The Mail has worked itself into a panicked fury about that the ban on prison parties would be revoked. To be fair to the Mail, Crispin Blunt, the Prisons Minister claimed as much in speech last night, and he vowed to abolish Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection - orders that incarcerate the sort of charmers who butcher you in the bus queue if you give 'em a look.
There was no chance that Blunt was announcing another other than a pet-project in the manner of Lord Longford’s ‘Free Myra Hindley’ campaign. Number 10 has stamped on Blunt, and the speed at which they did so is indicative of what James Kirkup describes as the ‘bigger war’ between Ken Clarke and Andy Coulson.
There is sense in emphasising rehabilitation and commuting short-term sentences for minor offenders. But Clarke’s proposals are an enormous political gamble. Michael Howard opposed the plan with great clarity on the Daily Politics recently, arguing that crime will rise if prison numbers fall.
Coulson realises that Clarke’s language, and even more so Blunt’s, offers Labour the vital political ground on law and order. The Tories need to assure voters that they can be trusted to manage the criminal justice system. Crispin Blunt must be a dead man walking, and rumours abound to that effect already.