Ed M gets praise for being tough on crime, but its also a trap


by Sunny Hundal    
2:27 pm - May 19th 2011

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The Ken Clarke car-crash has created some bizarre (no doubt temporary) alliances.

Feminists called for Ken Clarke to go, along with Ed Miliband. Today, they are joined by the Sun newspaper, which praised Ed Miliband in its leading comment.

WELL done, Ed Miliband. Did The Sun really say that? Yes, we did.

The Labour leader is quite right to demand that David Cameron sack Ken Clarke for his outrageous, offensive and prehistoric views on rape.

The Sun also featured a sex attack victim on its front page, who demanded Clarke’s sacking. Gabrielle Brown added: “He is endangering women.”

The reason for this strange meeting of minds is of course obvious. As the Sun leader goes on to say:

Labour is now tougher on crime than our Tory-led Government.

As I pointed out yesterday, being ‘soft on crime’ was one area identified by Lord Ashcroft as a potential Achilles Heel for the Conservatives.

Once Ken Clarke is re-shuffled out, as he inevitably will, the Conservatives will go back into full-throated right-wing mode on crime. In fact they will probably tack hard-right in order to make up for lost support.

That will then present a strategic problem for Labour: risk going even more to the right or find ways to attack them from the left. Time to start thinking about that too.

In fact, Ed Miliband might want to keep calling for Ken Clarke to be sacked since, as Duncan Robinson points out, that is what probably saved his skin yesterday.

Jack Straw, writing in the Sun today, offers an open goal for the Tories. He says:

For 15 years, first with the Tories’ Michael Howard as Home Secretary and then under the Labour Government, there has been broad agreement across the parties that we had to make the system tougher to beat crime. So sentences have become longer.

The number of prisoners has risen fast from 50,000 in 1995 to 85,500. It’s worked. Crime has come down, by around 45 per cent since 1995. But there’s still too much crime, and statistics like this are no comfort to those who are the victims of crime.

As Justice Secretary, I had the money for a further expansion in prison numbers. Serious, violent, or persistent criminals have to be locked up. It’s called justice.

Well, its called locking people up in the hope they won’t serve their sentences and commit more crime. And it also costs us a fortune. Rehabilitation is not only cheaper but reduces crime and is more humane.

But if Labour only focus on prison numbers, then the Tories will easily out-manoeuvre them and claim to be ‘tougher on crime’ soon enough. Then Labour’s approach to crime will be in tatters.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


“Once Ken Clarke is re-shuffled out, as he inevitably will, the Conservatives will go back into full-throated right-wing mode on crime.”

Rhetorically, but probably not in reality. I think the correct (political) tactic would then be to call them out on the mismatch between their rhetoric, their actions, and actual outcomes.

Whilst I would very much enjoy seeing Ed Miliband’s swing-to-the-right Plan B emerge, I don’t think it’s credible coming from him.

Maybe when Ed Balls finally knifes EdM in the front, we can have a Labour leader who will outflank Tories on the right, but it’s not going to happen under Moribund.

Sunny:

Once Ken Clarke is re-shuffled out, as he inevitably will, the Conservatives will go back into full-throated right-wing mode on crime. In fact they will probably tack hard-right in order to make up for lost support.

That will then present a strategic problem for Labour: risk going even more to the right or find ways to attack them from the left. Time to start thinking about that too.

If it’s a trap for EdM (as leader), then it’s just as big a trap for Yvette Cooper: (1) as Shadow Home Secretary; (2) as a much-touted successor/rival to EdM for leadership of the Labour party (which makes her sound exactly like one Tony Blair)…unless of course Cooper is quite happy to ‘out-crime’ the Tories if it means more votes.

Incidentally, Straw and Clarke are on Question Time tonight, along with Melanie Phillips. I’d hide behind the sofa if I were you.

Labour have become so obsessed with attacking Liberalism that they are actually HELPING the right wing of the conservatives.

For some time we have known that the Labour hard authoritarian right, led by John Reid, David Blunkett and Jaqui Smith have been trying to assert their authority within the party, but Ed Miliband, supposedly from the ‘liberal’ wing of the party should assert his authority – he is the leader after all.

So far, the only distinct policies that New New Labour have are (based on Labour speeches in Hansard):

No to AV
Keep the lords
Lock ‘em up prisons policy
Spend millions more on nuclear weapons
Keep benefits for millionaires

…..where’s the liberal left here? Miliband needs to start pulling his weight. FAST. The dinosaur old guard seem to have the momentum within the party and with Ed seemingly endorsing ‘Blue Labour’ i think the liberal-left may just disappear in favour of obscene populism.

