Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nick Clegg should be grateful that Lord Bonkers is less punitive than he is

I have been trying to write a post over the weekend arguing against the idea that the families of those convicted (apparently merely charged in some cases) of offences to do with last weeks riots should be evicted if they live in social housing.

Because I have not been well, this post never quite happened, but my basic argument would have been that, though I am something of a hawk when it comes to punishing rioters, it is unjust for one social class to be punished more heavily than another for the same offence. No middle-class family would lose its mortgage because a child got into trouble with the law, so no working-class family should face this sanction either.

So I was disappointed to read in the Observer this morning that Nick Clegg was supporting the evictions of tenants in social housing. The quotation in which he does so seems to have disappeared from the Guardian website, but you can find it in the Daily Mail:
'"f you go out and trash other people's houses, you burn cars, you loot and smash up shops - in other words, if you show absolutely no sense of respect to your own community - then, of course, questions need to be asked whether the community should support you in living in that community. 
"I think that is a perfectly fair question to ask, but how you apply it needs to be done in a case-by-case way. 
"The principle that if you are getting some support from the community, you are going to have to show some loyalty to that community is a really, really important one."
Nick, you may recall, was involved in a bit of lawbreaking himself in his younger days. He was lucky that the victim was a certain peer from Rutland who made no mention of evicting the Clegg family:
The pride and joy of my gardener Meadowcroft is his collection of rare hairy cacti. He gathers them from the arid south of Rutland and tends them in the way that a particularly attentive she wolf looks after her whelps.

I well remember his fury when a young whipper-snapper from Westminster School burnt down the glasshouse where he keeps them. My first reaction was to hand the lad over to the Proper Authorities, but learning that he was some sort of nephew of my (how shall I put it?) old friend Moura Budberg, I relented and dealt with the matter myself. I informed the errant youth that he would work for Meadowcroft until he had made full and proper restitution for the loss of the aforementioned prickly crop.

Over the years Nick Clegg (for it was he) has had himself elected to the European Parliament and the Commons, but he still comes to the Hall regularly to do odd jobs. (What with compound interest and the strength of the Rutland pound, debts can take a long time to pay off.)

This afternoon Meadowcroft and I find Clegg perched on a garden seat writing a speech. “Never mind being a scholard,” says my favourite horticulturalist, belabouring him with a broom, “get out and sweep up they leaves.” “I think Clegg has just left his comfort zone,” I observe as he rushes out to work in the garden.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely agreed. Punishments must be proportional, and the idea of a family being made homeless because they've got a teenage kid who decided to smash a shop window sounds ridiculously far from being proportional.

Andrew Hickey said...

That Anonymous was me. Quite why it came out as Anon I don't know.

Paul Walter said...

Sorry to hear you've not been well. I hope you recover soon.
I'd be surprised if any judges authorise any such evictions.

Anonymous said...

Nick Clegg would do well to bear the ban on collective punishment in mind before uttering such illiberal rubbish;

‘it is a fundamental rule … that criminal liability does not survive the person who has committed the criminal act’ (AP, MP and TP v Switzerland [ECtHR] Case No 71/1996/690/882 [29 August 1997] para. 4

dreamingspire said...

Get well soon Jonathan. And Wandsworth Council and its leader Ravi Govindia (Wandsworth leader)should take head of ECHR and also of the cost of rehousing the family (which I understand from news reports they would have to do).

Sometimes I wonder about Cameron (see and just hope that LD Ministers will rein him in yet again.

Neville Farmer said...

Now, of course, if those in the Palace of Westminster who have looted the public purse were expelled from the house, rather than just pay it back, they might have to reinstate Blair's law on sleeping rough in Parliament Square, eh?