Today brings another couple of reminders of the coalition’s potential political problem with the middle class. In the Telegraph, Peter Oborne attacks Cameron and Osborne for a “morally disgusting” policy of targeting the middle class for an outsize share of the fiscal pain. While the Mail’s front page screams ‘What does get you locked up?’ as it details how 2,700 criminals who have more than fifty convictions were not sent to prison. Now, this is, obviously, the result of the last government’s sentencing policies. But, as the Mail points out repreatedly, this is a regime that Ken Clarke wants to make more liberal. In other words, even fewer people would be put away for the crimes they commit.
I suspect that the fuss about the financial pain being caused to the middle class will die down a bit once we have had the spending review and we see how the country as a whole has been affected. I also suspect that Osborne will offer the middle class some kind of tax relief before the next election. But the coalition’s overly liberal approach to criminal justice is just going to become an angrier and angrier sore, as people who aren’t sent to jail commit more and more crimes. It threatens to become a massive on-your-side issue which pits the coalition against those who believe that it is imperative that repeat offenders are locked up.