Unfortunate, given Ed M was elected partly on his liberal credentials, but the Lib Dems being in government has turned almost every Labour MP against any liberal idea, even if it was a Labour idea to start with…..*sigh*….

*If by calling for Clarke’s resignation Miliband ensured that he stayed (apparently contrary to Cameron and Osborne’s preference);
* if Clarke’s staying keeps alive a more liberal policy programme with which Miliband’s Labour is broadly sympathetic; and
* if Clarke’s staying keeps Cameron’s backbenchers disgruntled,

then on those terms, Miliband’s actions yesterday can be seen as canny, if opportunistic. But its a short term win with potential long-term costs, as Sunny points out. Miliband’s instinct to ditch the Blairite arms-race with the Tories on crime was quite correct. Yesterday could be seen as a move to the right which undermines that, and puts off the social liberals that Miliband is trying to woo back to Labour. Hopefully Miliband still has his eyes on that prize, notwithstanding his reaction to Clarke’s blunders this week.

7. Ken Clarb

I thin the oly bit of ed milabnd would dbrin a Giant Ham sahpe of Tony to table and at cthe thir count PUSH!! are faces in t and bite bite bite on the ham shout “Tony!” and bite on the ham agai and Yes!

8. Ken Clarb

In some way wa i mea is that grape lo

9. labour HQ

‘Right we won the 1997 general election cause we where like a liberal Tory party. So we could win the 2015 election if we are the Tories. It seems to work for them.’

10. Shatterface

Labour’s hysterical lurch to the Right on law and order was one of their most dispicable acts during the last decade or so (after their war record, of course) Ken Clarke has consistantly outflanked them from the Liberal-left.

If they think bringing out Jack Straw – a man who’s most famous outburst on the rape issue (to the effect that Pakistani men are prone to raping white girls) would have made Enoch Powell blush – is going to bring liberal voters back to the fold, they are out of their tiny minds.

And there’s nothing ‘strange’ about the ‘meeting of minds’ between The Sun and Millipede: its the same knee-jerk vigilante mob mentality that they are appealing to.

11. crossland

I think miliband was right to call for Clarke to go.

At the moment there are two related currents driving the coalitions policies on crime – a continuation of ‘more emphasis on prevention and treatment’ that began under Labour and has been sucessfull (particularly in drugs treatment) and a dramatic attempt to save money.

The problem for people who support a more ‘liberal’ crime/justice agenda is that the extreme cuts to funding will make it less likely to work at a time when crime may rise because of economic factors.

Add in the coalitions general air of incompetence and innability to sell/discuss the trade offs involved and its looking increasingly likely that the public will come 2015 see the current govts ‘experiment with liberal policy’ as a failure and be susceptable to a more ‘hang em and flog em’ rhetoric.

Labour (or any party keen on less authoritarian crime policies) needs to position itself as competent and in touch with victims – otherwise it will not be listend to in 2015

12. alan partridge

people liked them, why not make some more of them.

13. Shatterface

‘…..where’s the liberal left here? Miliband needs to start pulling his weight.’

He is pulling his weight – unfortunately his weight is light.

Pandering to The Sun is not the way to go. It is pointless, and will just end in pain. If Ed wants to take a position on any issue, then fine, but don’t do it because that piece of filth will support you.

If the Sun then supports you fine, but it should be a “who cares?” moment.

I was disappointed by Ed Milliband – he showed that he doesn’t understand that there is a distinction between being ‘tough on crime’ and ‘right on crime.’

I had hoped that Ed was too intelligent than to use an issue like this as a gateway into the Sun and the Daily Mail’s good books.

Rape is far too serious to be treated in this way.

http://www.allthatsleft.co.uk

‘Pandering to The Sun is not the way to go. It is pointless, and will just end in pain. If Ed wants to take a position on any issue, then fine, but don’t do it because that piece of filth will support you.’

Precisely – it’s very worrying to see this. A poisoned chalice if ever there were one.
I imagine apolitical tribal loons like oldpolitics would see it as essential trimming.

prediction – miliband will come a cropper sooner rather than later and desperately needed progress within the labour party will be back to square one – or more likely square minus one – with the revolting old amateur-fascists back at the helm. I think his heart is about 25% in the right place but he is unfortunately about as effective as tits on a bull.

18. Vladimir

Sunny,

“Rehabilitation is not only cheaper but reduces crime and is more humane.”

Intuitively, people know that this is nonsense when the crime in question is rape. They know that sentences are too short. No rape victim is really satisfied to hear that her attacker isn’t going to prison because he’s being “rehabilitated”… and that’s better.

The thing is, it’s nonsense for all other crimes as well. Community punishments and trivial fines not only spit in the face of victims, but also Society itself. If you really want to live in a liberal society, you absolutely have to have proper enforcement of rules. Freedom isn’t just freedom from the State, it’s freedom from crime too.

