OPINION: PR should consider acting for the people

Just after the 1987 election I confessed to Margaret Thatcher that I no longer felt I understood British politics. I simply could not comprehend why crime and punishment were not the number one political issue. I remain baffled, even though there has been a massive outcry, to judge from the Sun’s telephone hotline, against the life sentence on Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer convicted of murdering a 16-year-old burglar with immense ’form’ - and even though William Hague, in calling for a review of self-protection law, is revelling in having ’the whole liberal establishment’ against him.

Just after the 1987 election I confessed to Margaret Thatcher that

I no longer felt I understood British politics. I simply could not

comprehend why crime and punishment were not the number one political

issue. I remain baffled, even though there has been a massive outcry, to

judge from the Sun’s telephone hotline, against the life sentence on

Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer convicted of murdering a 16-year-old

burglar with immense ’form’ - and even though William Hague, in calling

for a review of self-protection law, is revelling in having ’the whole

liberal establishment’ against him.



Perhaps the clue lies in Mr Hague’s delight. Just as the British felt

until recently their opposition to a single European currency was futile

because of its supposed inevitability, so perhaps they believe the

entire law enforcement establishment - judges, lawyers, police,

probation officers, the welfare world and most politicians - is soft on

criminals. The public may be up in arms about crime and lax punishment,

but there’s nothing they can do about it, except grin and bear it -and

pay the price. This is a dangerous state for public opinion to get into.

It means that when the swing comes it will be all the more difficult to

handle. But does the PR industry, which is supposed to be in the

business of identifying trends, think the backlash is coming? Is

Britain, led by Mr Hague, about to visit its retribution on the

establishment as once during a radio broadcast, I promised that wet

liberal Polly Toynbee, of the Guardian, it would?



I haven’t detected any sign, even though the popular press is in high

dudgeon over Farmer Martin. The liberal establishment still feels strong

enough to ridicule Mr Hague. And let’s face it, Mr Hague has a

problem.



Remember the outcry by judges against former Home Secretary Michael

Howard’s mandatory sentencing? Well, Tony Martin went to jail for ’life’

because the mandatory sentence for murder is ... ’life’. If punishment

is to be made to fit the crime, judges have to be allowed to reflect it

in their sentences.



But weren’t mandatory sentences canvassed in the first place because

tougher-minded politicians felt judges were too lenient?



It seems unlikely from my attempts to advise them that judges will take

on badly-needed PR advice. But, if they did, how would you improve their

image? By campaigning for the end of mandatory sentencing and free rein

for them to reflect all the circumstances surrounding the case? But how

far do you think that would get you when judges are felt to be as wet as

whistles? We shall be trapped in this circularity until public opinion

becomes utterly intolerant of crime in all its manifestations. PR should

perhaps organise a sustained peaceful anti-crime protest of countryside

proportions. Nothing will change until law-abiding folk frighten the

establishment into rediscovering its backbone.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.