

The respite was brief. Ed Miliband wasn’t going to be asking about carbon omissions today. The job of the justice secretary was to speak for the country on issues of, well, justice. And the country had pretty unambiguous views on rape. They didn’t extend to giving the perpetrators of that crime the chance to cop a plea and halve their sentence. Nor, as had been reported on radio, the drawing of distinctions between “good rape” and “bad rape”.

David Cameron’s response was to invoke the Wenger defence. He hadn’t heard the justice secretary’s comments on the radio. But his priority was to deal with only 6% of rapes leading to prosecutions and convictions. That’s what was needed. More people must be arrested and convicted. Why, given that government policy is apparently to immediately release them once that process is concluded, the prime minister didn’t say.

Next to him, Nick Clegg nodded in support. He looked a relieved man. That hoo-hah about letting speeding offenders get away scott free seemed a life-time ago.

Ed Miliband came back. Surely, the justice secretary would be gone by the end of the day? Cameron ducked. That was just typical opportunism from the leader of the opposition. The government announces that it’s going to halve  sentences for some of the most brutal and violent criminals in society, and what does the Labour party do? Engage in cheap politicking by criticising the decision. Shameful.

Ed soldiered on, determined rather than incisive. OK, the prime minister hadn’t heard his justice secretary’s views on rape. What about his own? Surely he had a view?

Cameron ducked again. Didn’t the Rt. Hon gentleman understand? Ministers were consulting on their rapists charter. He couldn’t pre-empt that. And anyway, the appallingly low conviction rates for rape had been inherited from Labour. Sexual assault had conveniently been added to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s charge sheet.

Anyway, what was Ed Miliband whingeing about? He was Ken Clarke’s biggest fan. “I remember the leader of the opposition saying at his party’s conference ‘I’m not going to say he’s soft on crime’. That pledge didn’t last long”.

Had he not already used his last question, the leader of the opposition would presumably have pointed out that not condemning out of hand the principle of liberal sentencing did not mean automatically endorsing a day pass for every nonce in Broadmoor.

In truth, it wasn’t a powerful performance from Ed Miliband. Cameron stonewalled quite effectively, and finished PMQs confidently. It didn’t matter. Out in the court of public opinion, the jury had already made up its mind.

Dan Hodges is contributing editor of Labour Uncut.

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Saturday News Review

16/04/2011, 06:54:54 AM

Labour Lord accuses party of lying over immigration

Lord Glasman, who was made a peer by the Labour leader in the New Year honours list, also claimed that Gordon Brown’s ministers had acted in a “high-handed way” by failing to discuss the issue. He claimed that working class men were unable to talk about the matters important to them at Labour Party meetings without being labelled sexist or racist. Lord Glasman, an academic, is one of the architects of the Blue Labour movement, which argues that the party should reconnect with working class issues such as the family, patriotism and communities rather than focusing on the state. – the Telegraph

A close ally of Ed Miliband has attacked Labour for ‘lying’ about immigration. Lord Glasman – a leading academic and personal friend of the Labour leader – said that the previous Labour government had used mass immigration to control wages. In an article for Progress magazine, the Labour peer wrote: ‘Labour lied to people about the extent of immigration … and there’s been a massive rupture of trust.’  Labour let in 2.2million migrants during its 13 years in power – more than twice the population of Birmingham. Maurice Glasman was promoted to the House of Lords by Mr Miliband earlier this year. He has been dubbed the Labour leader’s ‘de facto chief of staff’ by party insiders and has written speeches for him. – Daily Mail

Soft on crime or honest reformer?

