Conservative Diary

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It was the Sun wot swung it... and the Daily Mail

By Tim Montgomerie
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In an age when we are told that newspapers don't matter much anymore we should pause and note the relentless campaigns waged by Britain's two biggest selling dailies against the Coalition's prisons policy. It wasn't Her Majesty's Official Opposition that led on the crime issue. It wasn't really Tory backbenchers. It certainly wasn't the BBC. Hardly a day has gone by without the Sun and Mail attacking Ken Clarke's policies. In opposition, Dominic Grieve was dropped as Shadow Home Secretary because The Sun's Rebekah Wade found him too wet. The Sun may not have succeeded in ousting Ken Clarke (not yet anyway) but in an informal alliance with Paul Dacre at the Mail, Cameron has been forced into today's return to a Michael Howard-like policy on crime. Because of the emphasis on better crime prevention and incentivised rehabilitation the policy is probably even better than Michael Howard's but there's no longer a commitment to significant cuts in prison numbers and in lengths of sentence.

The Tories aren't out of the woods on crime. Necessary reductions in police numbers still add up to a political vulnerability but the Ashcroft gap between the public and the government on crime should, hopefully, start to narrow.


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