Sometimes it appears as if, over the past ten years, the government has been actively trying to destroy the whole criminal justice system. It’s like an evil experiment: impose a 20 per cent cut in the prisons budget, meaning a 26 per cent reduction in the number of operational front line staff — then sit back and see what happens. What happened was predictable, with disastrous consequences for both inmates and the public.
What happened on Streatham High Road last weekend was exactly what I had feared during my time as prisons minister: a recently released convict mounting a terror attack. It was the second incident of this nature in Britain in three months, but the truth is we are lucky that there have not been more like it.
When I was appointed prisons minister in January 2018, I was introduced to the full scale of the problem.
Any future history of the decline and fall of the American Republic ought to include a page or two on the Iowa caucuses of 3 February 2020. It’s a meltdown story for the ages. The Democratic party, desperate to undo the victory of Donald Trump in 2016, somehow managed utterly to cock up its first meaningful vote in 2020. The calamity is so great that it may turn the whole Democratic primary — and therefore this presidential election year — into a farce.
Though Scots are doubtful about secession from the UK, Scots literary figures and intellectuals are likely to be strongly, even aggressively, for it. Conspicuous in this is Anglophobia, which is a default position for many. At an extreme, it amounts to a rejection of the English and Scots unionists which conjures up the rhetoric of racial hatred.
The influence of two large 20th-century figures has soaked into the Scots literary ground.
One has to feel for the good old Church of England. If there’s not a public relations crisis, best to create one. Sex outside of marriage, gay or straight, ‘falls short of God’s purpose for human beings’, the Church declared. A few days later, after a colossally negative reaction inside and outside of the Church, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York felt obliged to offer an ersatz apology: ‘We are very sorry and recognise the division and hurt this has caused.
In February 1945, the Allies, led by Sir Arthur Harris and Bomber Command, destroyed the historic city of Dresden, killing 25,000, most of them civilians. For the 75th anniversary, Sinclair McKay, author of a recent book on the bombing raid, and A.N. Wilson discuss whether it should be regarded as a ‘war crime’.
SINCLAIR MCKAY It was an atrocity. But I hesitate about war crime because war crime is a legal term and not a moral one.
‘Wild’ used to be one of my favourite words. It was in all the songs I loved best — ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, ‘Wild Thing’, ‘Born to Be Wild’. How times have changed. Wild — once meaning brave, bold, reckless — is now yet another sanctimonious nag.
Everyone seems to want to get in touch with their wild side. Dark green is the new black. Even vulgar Channel 5 has given us Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, in which he ‘travels to remote corners of the globe to experience extreme lifestyles with those who have left modern-day amenities behind’.
I’ve been playing a lot of Monopoly recently. My son got his first grown-up set for Christmas and, even after time has increased the entropy of his Lego sets and Scalextric, this is the present he still pulls out. I have no objection — why wouldn’t I break off from completing my tax return to watch someone else squirm at income tax? — but his mother is doubtful about the game’s message. She has already forbidden the card game Old Maid on feminist grounds (‘You shouldn’t be stigmatised for not being in a couple!’); should we really be teaching him the fun side of capitalism?
One of Fidel Castro’s first actions on seizing power was to ban the game and have all sets in Cuba destroyed.