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Wednesday, April 07, 2010 

Racing to the bottom on crime and DNA retention.

Last week, in a completely inadvisable but luckily quickly forgotten moment for Labour, the messiah himself briefly returned to deliver the shortest gospel yet to be recorded. Tony Blair in his epistle to the few remaining true believers in Trimdon set the tone for the likely campaign to come: not only did he have the incredible chutzpah to accuse the Tories of being "vacuous", his critique of the Tories' positioning was little less eye-opening. In Blair's view, while the Tories had gone to the right on Europe, "[O]n law and order, they've gone liberal when actually they should have stuck with a traditional Conservative position". In truth, it was hardly difficult to be to the left of New Labour on law and order under Blair; move any further right and you would have fell off the edge.

By any measure however, the Conservatives are only liberal on law and order in the sense that they're slightly more enlightened on civil liberties than Labour has been; every other policy they have is either the same as Labour's or to the right, such as their plans to abolish the Human Rights Act or their opposition to the prison early release scheme without explaining how they would deal with the chronic overcrowding and ever increasing prison population. Blair was referring mainly to: Tory opposition to certain parts of anti-terrorist legislation, having first defeated Blair over the proposed 90 days detention without charge for "terrorist suspects", and then leaving Brown to rely on the support of the Democratic Unionists for 42 days, which failed to reach the statute book after Labour declined to use the parliament act to force it through the Lords; their stance on ID cards; their votes against certain parts of legislation concerning anti-social behaviour; but perhaps most crucially their only slightly less draconian position on DNA retention.

Mainly relying on general ignorance about how the police currently collect and store the DNA profiles of every person they arrest but also on everyone's worst fears, Labour is actively going to campaign on a policy which almost certainly breaches a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights. Ever since the S and Marper ruling, Labour has been desperately trying to find a way of keeping the profiles of the innocent on the database for as long as they possibly can; first they wanted to keep the profiles of those accused but not convicted of certain offences for a staggering 12 years, before relenting slightly in the face of opposition in the Lords and settling on 6 years. As for those convicted of any offence, and that includes the 3,000 or more which Labour has created over the past 13 years, you're on it for life, no exceptions. The Tory policy, as mentioned previously above, is ever so slightly more reasonable: they propose keeping the profiles of the entirely innocent for 3 years rather than 6, while only those convicted of violent or sexual offences will have their details kept for life, more or less in line with the current situation in Scotland.

In probably the most disgraceful example yet of blatant electioneering, Alan Johnson briefly threatened to cut off his nose to spite his face by withdrawing the crime and security bill as a whole if the Tories continued to oppose enshrining the six year period. Rather than calling Johnson's bluff, the Tories, weak as ever in the face of being accused of being soft on crime, gave in, with Chris Grayling promising to legislate their policy straight away if they get elected. All this is based around the completely inaccurate illusion that the police will no longer be able to take fingerprints or a DNA profile from those they arrest prior to conviction, which they absolutely will. A system under which the profiles of the innocent would not be kept would still take them and check whether any unsolved crimes could be connected with the person arrested, and only have them destroyed when charges are either not brought or the court process results in no conviction. That will still offend true civil libertarians, but is the only realistic solution which could be agreed upon without tabloids screaming and populist politicians painting the usual picture of a crime-ridden hell which would result from such naive limp-wristed liberal thinking.

To get an indication of just how far to the right Labour is prepared to go to win this battle over which party can be the harshest on criminals, they're apparently preparing to campaign with Linda Bowman, mother of the murdered aspiring model Sally Anne Bowman, whose killer Mark Dixie was only caught after his DNA was taken following his arrest for involvement in a pub fight. It doesn't seem to matter that under even the Liberal Democrats' plans Dixie would still have been caught, Labour apparently seems to think that by using Bowman they can paint the Tories as the effective helpers or enablers of murderers and rapists. It also doesn't matter that Bowman herself has views that are to the right of even the most old-school hang 'em and flog 'em Tory, as shown when she took part a couple of years back in the Sun's relatively short-lived "mothers in arms" campaign, alongside Helen Newlove and Kerry Nicol. Among the solutions to the nation's problems which the three offered were the reintroduction of the death penalty, the abolition of the Human Rights Act, a compulsory DNA database on which every single person would be entered, presumably at birth, zero tolerance for minor crimes and juveniles to be named in court as adults. Bowman also appeared at fringe events at the party conferences a couple of years back, where her husband called for killers to have any rights they have forfeited when they commit such a crime. She was also clear on what she would like to see happen to Dixie himself:

I’d love to watch Sally Anne’s killer get the death penalty. I want to see him suffer until he is squealing like a pig.

She was equally transparent on what she felt the causes of "Broken Britain" were:

The day the Government took discipline away from parents is the day this country went to pot.

It's always interesting to note that those who advocate such authoritarian solutions are also those that believe that in certain ways the government is already approaching totalitarian: where else would you possibly get the idea that the government had took discipline away from parents?

If Labour's willingness to take part in such a race to the bottom is any indication of how the campaign is likely to go in general, we're in for a truly horrendous 4 weeks of the lowest political manoeuvring yet to be seen in this country, where the choice is effectively between the shit and the fan itself.

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