Thursday, 8 June 2017

Appearing tough

There are three things which the Tories can normally be relied upon to do when a response is needed to any question of ‘Laura Norder’.  The first is to blame someone or something else, the second is to restrict citizens’ rights, and the third is to promise tougher penalties.  And, sure enough, the Prime Minister has rehearsed all three over the past day or two in response to the atrocities in Manchester and London.  And they’re all as irrelevant in this case as usual.
The implied blame in this case is a combination of incorporating human rights legislation into UK law, and making the UK subject to ‘foreign’ courts, which actually dare to uphold the relevant legislation.  It’s a convenient scapegoat, but it is being used to divert attention from the fact that, as Home Secretary, Theresa May herself failed to protect the UK using the already adequate powers which she had.  And part of the reason for that failure brings us to the second strand of her response.
Taking away, or reducing, citizens’ rights is always their preferred option.  In general, it often seems as though they’d really prefer it if citizens didn’t have any rights at all, and just did whatever they were told – the surprising thing is that so many people seem to accept that it’s a good idea, but then, they probably are assuming that it will only affect ‘someone else’.  But in many ways, tearing up our protections against over-intrusive security services is a way of making up for a lack of resources within those services.  And that’s what ties the first and the second strand together – the problem isn’t that someone else is to blame, nor that human rights prevent the proper operation of the security services, it is that the resources available to those services have been consciously and deliberately reduced over recent years by a Home Secretary whose priority was financial.  And let’s just remind ourselves who that Home Secretary was.
In the case of the third strand, the response is just plain silly.  The argument is that knowing that there will be longer jail sentences for perpetrators of crime makes them less likely to commit crime.  I can see how that might conceivably work in the case of, say, burglary, but it depends on the idea that the burglar will sit down and do a cost-benefit analysis of the potential gain from the burglary and the potential pain of the jail term.  That seems highly unlikely to me; insofar as our hypothetical burglar does any weighing of the pros and cons in advance, the factor most likely to weigh in his or her mind is the probability of getting caught.  (And that, of course, brings us straight back to the question of the level of police resources…)  However, in the case of our would-be terrorist attacker, he or she has already assumed that the outcome of the attack will be his or her death; either through use of a suicide bomb or else by police action.  The idea that knowing that they face a sentence of 30 years rather than 20, say, if they survive is hardly likely to be much of a deterrent.  Could it be a deterrent to those aiding and abetting the actual attackers?  That also seems unlikely to me; martyrdom is a part of their belief system, and prison is just another form of martyrdom.
I can’t believe that May actually believes any of what she says on these points; it looks more like a pitch to persuade people that she’s being tough.  But appearing to be tough isn’t the same as actually being tough, nor as solving a very serious problem.  It might win a few votes though, which is what it’s really about.

1 comment:

Gav said...

Could always make suicide attacks a capital offence, like in "The Mikado".