This makes me feel very, very uncomfortable.
I know that I am not alone in feeling that this announcement is cynical in both its timing and its subject matter. The Home Office has been under sustained criticism for months and John Reid, far from steadying the ship, has added to its woes by criticising his own civil servants and undermining their work.
Labour has managed, through its own ineptitude, to be painted in the worst possible way; soft on crime and yet a danger to civil liberties.
The “bang-um-up” papers like the Mail and the Sun don’t feel they are protecting us well enough and the “loss” of a thousand foreign prisoners, early release re-offenders etc. have added to this feeling. The civil libertarians are deeply worried about the direction we are travelling with things like internment without trial, abolition of trial by jury and the abolition of the right to appeal.
The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister clearly feel that the Guardian readers, who feel passionately about civil liberties, are already a lost cause. With Blair’s support for the conflict in Iraq, and the attack on civil liberties they are probably right. So their only available course of action is to try and win over Rupert Murdock, the Sun and its readers.
The reason that I feel that it is cynical in its subject matter is that when it comes to parents protecting their children a lot of logic goes out of the window and I hold my hands up to a degree of this myself. Manipulating parents’ love of their children to create a little bit of political breathing space is the most despicable of actions. The attack on a paediatrician a few year ago highlights what can happen when parents’ passions are stoked up and the MMR fiasco shows how otherwise intelligent people lose all sense of reason when their childrens’ safety is perceived to be at risk (real of otherwise).
John Reid seems to think that mob rule is a desirable thing, last week he told us to stop whingeing to the police and “have a go” at criminals ourselves. Now he says that people should know if a convicted paedophile is living nearby because they “had a right to protection”. What does he mean by that?
The police, prison service and probation service are the agencies tasked with protecting us from paedophiles not our next-door neighbours. If I am told that there is a paedophile living next door what am I supposed to do? Move away? Force him to move away? Force him underground? Just grin and bear it?
If the person living next door to me is a danger to my sons and my neighbours’ children and the Home Office knows that he is a danger, why is he not in prison?