A “political coward” running a “car crash” coalition – the damning verdict on U-turn Cam

As he prepares do descend into the bearpit for his weekly duel with the rejuvenated Mr Miliband, David Cameron will be well advised to steer clear of this morning's papers.

As he prepares do descend into the bearpit for his weekly duel with the rejuvenated Mr Miliband, David Cameron will be well advised to steer well clear of this morning’s papers – they do not make pretty reading for Number 10. Right across the board, the prime minister comes in for criticism over the latest U-turn on sentencing, and the plethora of U-turns generally.


The Indy is perhaps the most damning, accusing the prime minister of “running scared”, and calling him a “political coward” – as well as having a go at Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg:

“Mr Cameron has shown himself to be a political coward who prefers being popular to doing what is best for the nation in the balance between protecting the public, deterring criminals and reforming offenders. But other politicians are little better.

“Ed Miliband, in an opportunistic attempt to score points against Mr Clarke, has committed Labour to a bad policy on prisons. And Nick Clegg, who went into the election pledging to abolish short prison sentences, has immersed himself in complicit silence.”

The Guardian, meanwhile, says the government’s rehabilitation revolution now lies “in tatters”:

“The brief illusion of liberal government disappeared with the publication of the sentencing bill on Tuesday. The Rose Garden promise had been for a calm coalition animated by progressive values and guided by reason. That promise was fleetingly fulfilled by the justice secretary, Ken Clarke.

“Last year he stood ready to unlock 20 years of failed thinking, with a green paper which accepted that Britain’s drift towards mass incarceration was imposing an unacceptable human and financial cost. Now it has been decisively breached by a prime minister who once claimed to be a liberal Conservative.

“Make no mistake: after David Cameron’s rewriting of this bill, Mr Clarke’s rehabilitative revolution lies in tatters… Mr Cameron has long faced both ways on crime, but on Tuesday he made his choice and lurched to the right by reheating the “two strikes and you’re out” life sentences once associated with Michael Howard, the home secretary he worked for as a young man.

“For all his reinvention of the Tory aroma, liberal noses now catch a niff of the nasty party of old.”

A position echoed by the FT (£), which says the chance for a new approach to law and order “may have been lost”:

“The flip-flop announced on Tuesday by David Cameron, the prime minister, is troubling. Although poorly presented by the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, the idea of locking up fewer criminals had some merit. Britain’s enthusiasm for incarceration, while very expensive, produces little evident benefit in terms of crime reduction. Thanks to the U-turn, the chance for a new approach may have been lost.

“Mr Clarke tried to break the stultifying consensus on crime that exists between the Tories and the Labour party. In the past 15 years, both have vied to increase prison places. While it is true that crime has fallen over this period, it should not be taken to mean that prison works.

“Re-offending rates remain lamentably high; nearly half of all prisoners are reconvicted within a year of their release. In this context, he was right to question what has become a ‘political arms race’, and to call for an end to penal policy being concocted by home secretaries with ‘a cheque book in one hand and the Daily Mail in the other…’

“The U-turn also leaves penal policy set on a course that remains prison-focused. Indeed, the reforms will now toughen it marginally with mandatory sentences for knife crime. This is a lost opportunity for the country.”

The Telegraph, though welcoming the U-turn, criticises some aspects of the new policy and says “better judgement” will be needed in future:

“There should be scepticism about the plan to ensure that law-abiding homeowners who injure or kill burglars while using “reasonable force” to protect themselves will not be prosecuted, which is a promise we have heard trotted out before.

“The Government is acquiring a reputation for abrupt policy changes. Perhaps it should be commended for listening to public concerns rather than blundering forward with a bad law. And perhaps, after a frenetic year of reform, political reality has forced Mr Cameron to take a grip of the Government’s agenda. Never the less, in the months ahead, better judgment and greater consistency are needed.”

At the other end of the market, the Mirror is the most scathing, and concise, in its criticism of the shambles:

“Experts in good governance will be running courses on this Conservative car crash for decades. The sentencing U-turn was one of the more humiliating, for both Mr Cameron and Justice Secretary Ken Clarke. The pair had no choice but to abandon a foolish plan to lop sentences in half for pleading guilty.

“It isn’t the first botched reform and it won’t be the last from this incompetent coalition.”

