Monday, February 19, 2007

Life should mean life should mean life should mean life

An e-mail from Cowley Street urges me to visit the party's We Can Cut Crime site.

When I do, I find the rather alarming paragraph:
We need a prison system that works. Prisoners should work to pay compensation to their victims, and to cut reoffending. A life sentence should mean life.
A life sentence should mean life? And in bold type too? Is that really Liberal Democrat policy.

A little research suggests it is, but not in the way most people reading the quotation above would imagine. The BBC report of the launch of this campaign quotes Menzies Campbell:
"Life will mean life: only those that judges believe should stay in prison forever will be given a life sentence.
This suggests that there would be many fewer life sentences under a Liberal Democrat government. In particular, it suggests that the standard tariff for murder will no longer be a life sentence.

This may well be a sensible policy, but it cannot be a good idea to present it in a way that suggests we are proposing its precise opposite.

1 comment:

Jonny Wright said...

Yes, I thought so as well. Did you see the Tory campaign leaflet quoting us saying "we will abolish mandatory life sentences for murder"? Clearly we wouldn't, we would rename them - we're not proposing to let criminals out any earlier; we just want each sentence to do what it says on the tin!

I think the lesson is to phrase ourselves very carefully, especially on law and order, where other parties like to make out we're soft. We should be attacking the other parties' posturing and tough-talking with confusing sentence names. Instead, we just hand them golden spin material, on a plate.