Friday, January 29, 2010

House Points: After Edlington

My House Points column from today's Liberal Democrat News. I have written about Lady Allen of Hurtwood on this blog before.

Crying shame

David Cameron’s attempt to make capital out of events in Edlington was a nonsense. The attackers’ parents are married, and concern about that, besides a few false claims on crime rates, is all his “Broken Britain” campaign offers.

Still, there was a grim humour to it. After James Bulger's murder Tony Blair took himself off to Wellingborough to announce that the killing was “a hammer-blow against the sleeping conscience of the country”. It is poetic justice to see Blair's lowest punch used against his party in return. And it emphasises how closely Cameron has modelled his strategy on New Labour’s playbook from the 1990s.

Not that Ed Balls’ performance on Monday was much better. There may be good arguments against publishing the Edlington case review, as David Laws and the Conservatives urged, but he was not able to come up with them.

And a dispatch box appearance that made the Miliband brothers look mature must be a worry for someone who thinks he ought to be the next Labour leader.

Balls’ case was that everyone, or at least Lord Laming and the NSPCC, agreed with him. But Laming is one of those run-of-the-mill public servants who acquire mythic status because government gets them to write a report whenever it is in trouble. (It used to be Sir Ron Dearing in education.)

After the death of Peter Connelly (“Baby P”), Lord Laming was asked to consider whether the reforms he had suggested after Victoria Climbie’s death were adequate. Not surprisingly, Lord Laming came to the conclusion that Lord Laming had done a pretty good job.

And the NSPCC is not always a disinterested party. In the Climbie case the charity’s own actions were one of the things investigated. I also wonder whether the statement on its website that “this country has not seen such acts of schoolboy savagery for many years” is correct.

Besides, child welfare is too important to be left to the establishment. The greatest advance ever made in the field, the 1948 Children Act, was largely down to the independent campaigner Marjorie Allen (Lady Allen of Hurtwood). She took on the children’s charities that insisted upon running large barrack-like institutions.

So David Laws should keep up the pressure to have the Edlington review published.

No comments: