Friday, January 22, 2010

Edlington: Cameron copies a move from the New Labour playbook

David Cameron's attempt to make political capital from the Edlington case is, of course, a nonsense. But it is a reminder of just how closely he has modelled his strategy on that employed by Tony Blair and New Labour in the years before the 1997 general election.

An Observer article by Nick Cohen from 2001 reminds us of the depth to which Blair was prepared to sink:
After James Bulger's murder, Blair went to Wellingborough and announced that the killing was 'a hammer-blow against the sleeping conscience of the country'. It was a daring move. He was using a dead toddler as a symbol of the state of Britain under the Conservatives. Only under Labour, he said, would we find social peace by accepting we 'couldn't have rights without responsibilities'.
There is a certain grim poetic justice in seeing Blair's lowest blows rained on his party in return, but Cohen's judgement on the Labour applies just as much to Cameron today:

James Bulger's murder 'said' nothing more (or less) about the state of Britain than that a horrible crime had taken place. It wasn't a symbol of anything. About 20 juveniles are convicted of murder or manslaughter each year. Nearly all are 14 or over. Killers as young as Jon Venables and Robert Thompson are incredibly rare, which is why the criminal-justice system has such difficulties knowing whether to punish or treat them.

Ten-year-olds are usually too small to kill. Pre-pubescent murderers are freaks who appear without reason or pattern. Their numbers haven't been increasing or decreasing. They don't 'tell' the conscience of the country anything.

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