The rate of jail sentencing is “financially unsustainable”, the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has said, delivering a defiant riposte to critics within his own party and the tabloid press who have suggested that his plans to overhaul the penal system are soft on crime. Clarke last year unveiled a green paper on sentencing as part of government plans to cut the £4bn prison and probation budget by 20% over four years, promising to end a Victorian-style “bang ’em up” culture and reduce high reoffending rates by tackling the root causes. But after facing sustained criticism, he used an interview with The Times to dismiss characterisation of him as a minister who is “soft on crime.” He is preparing to publish a bill next month which will include proposals to allow for large sentence discounts in return for early guilty pleas and diverting the mentally ill away from jail. The goal is a 3,000 cut in the record 85,000 jail population in England and Wales in four years. – the Guardian

Ken Clarke today warns that expanding prison places is unsustainable and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The Justice Secretary also denies being politically isolated over plans to reduce prisoner numbers, insisting his stance has the full support of David Cameron and Cabinet colleagues. ‘I have never said anything on crime and punishment which is not the collective policy of the entire Government from top to bottom,’ he said. Mr Clarke stated he will not be moved from his view that prison is a waste of money which fails to effectively tackle re offending. He said: ‘It is financially unsustainable. That is not my principal motivation but it is pointless and very bad value for taxpayers’ money.’   Mr Clarke said that ‘warehousing’ prisoners fails to turn them away from a life of crime and is not the best way of dealing with drug addicts who might go straight if their habits were dealt with. – Daily Mail

Clegg to rally Lib Dems ahead of local elections

Lib Dem councils in England are doing a better job of protecting services than Labour and Conservative ones, Nick Clegg will argue as he rallies party candidates ahead of local elections. The deputy prime minister will say no Lib Dem-controlled council is closing a children’s centre or a library. He will accuse Labour town halls of “slash and burn” tactics and Tory councils of “mistakes” locally. – BBC News

Nick Clegg will tell Liberal Democrat activists to “take the fight” to the Conservatives in the battle for next month’s council elections in England. Campaigning in Sheffield today, he will say that the Liberal Democrats should attack the record of Tory-run authorities when they have implemented spending cuts such as closing libraries and children’s centres. He will claim that no Liberal Democrat-controlled council had shut a library or Sure Start centre, even though Labour and Tory authorities had done so. The Deputy Prime Minister’s remarks will be seen as another attempt to put light between the two Coalition parties ahead of the 5 May elections, when they will go head-to-head in many parts of the south, where Labour is weak. – the Independent

Calls for a recall grow

David Cameron last night faced demands for a recall of the Commons amid claims the UK was now pursuing an overt policy of regime change in Libya. Senior Conservative and Labour MPs said the Government had gone beyond the mandate given in last month’s Commons vote to protect civilians. The calls followed the publication of a joint article, by Mr Cameron, Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday, which said that it would be an “unconscionable betrayal” if dictator Muammar Gaddafi was allowed to remain in power. Three Tory backbenchers and two Labour members said that MPs – currently on their Easter break – should now return to Westminster to have their say on the latest developments. – Daily Herald

Conservative and Labour members said that the Prime Minister’s statement – made jointly with Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy – showed that the Libyan mission had moved from its original humanitarian purpose and was now about regime change. The Commons began its Easter recess last week and is not due to return until April 26. MPs said Parliament should be recalled to debate the apparent shift in strategy. John Baron, a Conservative MP, said: “I feel that mission in Libya has changed quite significantly.” David Davis, a former shadow home secretary, said Mr Cameron needed MPs’ approval for the new Libyan mission. “Parliament did not authorise the next phase. To go to the next phase he has to get parliamentary authority,” he said. – the Telegraph

Boris gets one over on Brian

The veteran peace campaigner Brian Haw faces eviction from an area of grass in Parliament Square Gardens after losing an attempt to launch a legal challenge against a possession order granted to the mayor of London. Haw’s longstanding presence on the pavement on the east side of Parliament Square is not, however, threatened by the order, which relates to his encroachment on to a small adjoining part of the gardens where he has pitched a tent. Haw has come under pressure to quit his decade-old protest just metres from Westminster Abbey as the royal wedding approaches. After the appeal attempt was lost, co-campaigner Barbara Tucker said she did not believe the eviction had anything to do with clearing the area for the royal wedding – “it is about getting rid of our peace campaign”. Last month, the mayor, Boris Johnson, won a high court possession order to evict Haw and Tucker. – the Guardian

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Saturday News Review

19/02/2011, 06:39:27 AM

Miliband to force NHS U-turn?

