So she asked:
"Will the Justice Secretary indicate what action he is taking to give communities more of a say in the criminal justice system? In particular, will he say what work is being done in West Lancashire?"
A patsy question if ever I heard one – and one which shouldn't have been especially difficult in any case, since Straw is a fellow Lancashire MP.
So Straw replied as follows:
"Yes, I can. We now have community payback, which involves offenders in high-visibility jackets. It is popular with the public-they can now see community punishments taking place-and it is accepted by offenders as part of punishment. There are five such schemes taking place in my hon. Friend's area. There is the Far Cotton alley gates scheme, the Camp Hill lighting scheme, the Safer Lumbertubs initiative and many other projects, all of which are improving the quality of life for her constituents."
Oh no they're not. Far Cotton, Camp Hill and Lumbertubs are all in Northamptonshire in the East Midlands, some 150 miles or so from Rosie Cooper's constituency. It can only surmise that Straw had managed to read out a list of statistics relating to the county represented by Peter Bone – the Tory MP for Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, who had the next question on the Order Paper.
Adrian Owens, who is challenging Cooper for the Conservatives at the general election, is less than impressed with either of the duo:
"Jack Straw represents a Lancashire constituency. I would have thought that he would have had an elementary grasp of geography, but to hail community payback projects from hundreds of miles away underlines in an amusing way how detached from governing effectively the Labour party have become. What’s equally worrying is that Rosie Cooper, didn’t challenge the minister on his inaccurate answer at the time.”