"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Friday, 23 April 2010

Live Crime Debate

I was about to press 'publish post' when the mother of all power cuts began on Tuesday. I know it's late and irrelevant now but it's a record of sorts. I missed Wednesday's Chancellors' live debate and last night's Leaders' Debate so I'm going to have another cup of tea (bliss!) and watch them online - oh, and I also have to sort out my Sky connection which seems to have blown. Happy Days :-) Back later, DV.

This afternoon's debate followed the same as yesterday's on Foreign Affairs. Andrew Neil and Mark Easton questioned Chris Grayling (Shadow Home Sec), Chris Huhne (LibDem spokesman on Home Affairs) and Alan Johnson.

Home Sec Johnson was first out of the slips.   Protect frontline police numbers; guaranteed fast & effective action on anti-social behaviour; expand Community Payback punishments; failing police forces to be taken over; full use of CCTV & DNA technology; early intervention to prevent crime & anti-social behaviour.  Will 'maintain & enhance neighbourhood policing'.  Claimed last 13yrs have been a Labour success.

Brillo asked about Harman wearing a flak jacket in Peckham.  He said she "wore it as part of the team that was going out that day" and question should be directed to Harman as to why the team felt it necessary.  Crime in Peckham has fallen; violent crime in Peckham has fallen, as it has across London.  He said.

Grayling next.  Instant punishments for anti-social behaviour; combat binge drinking; get more police back on the beat; more local control over the police; freedom to defend your home from burglars; restore civil liberties.  Anyone carrying a knife *will* go to jail.  Wants a system that's on the side of the law-abiding, not on the side of the criminal.

Brillo asked whether he'd ever 'hugged a hoodie'   Grayling made a joke about his son who wears hooded tops before answering 'no'.  Need carrots and sticks: tough penalties for offenders but must also understand that some offenders come from 'pretty terrible & difficult backgrounds'.  Some offenders need support and mentoring to turn their lives around.  Zero tolerance for knife-carriers.

Grayling was also asked why the Conservatives have ring-fenced overseas aid, about the B&B couple and why senior Police Officers had threatened to resign (ACPO's vested interests anyone?) if the Conservatives bring in elected police chiefs.  To the latter question, Grayling responded that he wanted more decisions taken at a local level, not Home Office level, that it was, in effect, de-politicising the police.
Huhne  Limit custodial sentences of less than 6 months; base drugs policy on independent scientific advice; cancel prison building programme; 3,000 more police officers; directly elected police authorities; statutory Youth Service.  Problem is not in punishments but in catching criminals.  Must do more on knife and gun crime: suggested hospitals must advise police when treating knife/gun wounds (I thought they already did).

Brillo asked what was the danger that when people studied the LibDem's manifesto and policies on crime they'd say 'thanks but no thanks'.  Huhne says there is no danger because their policies 'are based on the evidence of what works'.  Blamed 'tabloid newspaper editors' for the perception of crime.  Ho-ho.

After that it was the usual questioning followed by a very quick yes/no interlude and the 45-second summing up.

Huhne should appear for the LibDems more often because he came across as another long-winded, gesticulating bigmouth.  Interrupting others, over-running when his time was up and a stabbing, pointing digit.  Oh, and soft on crime.  Here are a few examples of the type of crime that, under the LibDems, wouldn't get a custodial sentence:

2/3rds of the current 5,000 pa imprisoned for knife crime;
Theft from a shop involving significant intimidation;
Burglary from a building or dwelling involving £2,000 or more;
Assault occasioning Actual Bodily Harm.

Huhne said youngsters often carry knives 'for their own protection' rather than to intimidate others and it was important to discriminate.

Grayling seems to be a pleasant, mild-mannered man who gives the impression of not being up to the job, which is unfortunate because he actually responded well under pressure, didn't muff anything, introduced a touch of self-deprecating humour and answered the questions with a quiet confidence.

I won't bore you with Johnson - we all know about him, or, at least, we all know what Party hacks and journos think about him: the sun shines out of his proverbial and he should be Labour Leader.  Me?  I think he's weak, wishy-washy and not up to it - the Peter Principle personified.  When he was closely questioned he became quite flustered plus I don't like any of Labour's policies anyway.

The questions in the Yes/No Interlude were:
1. Can you guaranteed that if you form the next government, police numbers won't fall?
Johnson:  No.  Grayling: The Home Sec doesn't have the power to do that so No.  Huhne:  Yes.
2. Apart from motoring offences have you ever broken the law?
Huhne:  No.  Grayling: No.  Johnson:  No.
3.  Are there too many speed cameras?
Grayling: Yes.  Johnson: No.  Huhne: Shrugging shoulders, gesticulating and nodding head from side to side - Yes.

Mark Easton appeared to target Grayling for most of his questions; I'm sure I didn't imagine it and at one point the word 'harangue' sprang to mind until Brillo intervened to move things on.    Easton directed two to Huhne and then regretted it because he couldn't shut him up.  If you're interested I'll post some videos later but it wasn't sparkling and only interesting if you like the little details, which is why I didn't post any of yesterday's FA debate.

Best remark from Brillo:  "No, Chris Huhne, we've had to listen to you, you'll now listen to us."  Huhne's face was a picture in pause mode.

Funniest comment from someone whose name I can't remember: 'Grayling's so tall he's outgrown his hair.'   It's true - either Grayling's a Gentle Giant or Johnson and Huhne are vertically-challenged.

Thanks again to Guido for hosting the live chat.

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