Labour members attack party’s “Daily Mail view of the world”

Another day, another nail in the coffin of liberalism in the Labour Party. Sadiq Khan, the party’s shadow justice secretary, today amped-up the debate on votes for prisoners by condemnIng the Coalition’s proposals as — POPULIST CLICHE ALERT — “a slap in the face for victims of crime”.

But his pandering to the forces of authoritarian conservatism hasn’t gone down well with all Labour members. Over at LabourList, Kevin Peel has an excellent post criticising Mr Khan’s outburst, pointing out that no matter what you think of the decision the UK was under a legal obligation following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights: “Such pointless posturing does no-one any good,” observes Mr Peel.

The whole article is well worth a read, but here’s the conclusion:

We seem to be moving ever closer to a Daily Mail view of the world, in which all criminals should be locked up for life, or worse. This attitude does more harm than good and though it might make us feel better in the short term, and feel that ‘justice’ has been done, it will only make the situation worse in the long term.

To think this is a party whose Home Secretary was once Roy Jenkins.

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  • patrick murray 7th Jan '11 - 7:36am

    umm, “seem to be moving ever closer to the daily mail view of the world”… just shows how deluded labour members are. their former gvt was about as daily mail inspired as any. immigration, mental health, crime, drugs, civil liberties, islamophobia – you name it they were a disgrace. i can never understand progressives who completely ignore just how horribly right wing and authoritarian labour actually is. and you know what – they’ll never change, it’s in their dna.

  • Sunder Katwala 7th Jan '11 - 8:36am


    Its so much harder than you imply to make this a question of absolutes, since nobody in the government or opposition is taking an absolutist position, and the question of where to strike various balances, including in securing public legitimacy and consent, is a complex one on which different views might be legitimately held.

    For example:

    1. The government and the opposition believe the EHRC ruling means the vote does need to be given to some (but not all) prisoners: the government says a 4 year cut off; the opposition says one year.

    Neither position entails “a Daily Mail view of the world, in which all criminals should be locked up for life, or worse” – as can be seen by both the government and opposition arguing for more uses of alternatives to custody. (I don’t agree with the Daily Mail on crime, but of course it is simply silly to claim that they or anybody else think that all criminals should be locked up for life). Clearly, Kevin Peel is exaggerating as part of a polemic. You might like the sound

    2. Both ministers (Tory and LibDem) and opposition spokesmen have expressed concern about the implications of the EHRC decision.

    Indeed, Nick Clegg said at PMQs it was unfortunate that the government had to comply with the legal ruling, instead of saying he was proud to introduce LibDem policy. I take it from this he disagrees with LibDem policy that this is a good thing.

    However, if that is the case, it would be absurd to accuse Clegg of taking a Daily Mail line of wanting to lock up all prisoners for ever. He doesn’t. Nor does Khan. Nor anybody in the Labour party, or indeed the Tory party.

    3. There are a range of different crime and criminal justice issues – police numbers, preventive work, short prison sentences, rehabilitation strategies, alternatives to custody, community engagement in restorative justice.

    It is really unhelpful to the evidence-based case for liberal reform to make the framing of each of these questions “tough v soft on crime”. Ken Clarke has been successful in trying to avoid this.

    Clearly, people might reasonably take a range of positions on prisoners voting
    – voting is an inalienable right for all prisoners
    – the loss of liberty should involve the temporary loss of voting rights (but not being disbarred once out, as happens in the US)
    – that some prisoners should be allowed to vote and others not.

    One can argue from liberal principles for the second as well as the first, unless one somehow wants to argue that imprisonment is in principle and all circumstances incompatible with liberalism, which would be silly, and I am sure you can find some resources in John Stuart Mill to explain why.

    Given that Sadiq Khan has been supportive of the government’s broad prison reform strategy – he does not disagree with anything Ken Clarke has done or said about this – it is simply a simplistic and erroneous exaggeration to somehow claim that preferring a different threshold on when prisoners can vote makes him an opponent of prison reform – and rather a bad strategy given that this is an issue where it is unlikely that progress can be made without a good measure of cross-party consensus. The Fabians worked with CentreForum and PolicyExchange and the Prison Reform Trust to take this issue to all three conference fringes for this reason,

  • Brilliant and accurate response Sunder.

