Labour has changed the law, and free-born Englishmen and women can no longer walk a few hundred paces down the Queen’s pavement to Downing Street to protest at the closure of their local hospitals.
This government seems to suffer from a kind of schizophrenia in its approach to the Criminal Justice System
I want them to worry about the whereabouts of these thugs and creeps, and on that matter they showed a profound indifference
Labour’s law – just squawk loudly and take no action
It was when the policeman coughed quietly at my shoulder and said that I was breaking the law that I knew the game was up. When you get to my stage in life, you cease to get that thrill out of being arrested. I had to turn and face the throng, who were trying to march with me from College Green, Westminster, to Downing Street. Sorry, folks, I was forced to announce.
About turn! Labour has changed the law, and free-born Englishmen and women can no longer walk a few hundred paces down the Queen’s pavement to Downing Street to protest at the closure of their local hospitals.
Actually, I had to bawl the message at the top of my lungs, because Labour’s new measures against civil protest mean that you cannot use a loudhailer. As we all saw at the Labour Party conference, you can’t heckle a cabinet minister any more without the risk of being arrested under section 44 of some swingeing new anti-heckler act.
You can’t smoke in public. You can’t legally hunt foxes, in the way that people have been doing in this country for hundreds of years. Naturally, I lack the courage to smack my own children, but anyone who is forced to that regrettable expedient will find that new laws proscribe any chastisement that leaves bruising or discoloration.
If you try to stop an inspector pushing his way unexpected into your kindergarten, you face a fine of £2,500. You can have your DNA held on a government database, and very shortly you will no longer be able to apply for a new passport without being obliged to fork out vast sums for an ID card. You can’t replace your own window in your own home without some kind of inspection, and you certainly can’t change a switch in the kitchen.
You can’t put a union flag on your locker without the risk that you will be prosecuted for racial discrimination. You can be extradited to the United States without any prima facie evidence that you have committed a crime at all, let alone in America. You can lose your driving licence for a collection of comparatively trivial speeding offences, provided that they have all been recorded on camera.
You can’t say anything that might be construed as inspiring “religious hatred”, even though the Koran is full of stuff that plainly falls into that category. You can’t “glorify” terrorism, even though there are plenty of people in this country who have just celebrated the anniversary of the Easter Rising of 1916. You can’t even say that a police horse is “gay” without being arrested and prosecuted for homophobia.
And yet, if you are a foreign criminal, and you are convicted of a very serious offence such as murder or rape, you can serve your time in a British jail and then just melt back into the landscape to re-offend, even though the courts may have specifically ordered that you be considered for deportation.
Anyone looking at Charles Clarke yesterday, and listening to his tragic statement, will have been baffled above all by the inconsistency. This government seems to suffer from a kind of schizophrenia in its approach to the Criminal Justice System. On the one hand it seems to be ostentatiously tyrannical, and never happier than when criminalising some course of human conduct.
In the past eight years, Labour has created between 700 and 1,000 new criminal offences, and the jails are now so full that prisoners are bunking up in police cells and being shuttled around the country. Which makes it all the more incredible that in this basic matter of protecting the public the Home Office should act with this ineffable apathy. How can it be?
How can such unbelievable lassitude afflict a government that is supposed to be tough on crime? The answer, of course, is that the Government is not so much interested in being tough on crime, as in being seen to be tough. It is not about the results; it is not about the exact legal effect of the Bills they enact.
It is about the mood music, the reassuring psychological impact on the poor frightened voter of all this government legislation being pushed through the Commons with symphonic vigour, even if it has very little impact on criminals or terrorists.
That is why Blair humiliated Clarke, and insisted that there should be a ban on “glorifying” terrorism. He knew that it was a semantic mush; he knew that it would be impossible to enforce, or at least arbitrary in the enforcement. But he also knew that the focus groups wanted something to be done about the “preachers of hate”, and though there was already plenty of useful law on the statute book, he wanted something to show, and the miserable Clarke delivered it.
Labour continues to use ever more new legislation as a kind of rhetorical tool, a parliamentary squawk to indicate its attitudes, while totally neglecting to use and enforce the existing law. It didn’t care about the 1,023 foreign criminals who were released back into the community, because they were covered by existing legislation. These criminals couldn’t form the basis for some new headline-grabbing measure or eye-catching initiative.
Their deportation was part of the grindingly hard and tedious business of government, and yet the Home Secretary does not even know where they are, or how he or his services can hope to find them again.
This is a government that is in the process of setting up an insane Common Agricultural Policy-style database of every child in the country. That’s right: hundreds of millions of pounds are to be spent on a register of the details of millions of blameless, innocent unthreatened children, because the Children’s Lobby wants it, and the Government is keen to push out an initiative called “Every Child Matters”.
There surely, is all the evidence you need that the Government is in the last stages of schizophrenia. They insist on knowing the whereabouts of all our children, up to the age of 18, while 1,000 criminals roam free. I don’t want them worrying about where to find my children; I want them to worry about the whereabouts of these thugs and creeps, and on that matter they showed a profound indifference.