You wouldn’t want investment bankers embezzling and dodging taxes. You would want law enforcement to stop them and punish them. And rightly so. They should be locked up, yes? Well, the same thing applies to burglars and muggers, who are equally responsible for the bad things they do.

I hate the way that The Sun has picked up this rape business as a way to attack Ken Clarke. They always knew he was anti-prison, anti-punishment, anti-justice. They knew what this indicated about the Tories. Any party that could put someone like Ken Clarke in charge of justice could not possibly be conservative in any meaningful way. And yet they supported the Tories anyway. They have no grounds to complain now.

sally,

Pandering to The Sun is not the way to go. It is pointless, and will just end in pain. If Ed wants to take a position on any issue, then fine, but don’t do it because that piece of filth will support you.

If the Sun then supports you fine, but it should be a “who cares?” moment.

Hang on – when did you start writing things I agree with totally?

I think that the key thing here is that there are still people who believe two rather questionable assumptions – that Sun voters vote as the paper tells them, and that the Sun’s backing is required to win an election (whereas the Sun are just pretty good at picking out the winner). 1992 leaves an unpleasant memory to many, when even at the time it was quite clear the Sun was merely representing what many of its readers thought. And the Sun has a lot less readers nowadays…

Vladimir,

The thing is, it’s nonsense for all other crimes as well. Community punishments and trivial fines not only spit in the face of victims, but also Society itself. If you really want to live in a liberal society, you absolutely have to have proper enforcement of rules. Freedom isn’t just freedom from the State, it’s freedom from crime too.

What ‘society’ needs to decide is whether it is serious about reducing crime or merely punishing and incapacitating criminals. ‘Society’ actually knows sweet FA about it.

Prison only ‘works’ while the criminal is inside and therefore incapacitated (there may also be some deterrent effect, but this is arguable). Most criminals are eventually released from prison so, unless we are seriously proposing to lock up all criminals until they die (or are too feeble to commit crime), we have to make an effort to reduce recidivism.

This is not to say non-custodial sentences are appropriate for every crime or criminal – far from it – but what ‘society’ should consider is that custodial sentences might not be appropriate for every crime or criminal.

21. Vladimir

@20 “What ‘society’ needs to decide is whether it is serious about reducing crime or merely punishing and incapacitating criminals. ‘Society’ actually knows sweet FA about it… This is not to say non-custodial sentences are appropriate for every crime or criminal – far from it – but what ‘society’ should consider is that custodial sentences might not be appropriate for every crime or criminal.”

Nobody could sensibly disagree with you at this abstract level. Naturally a prison sentence is not appropriate for every crime. And indeed, “Society” knows nothing.

But I am not talking about abstractions. I am talking about real crimes that would have resulted in prison, if not hanging, a century ago. Since then, prisons, sentences and policing have all been liberalised dramatically.

Perhaps someone has previously pointed you at the crime statistics for Britain 1900-1999. There is a graph showing the 40-fold increase in indictable offences over that period. Could this huge increase possibly be related to the liberalisation process that ran concurrently? (Sounds like a question for Al Gore…)

When you say that prison doesn’t work, what you mean is that today’s prisons don’t work. Riots shouldn’t happen in prison, but they do. Drugs, weapons and mobile phones shouldn’t be found within prisons, but they are. If you go to prison, your principle concern should not be being attacked by the other inmates. But it is. Our prisons are completely rubbish. They have been liberalised to the extent that they now have only one purpose – to segregate the bad from the good.

If segregation is all that a prison can do, then of course there will be plenty of recidivism. Prisons really will “make bad people worse”.

The answer to our problems cannot be the prison “reform” of Ken Clarke – lighter sentences and community punishments. That’s been tried. It has failed catastrophically. Further liberalisation is not the answer. We need to try something different.

@21. Vladimir,

Precisely. Today, what to do about crime appears to be some kind of unsolvable mystery. Perhaps if we throw enough money at criminals, they will stop being criminals, and start reading the Guardian and shopping at Waitrose.

Strangely enough, this didn’t seem to be a problem 100 years ago. Strangely enough, this doesn’t seem to be a problem in other parts of the world. Funny, that…

Vladimir,

Perhaps someone has previously pointed you at the crime statistics for Britain 1900-1999. There is a graph showing the 40-fold increase in indictable offences over that period. Could this huge increase possibly be related to the liberalisation process that ran concurrently? (Sounds like a question for Al Gore…)

I have seen a graph of that kind. But it is devoid of context, such as how many offences were created in that period. If you have an argument to make, why not make it and support it with evidence, rather than ask a rhetorical question neither of us knows the answer to.

We need to try something different.

