Two weeks ago, assessing who is winning in the Coalition, I wrote of the Justice Department’s unusual position. Two major Tory pledges – on the British Bill of Rights and automatic jail sentences for carrying a knife – have not come to pass, but thanks to friendly fire rather than obstruction by the Lib Dems.
Since he took over from Ken Clarke, Chris Grayling has been labouring to set that right. That’s the context in which to view his announcement today that he is scrapping caution for serious offences such as rape, manslaughter, robbery, possession of a firearm and illegally carrying a knife.
This is an eminently sensible move which will be welcomed by voters, who are appalled when they learn it’s even possible for someone committing such offences to be cautioned.
It’s notable that carrying a knife is on the list and features in the headline of Grayling’s Mail on Sunday op-ed today. This is a clear (and welcome) departure from Ken Clarke’s appproach, and while the ditching of the pledge to jail those who carry knives has yet to be reversed, this is a step on that road.
It may not be a revolutionary idea, but it is a right one. This is good, bread and butter Conservative politics, correcting earlier policy failings in an area that people care about a great deal. “Crime Down” is one of the messages on the front of the Party Conference handbook – today’s announcement is one of the ways Grayling intends to make that headline bigger and bolder in the run-up to 2015.