I have to admit, Tory or not, I kind of liked Ken Clarke up until today. Not for the cigars or the jazz, but because in the aftermath of the general election he seemed to be the only member of the Cabinet who really talked sense. Granted there isn’t much competition, but pretty much everything he said about prison reform – about emphasising crime prevention, finding alternatives to prison for minor offenses, not locking up people with serious mental illnesses was music to (socially) liberal ears, and he deserves credit for having the guts to stand up for it all. You have to admit, it’s pretty damn hard to hate anyone who pisses off the Mail and the Express this much, especially when you bear in mind how repellantly authoritarian the last government could be. So what’s he done to put me off him so quickly?
The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has confirmed that he is willing to call in the army should “serious trouble” erupt over his decision that the private security company, G4S, should run Birmingham prison – making it the first public sector jail to be privatised…
…[He] also announced that G4S is to run a new “supersized” prison with 1,600 inmates next to the existing Featherstone prison at Wolverhampton.
Because privatising prisons has apparently been a roaring success – for over a decade and still going strong! And clearly there’s no way an organisation running a prison and motivated by profit would have any conflicts of interest we need to worry about. That’s even before you start worrying about why the hell prison officers apparently aren’t allowed to go on strike. This is a jaw-droppingly stupid move, and the only reason I don’t sincerely hope this blows up in Clarke’s face (metaphorically I hasten to add, to forestall any visits from Special Branch) is because it’s not him who’s going to suffer if it does.