  • Ed The Snapper 7th Jan '11 - 8:46am

    This is another example of head-in-the-sand by the LibDems. Nick Clegg said that the ECHR decision is unfortunate. In what way does opposing votes for prisoners make a a person “an authoritarian conservative”? Please show me where these people are who believe “all criminals should be locked up for life, or worse.” I have not encountered those poeple even when dealing with some very scary right-wingers. If the LibDem party opposes “horribly right wing and authoritarian labour” then what are the LibDems doing shoring up a Tory government? The kettling of student protestors against the increase in tuition fees looked very “authoritarian” to me as does Nick Clegg being driven around in an armour-plated Jaguar to keep him safe from protesting teenagers. Articles like this will not bring LibDem voters like me back to the party.

  • Yes Labour is more reactionary and tends to pander to the Daily Mail/Express/Sun readership than even the Tories!

    It has been this way for years esp. since new labour came on the scene and has been said now seems part of their DNA.

    The list of Labour’s contravention and stamping on human rights and civil liberties is very long – one thing that even I as a critic of the coalition would say that in terms of civil liberties thank goodness labour has gone and we do have Liberals guiding the new government’ on civil liberties. It is true that many conservatives, although right wing on the economy, and state intervention (to ensure a fair society economically etc) nevertheless do have members such as Ken Clarke and others who are more civil libertarian than their labour equivelent. Although it has to be stressed that it is the Liberla Dmocrat influence in government that is at the cetnre of upholding our civil rights as witnessed in the current issue of those illiberal ‘control orders’ , which of course do not work anyway (another good example of ‘pointless postering’).

  • Dave Warren 7th Jan '11 - 9:42am

    How long before they start calling for the return of capital punishment?

    When you abandon your core principles and pander to populism in the
    pursuit of votes then this is the result.

    The party that had Roy Jenkins as Home Secretary is long dead. One
    of the reasons i call Milibands’ party New Labour is that they are a new

  • I don’t think Stephen has really stopped to draw breath before posting this silly anti-Labour missive.

    Firstly, following on from Sunder Katwala, has he stopped to think what a 4 year sentence is handed down for? It’s a commonly a sentence that incorporates violent crime/manslaughter. The victims of these crimes (and their families) tend to be quite sensitive and the effects of the crime can be permanent or long lasting.

    Yes, we are a party that is pro-human rights. So bearing that in mind, were victims/victim’s groups consulted prior to the coalition’s proposals? Were there any attempts to balance the rights of both prisoner and victim or was it a foregone conclusion?

    Personally, yes, I think that certain prisoners should vote but perhaps it should be a luxury reserved for those serving shorter sentences.

  • What a profoundly silly piece from Stephen Tall. Comprehensively trashed by Sunder (though the Davids Orr and Warren apparently didn’t bother to read it and just waded in with more silliness),

  • TheContinentalOp 7th Jan '11 - 11:08am

    Good on Labourlist. Nice to see at least one party political website prepared to stand up to the disingenuous right-wing rhetoric of their leadership.

  • @Duncan Stott
    “contributions from the government front bench must be government policy, not personal or party opinion.”

    But personal / party views can be clarified outside of the chamber.

    The whole issue is strange as looking at length of sentence (which can be lower in some cases due to mitigating circumstances) rather than category of offence seems wrong to me.

    Perhaps looking at rehabilitation and reintegration into society as a basis for allowing the vote to pisoners to vote it could be allowed in the last year of any sentence so long as the prisoner meets certain criteria. I’m sure there are problems with this approach as well though…..

    As for Khan, misinformation, soundbites and spin should always be discouraged whichever party uses them. Can’t you tell there’s a by election on the Tories and Labour out quoting each other on crime, thankfully it’s Ken Clark and not a Tebbit figure in the justice seat…

  • Ed the snapper – can you explain why ministers having protection is authoritarian?

    The queen has protection, is that a political authoritarian decision or just being safe and sensible?

