The stand out success of the Major years was the reduction in crime achieved by Michael Howard’s crime policies and the ‘prison works‘ policy, in particular. Crime started falling after many years of punishing increases. If Margaret Thatcher and Geoffrey Howe tore up the idea that it was government’s job to merely manage Britain’s economic decline, John Major and Michael Howard ended the state’s failure to contain crime.
In what ConservativeHome believes is the biggest and most positive policy announcement to yet emerge from David Cameron’s leadership, The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Conservatives want to plough £15bn into building more prisons and keeping offenders in jail for longer. The cost will be met by scrapping Labour’s expensive ID cards scheme. (9.30am update: David Davis, just speaking on Sunday AM, has said that The Sunday Telegraph has overstated the extent of planned prisons investment).
Matthew d’Ancona defends the policy in his Sunday Telegraph column:
"And just in case you think that sounds a bit un-compassionate, the Tories point out that greater prison capacity will reduce over-crowding, limit the movement of inmates from one prison to another, and thus make rehabilitation and education programmes more practical."
Tory traditionalists will warmly welcome this policy. After months of declining to talk about Home Office responsibilities, Mr Cameron has raised the issue of crime at almost every PMQs since the foreign prisoners scandal broke. The party now has a flagship policy to substantiate its own commitment to tackle crime. Also, in The Sunday Telegraph, David Davis comments on the crisis engulfing Met chief Sir Iain Blair.
Another, more controversial crime-fighting policy, is suggested by the Shadow Home Secretary’s near-namesake, David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth. Writing for the Mail on Sunday, Mr Davies – who is also running a campaign to stop all further early releases – was recently the victim of a serious burgulary. He believes that homeowners should be permitted to use Taser electronic stun guns against intruders. The US-based Taser company notes that Tasers effect temporary but immediate paralysis in their target by overwhelming the central nervous system with a 50,000 volt shock. Mr Davies, explaining why homeowners should have Taser guns:
"There is an unwritten compact between the State and the citizen. The State has an obligation to use its might to keep us safe from crime. In return, individual householders agree not to bear arms or use anything more than minimal force against intruders. The State, under Labour and Tony Blair, has manifestly failed to keep its side of the bargain – showing itself to be indifferent to the plight of burgulary victims. So now is the time to begin a serious debate about giving citizens new powers to protect their property and families."
Some British police forces are beginning to use Tasers but opponents claim that as many as 50 American civilians have suffered fatal heart attacks after having been ‘Tasered’.