Cameron relaunches the Big Society today for the fourth time. He needs to be relaunching his crime policies.
By Tim Montgomerie
There's a cartoon in one of today's national newspapers that portrays a family playing the board game Monopoly but it's a Tory-branded edition. "It's just the same," explains the father, "but no one ever gets sent to prison." It's a terrible position for the party of law and order to be ridiculed in this way. Lord Ashcroft's recent polling (details here) found a worrying gap between the views of target voters on crime and how those target voters perceived the Conservative Party:
At the heart of the problem are falling police numbers and falling prison numbers.
Ken Clarke insists that too many people go to jail in Britain but look at these facts from today's Daily Mail and tell me that he's right:
"We must deter [criminals], we must catch them, we must lock them up – but then we must make sense of that incarceration. We must do much more to educate them in prison, to turn them round, and when they are let out we must do everything in our power to stop them reoffending. My deputy mayor Kit Malthouse has helped pioneer the Heron unit in Feltham, where 18 to 24 year olds are given the help and education they need to avoid becoming repeat offenders. The result is that reoffending rates are down from 80% to 20%, without any corresponding increase among those not picked for the Heron unit – and if you think of the cost of keeping someone in Feltham, at £54,000 per year, you can see the economic logic of what we are doing."
Cameron mounts the FOURTH relaunch of the Big Society today and the Mail is convinced he has the wrong priorities:
"The Tories, bloodied by the row over soft sentences for rapists, are fast losing their reputation as the party of law and order: a third of voters now think they are less tough on crime even than the last Labour government. The PM should concentrate on finding proper punishments for convicts – not woolly, infuriating gimmicks."
The Conservatives are in a very strong electoral position but they can't afford to look out of touch on issues as vital as protecting the public. Our success in May's local elections was flattered by the huge turnout generated by the right-wing newspapers and their full-throated opposition to AV. We don't want that full-throated power turned on Cameron and his law and order policies.