Overnight, as is my wont, as I went about my business I also had my computer tuned to the BBC’s Radio 5 Live station.
The big current affairs issue of the moment was the aftermath of the recent horrendous London Bridge terrorist incident in which three people were killed (one the perpetrator) and several others injured – and the accompanying ‘political’ row that had erupted against the background of the ongoing General Election campaign.
During the last hour of the Stephen Nolan Show (midnight to 1.00am) two lady guests were on hand to review the papers.
One major issue being discussed was where the blame lay for the fact that the terrorist had been ‘out on licence’ after having served only half of his given sentence.
One of Nolan’s guests – whose name I did not catch but whose voice was familiar – was described in her introduction as an ‘activist’, whatever that meant in this context.
She was strong on the fact that the notion “Lock ‘em up and throw away the key” was not a viable solution to offending, however serious the crime(s).
You had to use a blend of carrot and stick, in other words give the offender the chance of rehabilitation and as much support as was/is necessary to help him or her achieve it.
That said, the system also needed to be robust, i.e. psychiatrists should be on hand to check the individual’s progress and anybody perceived to be unredeemed (or unredeemable) should serve their full term sentence.
To her, the fact that the terrorist in question had been let out after eight years (half his sentence) was a failure on the part of the judges who had sentenced him – they should have given him more than sixteen years.
My immediate thought – or contribution I would have made if moved to phone in to the programme, which I wasn’t – was that the lady had possibly missed a crucial point in developing her argument.
I don’t know for sure whether my facts are correct, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if they are.
Judges assess all the available paperwork and testimony before handing down their decisions.
In the case of this particular offender – on all the evidence I refer to above, including any statutory or procedural ‘good sense’ directions in force at the time – I would wouldn’t mind betting that sixteen years was (in their view) the appropriate length of sentence for them to give out, if not indeed the maximum that they could possibly give under the laws on sentencing then in force.
So for this lady contributor to the Stephen Nolan Show to state that the judges made a culpable balls-up in only giving him sixteen years is quite possibly a shot sent wide of the mark.
The other ‘easy target’ everyone has been aiming at over the last 48 hours is the fact (not least in the context of the General Election) that this incident has been ‘weaponised’ by politicians upon all sides, with the troops being sent out to every television channel or radio station who will give them airtime to either (1) distance their own party from any past decisions they made when in Government, and/or (2) sling mud at their opponents for the ‘failures’ of laws and/or systems in place as regards sentencing (and then ever letting out) dangerous offenders.
One of the worst offenders yesterday was Boris Johnson, who pitched up on the Andrew Marr Show to stress how draconian he and his Government were now going to be in ‘sorting out’ the systemic mess left by the Labour Party when they ‘liberalised’ sentencing of dangerous criminals in 2008.
Marr did his best to point out the irony and illogicality of Boris trying to blame Labour for everything to do with the mess when, from 2010 in Coalition with the Lib-Dems and then from 2015 on their own (with Boris serving as a minister), one way or another the Tories had themselves failed to do anything at all about it for the past nine years.
Boris – no doubt carefully coached to hell and back by his handlers over the previous 12 hours but still transparently blustering ineffectually in the style of Worzel Gummige stuck in a wind tunnel – did his best to keep spouting the mantras he’d been given to repeat ad nauseam but just came across as an untrustworthy ‘bluffer extraordinaire’.
The more he went on, the more he created a negative impression.
Elsewhere there has been a huge row brewing over Boris’s apparent refusal to be interviewed by arch BBC inquisitor Andre Neil, in response to which the BBC had announced that – until he did – he would not be allowed on the Andrew Marr Show but then later rescinded this hard line, apparently because of the London Bridge terrorist incident.
As a result the BBC was roundly condemned, not least by the strident Labour activist and Guardian columnist Owen Jones who had come out swinging at great length on the previous night’s edition of the Stephen Nolan Show by accusing the BBC of being totally pro-Tory biased – a charge (dare I say it, as with Brexit) that approximately 50% of the population, equally stridently, would not only deny but in fact claim that the BBC is totally anti-Tory.
My viewpoint on the general criticism of politicians ‘seeking to weaponise the terrorist incident’ is simple and straightforward.
We’re less than a fortnight from General Election polling day. The Tories’ lead in the opinion polls is dribbling away; Labour is gaining ground; and more and more it has become a toss-up as to which Party might win the Election, or whether the outcome will be a hung Parliament.
At this late stage, as Dave Brailsford of cycling’s Team Ineos might say, “It could all come down to marginal gains …” (literally). For starters, in passing, it occurs to me that – for both the Tories and Labour – one of these would undoubtedly be limiting their respective leaders’ television appearances to the absolute minimum – simply because, by reminding UK voters of their inadequacies, these tend do far more harm than good.
Plus, from here on in, all politicians and their advisers will be ‘weaponising’ anything and everything they can. By ‘weaponising’, I mean both (1) blaming their opponents for anything that has historically gone wrong, and (2) distancing their own Party from the same.
Not to forget simultaneously promising that if only their own Party is returned to power in two weeks’ time everything will be sorted out … and thereafter we’ll all be living in an ideal world of endless milk, honey and money growing on trees.
Well, what else would you expect? It’s an Election.