    Whose liberties does an armoured car infringe? There’s no Such thing as the right to beat somebody to death.

  • ‘Peter
    Posted 7th January 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    What a profoundly silly piece from Stephen Tall. Comprehensively trashed by Sunder (though the Davids Orr and Warren apparently didn’t bother to read it and just waded in with more silliness),’

    Yes I did read it – so i expect did Dave Warren. When people resort to slagging off others you know they have lost the argument (and the plot)

    Of course I know Labour’s record on human rights and civil liberties is an embarrassment for Labour civil libertarian’s but unfortunately their term of office saw our country get ever closer to both an illiberal and police state. Let’s explore the list:
    illegal invasion of Iraq and consequent deaths of men, women and children; the attempts to gag public opinion and of course lying to the House of Commons etc; extending police powers of arrest; repressive anti terrorist laws – which are even used against speakers at Labour conferences who dare to heckle; attempts to extend imprisonment without trial (trying to undermine Habeus Corpus); attempt to gradually get rid of trial by jury; extraordinary rendition and then denying it so treating the public with contempt as idiots; imprisoning children of refugees; slavishly going along with Bush’s illiberal foreign policy and its effects on human rights eg not stopping dubious extraditions and hardly saying anything about guantanamo bay etc; turning a blind eye to torture again; ID cards and placing everyone on a national data base etc – I could go on; and generally playing the ‘tough on crime’ stance so beloved once of the Tories and still beloved of the tabloids and so it would still seem new Labour – playing to the galleries . I do so agree with Dave Warren that the party of Roy Jenkins is long gone – it is now the party of Blunkett and other recent ex-Labour home secys. reactionary almost to a man and woman.

    Yes the Daily Mail view is, do not forget the victims of crime – the moron view – because no one is ignoring the victims of crime and to fall into that dumb argument that just because you defend civil liberties by definition means you don’t care about the victims is nauseating beyond belief; i really thought seious commentators do not actually believe that tripe. So yes will soon Labour be advocating return of the death penality is not being silly but actually just an extension of the way Labour home policy is moving.

    The only real defender’s of civil liberties in this country in the last fifteen of more years have been Liberal Democrat Party as a whole, a number of liberatrian Labour and Tory politicians; and minor parties like the Greens, SNP and Plaid. So Labour Party supporters et el I know you do not like it but your Party (its policies and its leaders) stinks when it comes to upholding the civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad.

  • Ed The Snapper 8th Jan '11 - 10:46pm

    Ed the snapper – can you explain why ministers having protection is authoritarian? The queen has protection, is that a political authoritarian decision or just being safe and sensible? Whose liberties does an armoured car infringe? There’s no Such thing as the right to beat somebody to death.

    Nothing wrong with ministers have some protection. But…why an armoured car? Who is planning to “beat Nick Clegg to death”? The amount of money spent on excessive protection for politicians is money not spent on protecting members of the public. Politicians should (like citizens) have the minimum amount of protection that they need. I think Clegg’s armoured Jag is massively excessive and is a status symbol plus a way to hide from the public not a sensible protection. Politicians once used to stand on soapboxes to speak (even when they were in danger from the IRA) but now they hide from the public behind layers of security. I called the police to an incident in which a gang of white youths were attacking the black female cleaners in my street. No police have ever turned up. I have reported other serious crimes in my street. No police have turned up. Perhaps our politicians should experience the lives of us ordinary citizens. I can assure you that we are in far more danger of being “beaten to death” than our politicians are. The armoured car is a symbol of an increasingly dangerous distancing between politicians and the public plus the long-standing emergence of a privileged “polticial class”.

  • Go to a Clegg town hall meeting then, he still does them. Or go up to oldham where Clegg and Cameron were out on ordinary streets talking to ordinary voters.

    In may lots of,ministers including the pm wanted to ditch armoured jags but were told it was too dangerous. The recent riots have shown that people are willing to attack public figures such as prince Charles and I’m sure beating up a politician would be on the to do list of a few anarchists at these demonstrations.

    Private yachts or limos would be a status symbol, armoured cars are an unfortunate necessity.

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