Like what?

24. Chaise Guevara

@ 22 vimothy

“Strangely enough, this didn’t seem to be a problem 100 years ago. Strangely enough, this doesn’t seem to be a problem in other parts of the world. Funny, that…”

Attitudes change. What of it? Do you really want this list of things that “didn’t seem to be a problem” 100 years ago, alongside penal policies that were very heavy-handed? How about racism, denying women the vote, outlawing homosexuality?

@24. Chaise Guevara

That’s an odd argument. What does denying women the vote have to do with crime policy?

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 vimothy

“That’s an odd argument. What does denying women the vote have to do with crime policy?”

It’s an entirely sensible argument. It shows you shouldn’t emulate the past for its own sake, because we got a lot of things wrong in the past that we’ve improved on since. So when you say “Strangely enough, this didn’t seem to be a problem 100 years ago. Strangely enough, this doesn’t seem to be a problem in other parts of the world”, it doesn’t actually show us anything.

“It shows you shouldn’t emulate the past for its own sake”

I’m not interested in emulating the past for its own sake. I’m interested in something specific–the relationship between crime and crime policy. Don’t you think it odd that punishment has no deterrent effect? It did in the past; it does elsewhere; it does in this country in other spheres. A mystery, then.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 vimothy

“I’m not interested in emulating the past for its own sake. I’m interested in something specific–the relationship between crime and crime policy. Don’t you think it odd that punishment has no deterrent effect? It did in the past; it does elsewhere; it does in this country in other spheres. A mystery, then.”

Apologies, I was coming into the conversation too late. Punishment obviously has a deterrent effect, it’s a very clear disincentive.

The problems I have with the justice system in terms of the way we punish people mainly have to do with the side effects. Such as: prison is a deterrent against commiting crime in the first place, but once someone has commited a crime and gone to prison, does that experience make them more or less likely to commit further crimes? I also think that criminal records – not intended as a punishment per se, but in practice potentially worse than jail – keep crime rates up in a rather stupid fashion.

I also think that in some cases we punish people for the effect of their actions rather than the intentions behind them (manslaughter and attempted murder should not exist as charges, in my view, they should be covered under criminal negligence and just normal murder, respectively), and I think that politicians have an unfortunate incentive to favour “tough” policies regardless of what the data says, because in the mind of many people “justice” = “vengeance”.

Finally, I believe in second chances. If you think that makes me a woolly liberal, fair enough – it’s a values thing, not an objective thing.

vimothy,

Don’t you think it odd that punishment has no deterrent effect?

Please cite.

30. johnPReid

labourHQ and Old politics, well said, Ray-North can it possible to be wrong-on-crime,as opposed to be right on crime

ans Suny, Ed miliband wasn’t prasied all feminists for calling Clakre to go, He was criticised by suzanne Moore, christina Patterson among others
the Sun actually sadi that what clarke said “some rapes are worse than other” but they wanted him to gofor saying lock less people away,
the idea that when Clarke goes teh tores will revert to type, for a start they were agianst someof labours tough policies like section 44 stops and they have’nt go the money to spend on polcing or prison places ,so the damge is already done and if they get someone more right wing crimes rising already and the police won’t have the resouces for years,thats one thing we can get support for teh Damage has been done,

2@ right to say Ed balls or Yvette should be leader though.
lost of laobur coters do read the Sun you, know,


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    The Sun praises Ed Miliband's toughness on crime, but its also a trap http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  2. Ashley Bullard

    RT @libcon: The Sun praises Ed Miliband's toughness on crime, but its also a trap http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  3. sunny hundal

    The Sun praises @Ed_Miliband's toughness on Ken Clarke & crime today but its also a trap http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  4. sunny hundal

    What does Labour do when Tories ditch Ken Clarke and move to hard-right on crime? It'll be in serious trouble then http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  5. Michael Bater

    Ed M gets praise for being tough on crime, but its also a trap | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/hgrhzKe via @libcon

  6. Stella K

    What does Labour do when Tories ditch Ken Clarke and move to hard-right on crime? It'll be in serious trouble then http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  7. Chris Williams

    RT @sunny_hundal: What do Labour do when Tories ditch Ken&move to hard-right on crime? It'll be in serious trouble then http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  8. manishta sunnia

    RT @sunny_hundal: What do Labour do when Tories ditch Ken&move to hard-right on crime? It'll be in serious trouble then http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  9. Bod

    What does Labour do when Tories ditch Ken Clarke and move to hard-right on crime? It'll be in serious trouble then http://bit.ly/ik67MA

  10. Tony Dowling

    What does Labour do when Tories ditch Ken Clarke and move to hard-right on crime? It'll be in serious trouble then http://bit.ly/ik67MA





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