The government will be forced into a U-turn over its sweeping plans to reform the NHS, Ed Miliband will predict today. He will tell the Welsh Labour conference in Llandudno, that the backlash which forced a climbdown over the sale of England’s public forests will be dwarfed by protests over proposals to hand 80 per cent of the health budget to GPs. The Labour leader will say: “I warn David Cameron: the ill-feeling he created over the forests will be as nothing compared to the real anger that will build about his dangerous plans. The NHS is too precious for experiments in right-wing ideology.” – the Independent

The outcry over the proposal to transfer all of the nation’s woodlands out of public control led to a rapid reverse from ministers earlier this week, in a move which was described as “humiliating” for the Government. In a speech to Labour’s Welsh conference, Mr Miliband will predict that the forthcoming NHS reorganisation, which will see most of the health budget handed to individual GPs, would be greeted with an even greater response from voters. He will say: “I warn David Cameron and the Government: the ill-feeling he created over the forests will be as nothing compared to the real anger that will build about his dangerous plans for the NHS. Just like they wanted to sell off the forests to highest bidder, now they want health care sold to the lowest bidder. Some things are just too precious to be left to the market. The NHS is too precious for ill-judged reforms. It is too precious for experiments in right-wing ideology. Will these Tories never understand – health care is not a commodity to be bought and sold.” – Daily Telegraph (more…)

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Let’s not join the Tories in going soft on sentencing, says Nick Keehan

06/10/2010, 10:30:49 AM

Ken Clarke played the hard man at the Tory conference yesterday. Prisoners will work a full forty hour week, he told them. “A regime of hard work” will teach them a lesson. It was what they wanted to hear.

He didn’t tell them that, under his watch, a wind of change has swept through the ministry of justice. No longer is there talk of ‘getting tough’ on ‘local crooks’. Instead, the ministry has taken to promoting the positive role that offenders are playing in their communities.

‘Where would we be without offenders?’ someone who reads MoJ press releases might ask. School children in Zambia would be using dangerous paraffin lamps (‘Offenders help students in Africa’, 14 June), and people in Wales would be having trouble remembering both Princess Diana (‘Offenders create fitting memorial to Princess Diana’, 31 August) and the 142 miners killed in the explosion at Old Black Vain Colliery at Risca in 1860 (‘Offenders uncover lost memorial to miners’, 29 September).

Even worse, one woman in east London would be without her handbag, had not a group of offenders doing community payback been there to chase her mugger and reclaim it (‘Offenders to the rescue as woman mugged’, 13 July). This is how the big society will work.  Police numbers will be cut and offenders, no longer crowded out by the big state, will step in and tackle crime themselves. ‘More offenders on the street’ is the pledge (‘Revolving door of crime and reoffending to stop says Clarke’, 30 June). (more…)

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Tuesday News Review

05/10/2010, 07:42:00 AM

Coulson, the plot thickens

David Cameron’s media adviser Andy Coulson will face fresh claims today over his alleged involvement in the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Mr Coulson, Downing Street’s director of Government communications, has always denied knowledge of the practice during his time as editor of the Sunday tabloid. The newspaper’s former royal editor and a private investigator were jailed for hacking into the voicemails of celebrities. But an anonymous former executive at the Sunday tabloid has told Channel Four’s Dispatches programme that Mr Coulson was well aware of the practice, and even listened in to recordings of hacked messages so he could satisfy himself about the source of stories. – The Daily Mail

The former Labour minister, Tom Watson, has written to David Cameron, calling on the prime minister to make a statement in parliament about thelatest allegations against his media adviser Andy Coulson relating to theNews of the World phone-hacking affair. Watson, the Labour MP for West Bromwich East, said the new allegations made against Coulson – to be aired in an edition of Channel 4’s Dispatches tonight – were “new, far-reaching and warrant investigation”. – The Guardian