And, right on cue, this morning we witnessed another U-turn

13 Responses to “A “political coward” running a “car crash” coalition – the damning verdict on U-turn Cam”

  1. John Nor

    #pmqs RT @leftfootfwd A "political coward" running a "car crash" coalition – the damning verdict on U-turn //t.co/f2qRrLm by @ShamikDas

  2. Newbury Labour

    A "political coward" running a "car crash" coalition – the damning verdict on U-turn Cam: //bit.ly/kfXSyC by @ShamikDas #PMQs

  3. JMF

    A "political coward" running a "car crash" coalition – the damning verdict on U-turn Cam: //bit.ly/kfXSyC by @ShamikDas #PMQs

  4. Michael

    A “political coward” running a “car crash” coalition – the damning verdict on U-turn Cam //bit.ly/ivoYQ2

  5. Selohesra

    and yet somehow Camerons approval rating polls much higher than Clegg & Miliband. Doesn’t say much for them then does it?

  6. Ed's Talking Balls

    Isn’t this supposedly rejuvenated Miliband (good hyperbole by the way; an assertion unsupported by evidence, of which this blog claims to be so fond…) now as popular as IDS was when leading the Tories down an electoral cul-de-sac?

    As for the substance of what you say, you won’t find me disagreeing that Cameron and co are making so many u-turns that it’s enough to make anyone feel dizzy. Nonetheless, I would much rather that a government abandon rubbish policies, such as those proposed on law and order, than stick with them through sheer stubbornness. The same goes for the NHS, where either the policy was stupid in the first place or was extremely badly communicated. In any event, if Cameron wanted to introduce such massive reforms he should have put them to the public before the election.

    But if you want me to believe that Cameron is floundering because The Independent, Guardian and Mirror have said some nasty things about him, then I’m not convinced, I’m afraid!

    Cameron needs a more coherent philosophy. I worry that, lost in his hero-worshipping of his idol Blair, he is too keen on following popular opinion rather than shaping it. The u-turns so far show him to be changeable but, as polling shows, they haven’t been disastrous. I would suspect that u-turns on issues so serious as housing benefit reform, however, would be harder to recover from. Good thing, too, as politicians are supposed to lead, not blow with the wind.

  7. Shamik Das

    Selohesra – the recent Guardian/ICM poll was bad for all three. ETB – I’d say his speech last Monday and PMQs performance last Weds are evidence of his rejuvenation, esp. following the bad headlines on the weekend of 11/12 Jun. On your comparison with Blair, I don’t buy it in this circumstance – Blair led, decisively; Cam’s not in his class.

  8. Jane Phillips

    A “political coward” running a “car crash” coalition – the damning verdict on U-turn Cam //bit.ly/ivoYQ2

  9. Selohesra

    Shamik – there is bad and there is disaster. Dave at -5 is bad but Ed with -21 is terminal. For Dave to have this ascendency over Ed even after all these U turns is rather telling.

  10. Selohesra

    … and if you want class then I think Maggie was the last descent PM we had.

  11. Anna Mackay

    A “political coward” running a “car crash” coalition – the damning verdict on …: “Experts in good governance w… //bit.ly/lUXNW3

  12. Ed's Talking Balls

    I wasn’t comparing them in terms of ability, Shamik. I wouldn’t want to make any judgments on that: Blair certainly won elections, albeit in benign economic conditions and against a backdrop of Conservative incompetence. As regards decisive leadership, he should have tackled that scourge of Labour and Great Britain, Gordon Brown. A truly decisive leader would have tried to boot him out.

    I was comparing Cameron and Blair in the sense that neither really seem to have a coherent vision. Both seem in favour of public service reform but it’s all a bit of an ideological, centre-right mish-mash. At least, however, Cameron has a short-term excuse for: he’s in coalition. Blair started with a 179 seat majority (if I remember rightly) and could, and should, have done more.

    As for Miliband, I think time will tell on the rejuvenation front. I just don’t see him as remotely prime ministerial and it can’t have helped that he’s got off on the wrong foot with the electorate, rather than making the most out of his honeymoon period. There’s the possibility he could win by default, if the economy doesn’t improve and the coalition gets increasingly unpopular. But it’d be dangerous to rely on that alone.

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