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Ken Clarke insists David Cameron agrees with him on sending fewer criminals to prison

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 4 The Times (£) splashes this morning on an interview with the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, who it states is on "defiant" form when it comes to policy on prisons.

Two weekends ago we highlighted the comprehensive polling that showed a massive gap between the apparent attitudes of the Government and the general public on sentencing policy.

Voters want tougher, longer prison sentences, and have little or no confidence in community sentences, the research found, and Lord Ashcroft, who commissioned the polling, wrote that he Government "risks a serious crisis of public confidence" unless they can be persuaded of the benefits of Ken Clarke's approach.

Which brings us back to the interview in today's Times (£) in which Clarke says:

  • Prison numbers have been growing at a level which is "financially unsustainable" and "very bad value for taxpayers' money";
  • Prisons "are not hotels" as much of the media would have us believe;
  • Forthcoming legislation will make community sentences "more punitive, effective and organised"; and
  • Those in prison will experience a disciplined working environment.

But most significantly, for a Cabinet minster who is clearly taking a lot of flak for his proposals, Clarke insists that David Cameron is entirely behind what he is doing:

“I have never said anything on crime and punishment which is not the collective policy of the entire Government from top to bottom."

The Times' Sam Coates correctly interpreted Thursday's immigration speech (£) as an attempt by David Cameron to reassure and energise core Tory voters. Ken Clarke's intervention doesn't help that strategy.


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