Boris Johnson has announced a tightening of security in prisons, to go with yesterday’s increase in funding for lawyers to deal with violent crime cases, and a review – and toughening – of prison sentences.
This Writer cannot help but notice that these announcements, along with a plan to build more prisons, are arriving alongside news that the UK’s economy has hit a downturn.
Economic activity fell in the second quarter of 2019 – for the first time since 2012. And unemployment has risen by 31,000.
Is Boris Johnson planning for unrest after a ‘no deal’ Brexit that harms jobs and our way of life?
Well, no. The worst part of this is that he probably isn’t.
The one-off payment of £100 million might help in the short term, but Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has described it as “tinkering at the edges”.
And the Howard League for Penal Reform said prisons have become centres of crime and violence and drugs, and the Tory government need to “pour good money after bad” (provide continuous funding) to solve a problem it has created.
The Crown Prosecution Service will receive £85 million to help it prosecute violent offenders – but the Criminal Bar Association has said that this will not seriously improve a system that has been “severely underfunded” by Conservative governments of the last nine years.
It has led to a situation in which “those who commit crime walk free and the innocent risk being convicted”, the organisation has said.
These claims follow assertions that the promise of 10,000 new prison places will not be enough; courts will order criminals to serve tougher sentences before those places become available, meaning that there will still be too few.
We can only conclude that these announcements do not indicate a serious commitment to tackle crime.
So why make them?
One theory is that the prime minister we call BoJob is trying to discourage people from participating in civil unrest if a ‘no deal’ Brexit takes place on October 31.
The thinking would be that a show of sabre-rattling now might reduce violence later.
But we’re being told that, even with the new funding, the authorities would not be equipped to deal with such unrest. So that plan has backfired.
The alternative – and far more likely – is that these announcements are simply attempts to position the Conservatives as the “Party of Law and Order” once more in the run-up to an autumn election.
The government has denied any intention of calling an election – which of course makes it more likely in the mind of a general public that is used to Tories who say one thing and then do another.
And of course there is a possibility that Mr Johnson will be forced into an election after an early vote of no confidence in his government.
September 9 is the date this is most likely to happen, we’re told – less than a month away.
Make a note in your diary.
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