Friday, February 23, 2007

A poor sap like Jade

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News.


Despite your pleas, I seldom quote old House Points columns. But this observation from last May seems pertinent this week:
Governments increasingly resemble spoilt teenagers. Look at the state of this bedroom. New laws piled on top of each other. Some have not even been taken out of their boxes, but you will still demand the latest model next year.
Think of the government's reaction to the recent shootings in South London. Tony Blair went on television to announce that he wanted to lower the age at which there is a mandatory five-year jail term for carrying a gun from 21 to 17.

It soon turned out that the government had already lowered the minimum age to 18 in the 2003 Criminal Justice Act. But this had been found by the courts to conflict with the Powers of Criminal Court Act of 2000.

So we already have too many laws in this field. Yet the government’s instinctive reaction is to call for even more.

News management was always central to the New Labour project, but these days it is all there is to it. All that matters is countering this morning’s bad headlines. As to governing he country… that takes too long and there just isn’t time.

The South London shootings were tragic, but the process can be farcical too. Because Gordon Brown was embarrassed by the media furore over Jade Goody and Celebrity Big Brother on a trip to India, Alan Johnson decided he had to be seen to act.

"The current debate over Big Brother has highlighted the need to make sure our schools focus on the core British values of justice and tolerance," he said, and announced that, while children must be taught about British history, they should also have an understanding of cultural diversity.

Whether this means anything, I am not sure. But I am perfectly certain that it will be lost in the hundred other education initiatives announced this month.

It may well be that the shootings and way our culture exalts and then vilifies a poor sap like Jade have common roots in our lack of confidence in our own values. But examining that would require some hard thinking. It is far easier to announce a new law.

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