The political battlefront is firmly locked on crime.  The weekend’s
newspapers were full of items on John Reid’s latest attempt to get a grip on the
Home Office: a PR campaign to tell us to "Don’t moan, take action – it’s your
street too".  It seems people were to be invited to "have a go" at
anti-social behaviour and not "suffer in silence".  Reactions were, um, at
best mixed, with David Davis speaking for many in his robust response:

"After six weeks of serial
incompetence by the Home Office on everything from killers on probation to the
escapes of serious criminals from open prisons, it is brazen beyond belief for
the Government to turn around and try to shift responsibility on to
shoulders of the public."

As a slogan it probably could have gone to another draft – but that doesn’t
matter, because today we have the news that John Reid has ditched his
Don’t Moan Campaign after less than 24 hours. Apparently,
he never approved of the idea at all. Instead, today’s crack-downs involve:

1) A radical shake-up of the centuries-old system of coroner’s courts. Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith and Constitution Minister Harriet Harman
have decided that the "archaic" system has to go in order to prevent another Dr
Shipman running amok on the NHS waiting list.  Clearly it would be
ridiculous to expect any of those thousands of NHS managers to do anything about
such matters, wouldn’t it?

2) Lord Goldsmith has also decided to warn the judiciary
against handing down "soft sentences to sex offenders" and is calling
for longer sentences.  By an amazing coincidence The Sun was today launching a campaign to have "bad judges SACKED". Ten judges are fingered for excessive leniency.  This is certainly an
issue with public resonance – Keeley, 19, from Kent was so anxious to give The
Sun a supportive quote that she neglected to get dressed before being
photographed (no, there isn’t a link for that one). Clearly, Lord Goldsmith’s spurt of energy has nothing to do with his own
involvement in the bungled courts martials of soldiers in Iraq – obviously our much-admired Attorney-General has simply switched his brand
of cornflakes.

A remarkable consensus has emerged across most newspapers that Sir Ian
Blair’s time as Metropolitan Police Commissioner is drawing to a close
of his mishandling of the shooting of Charles de Menezes, or perhaps the swoop
on two innocent men in Forest Gate, or maybe because he bugged conversations with
the Attorney-General, or his unfortunate tendency to open his mouth and say
something daft or …… (add your own examples here). I’m sure our ever-popular Prime Minister will be wracked with
grief if the next three months’ headlines about "Blair Must Go" refer
to the wrong Blair.
A cynic might think that this sudden flurry of stories was a good
old-fashioned spin operation to distract attention and line up Sir Iain Blair as
the latest fall-guy.  Surely not. 
Crime has rocketed up the political agenda in the last few weeks (it can
only be a matter of time before Sir Ming Campbell rediscovers his enthusiasm for
capital punishment) and the Government has only itself to blame for this as the
endemic incompetence of the Home Office has become more widely appreciated (and
providing much material for our sister-site
We can look forward to a long hot summer as the various parties work
themselves up into a froth and lather with their exciting new policies for
cracking-down on criminals, felons and riff-raff.  You might like to add
your own suggestions for radical measures in the comment section (25 yrs for
double-parking?  Solitary confinement for over-loud i-Pods on the
Tube?)   What we almost certainly won’t get from anyone is a
cogent analysis of disorder or a coherent programme for reasserting the
rule of law – John Reid’s weekend brainstorm over moaning, for example, had
probably more to do with the long-running Whitehall turf war over the "respect
" than any real desire to encourage citizen activism. 
Whatever happened  to being "tough on the causes of crime"? 
Hasn’t anyone noticed that you can’t actually maintain law and order
through newspaper headlines?

William Norton