Friday, July 10, 2009

House Points: Calder's Second Law of Politics

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

Dyed in the Wool

Calder’s First Law of Politics is that if all the parties agree on a new law it is bound to turn out to be a disaster. My Second Law is that the more power the government takes for itself, the more arbitrary the exercise of that power becomes. This is why, with Labour’s effective nationalisation of childhood, we see children taken into care on apparently flimsy grounds whilst others die at the hands of their parents despite countless visits from public-sector professionals.

The same thing happens in the legal system. Labour has created numerous new criminal offences, yet this week we learnt that nearly 1000 offenders released on licence, who should have been sent back to prison, are still at large. They include 19 convicted murderers.

A word of advice to Alan Johnson, the new home secretary: concentrate first on keeping murderers locked up and spread your wings only when you have got that right.

Certainly, Johnson gave no sign that he offers a break with the recent past at home office questions on Monday. There was no sign of his being the fresh new face some Labour optimists still believe can win them the next election.

He washed his hands of any responsibility in the case of Gary McKinnon – the Asperger’s syndrome sufferer facing extradition to America for computer hacking. And he offered a dogged defence of identity cards, including the unconvincing claim that the “need to prove identity is a constant daily occurrence”.

Nor – to continue this column’s new theme – should you expect any better from the Tories. Angela Watkinson, wanted firmer action against antisocial behaviour. As Matt Foot recently pointed out n a letter to the Guardian 99 per cent of applications for an ASBO are granted:
they are extremely difficult for anyone to stop, as the only test for the court is whether there is evidence that someone behaved in a way "likely to cause alarm", and hearsay or gossip is allowed as evidence. An ASBO can then ban you from doing anything anywhere for the rest of your life. If you breach the order, you face up to five years in prison.
It’s scary to think what Watkinson may have in mind.

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