The Government that managed to ‘lose’ more 1,000 foreign prisoners is about to suggest that David Cameron is ‘soft on crime’. Today’s Guardian suggests that Home Secretary John Reid will charge the Tories with being ‘soft on crime’ because of:
- questioning of extradition laws;
- opposition to identity cards;
- refusing to support 90-day detention and control orders; and
- Tory suspicion of ASBOs.
The Guardian suggests that the Queen’s Speech will have a strong law’n’order flavour in a bid to put the Tories on the back foot. The Sun was critical of the Conservative approach yesterday and The Mirror has already been doing Labour’s bidding…
Some Tories will have sympathy for the Labour attack. The reason why 36% of party members most fear John Reid as Labour leader is because of his tough guy language. They would like similar toughness from David Cameron and worry about the ‘hug-a-hoodie’ headlines.
ConservativeHome believes that it will be difficult for Labour to present the Tories as ‘softies’ for five main reasons:
- Labour’s own very mixed record;
- David Davis’ credentials as a tough man;
- Nick Herbert’s police reform agenda;
- David Cameron’s own commitment to the vital ‘prison works’ policy; and
- His willingness to address the causes of crime.
“If all we have to say to those kids is that you’re
feral, that you deserve an ASBO, that you should be in custody — we
will simply be reacting to youth crime instead of reducing it. Tell a
16-year-old boy, abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, on
drugs, dyslexic, hyper-active . . . tell that boy it’s all his own
fault when he ends up in Feltham [the young offenders institution].”
This quotation reminds me of words George W Bush used in 2000:
"A couple of years ago, I visited a juvenile jail in
Marlin, Texas, and talked with a group of young inmates. They were
angry, wary kids. All had committed grownup crimes. Yet when I looked
in their eyes, I realized some of them were still little boys. Toward
the end of the conversation, one young man, about 15 years old, raised
his hand and asked a haunting question, "What do you think of me?" He
seemed to be asking, like many Americans who struggle: Is their hope
for me? Do I have a chance? And, frankly, do you, a white man in a
suit, really care about what happens to me? A small voice, but it
speaks for so many: single moms struggling to feed the kids and pay the
rent; immigrants starting a hard life in a new world; children without
fathers in neighborhoods where gangs seem like friendship or drugs
promise peace, and where sex sadly seems the closest thing to belong."
There is no contradiction between trying to stop young people ending up
on the conveyor belt to crime – notably by addressing father absence,
poor schooling and drug abuse – and then dealing toughly with any
people who do end up committing crimes.
Tony Blair’s ‘tough on crime
and tough on the causes of crime’ wasn’t just a great soundbite – it
captured a truth about how societies should combat crime. If Team Cameron is
serious about crime it will do what Blair and Bush have failed to do
and seriously address the social problems that increase crime. Recognising that crime has a social dimension does not absolve of an individual criminal of moral responsibility but it should inform public policy.
We must hope that
unthinking editorials in The Sun and politicking by John Reid do not
knock the Tory leader off his course.
Next week ConservativeHome will look at homeland security with a Platform piece from Patrick Mercer MP.