There’s lots of good stuff in Peter Oborne’s* Dispatches programme on the News of the World phone-hacking story even if, in the end and like many TV documentaries it over-reaches and tries too hard to build too large a conspiracy when simply laying out the established facts would seem enough. Nevertheless, it certainly deserves your time. – The Spectator

Osborne gives a little, takes a lot

The Mail’s front page this morning sets out the real challenge for the government over yesterday’s shock announcement by George Osborne on the withdrawal of child benefit from those who are paying tax at the higher rate. For as is well summed up in the headline it seems to be unfair and to penalise stay-at-home mums. The paper sums it up succinctly: “It will mean that any couple with one earner paid more than the £44,000 higher-rate tax threshold will lose their child benefit, even if the other stays at home and has no income. So two working parents each earning just under the higher-rate tax threshold could earn more than £80,000 and retain child benefit, while a household with just one income of £45,000 would lose theirs.” Such apparent unfairness touches a raw nerve – particularly in the “Mumsnet” community which has evolved into a powerful political force. – Political Betting

George Osborne was due soon, they’d just be getting him out of his portable coffin in the wings. But they needed some device to depress our expectations. A parade of the Undead! That would do the trick! The Treasury team of Gauke, Hoban and Greening lurched onstage groaning. They’re not dead but very far from alive. They gave a perfectly judged performance. And so he got a walk-on standing ovation. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Some of us still aren’t used to that arrangement of words. His chinwork is more developed. His face a little broader but even more bloodless. He makes a grim statement and his mouth snaps shut like a trap. He does persist in those terrible old lines about the sun and the roof. And a new one, “Don’t give the keys back to the people who wrecked the car.” But he made another – yet another – game-changing speech. Perfectly triangulated to take the right with him in the first half, and the left in the second. – The Independent

But as always with an Osborne speech, there were subtle messages interwoven into the theme, like the barely audible double bass in a jazz riff. Or a slug of Drambuie in a bottle of vinegar. Lower taxes for the poor! Capital gains tax up! No retreat on the 50% rate! “We will not allow money to flow unimpeded into huge bonuses, if nothing is flowing out for small businesses, who did nothing to cause this crash!” Whole chunks that could have come from the Labour manifesto were slipped into the speech when no one was looking. As for the Lib Dems, people said he and Vince Cable would not get on. “We’d knife each other in the back, and try to end each other’s careers. What do they think we are? Brothers?” – The Guardian

Possible backlash over Clarke’s criminal justice reform

Ken Clarke may come face-to-face with the anger of Tory members today, when he makes the case for his liberal criminal justice policy at the party’s conference. The justice secretary faced condemnation from Tory backbenchers when he announced his intention to reduce short-term sentencing. He is supported in his efforts by Labour. Ed Miliband announced that he would support the former chancellor’s efforts last week. Some Labour figures believed the issue put the Conservatives on the wrong side of the law and order agenda – something of a role reversal given the way the two parties battled on the issue in the 80s. –

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Ken Clarke’s not wrong on prisons; he just doesn’t mean it, says Nick Palmer

06/07/2010, 09:00:12 AM

The response to Ken Clarke’s recent speech has been bemusement all round, and no doubt the old stager likes it that way.

The right has always argued for locking more people up, led by the tabloids and urged on by David Cameron and others during the campaign. How pathetic that Labour only added 20,000 prison places in 13 years. How disgraceful that we were letting some prisoners out early because of overcrowding. Why not use prison ships? Army camps? Offshore islands?

Meanwhile, the left has long been uncomfortable with Labour’s record on this. How disgusting that we were pandering to the Daily Mail. How appalling that we had the highest imprisonment rate in Europe. Why weren’t we rehabilitating prisoners instead of having them fester in jails? (more…)

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