The Sunday Times:
Within weeks of [John Reid's] arrival [at the Home Office] he was criticising a judge for imposing an “unduly lenient” sentence of five years on Craig Sweeney, a child sex offender who had kidnapped and abused a three-year-old girl in Wales.
His intervention appalled Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, whose job it is to review such cases. Goldsmith rebuffed Reid by announcing there were no grounds to apply to the courts for a tougher sentence because the judge had adhered to existing guidelines established in laws passed by Labour in parliament.
Two stories last week brought into sharp relief the dilemma faced by our electoral system. First, electoral fraud was again back in the headlines with the news that nearly one in every seven postal votes in last year’s local elections in the London borough of Tower Hamlets may have been fraudulent.
Then, on the same day, the Department for Constitutional Affairs, with the support of the Electoral Commission, announced a number of pilot projects in this May’s local elections to try out and encourage internet, telephone and advance voting, among other things.
This raises the question: what is the fundamental purpose of our electoral system? Is it, as the committee on standards argued in our recent report, to enable all eligible individuals a free, fair, secure and informed vote, producing public confidence and consent in the outcome?
Or is the ease and convenience of voting our principal concern: are we to treat our electoral system as a “pick and mix” commodity available on demand like goods from a supermarket?
I suspect that Tony Blair and co would suggest the latter.
The article is very critical of the proposals and the current state of affairs. I recommend it.
The Observer (note the alleged ‘aide’ is unnamed):
One of Tony Blair’s most senior aides has attacked the police investigation into cash for honours, saying that repeated delays in winding it up have poisoned British politics. In a remarkable admission from the heart of Number 10, the aide said the result was a ‘blight’ not just on Labour and the Prime Minister, but on the whole of democracy.
The aide is understood to be reflecting feelings in Downing Street that the length of the police investigation, which has been running for nearly a year, is frustrating and unnecessary.
I’m sure it is frustrating for alleged criminals to be investigated by the police.
Hmm, I wonder – perhaps the investigation is taking longer than initially expected because of the alleged perversions of the course of justice?
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the Government ‘seeks new powers’ each time the media report on alleged terrorism.
This week is a case in point, with the alleged plot to kidnap, torture and behead a Muslim soldier, shortly followed by the Home Secretary’s proposal [the Telegraph] to attempt again to extend the period we can be detained without charge.
Nine terror suspects remained in custody today as John Reid announced he is to try again to extend the maximum period of time suspects can be detained without charge.
Mr Reid told a Cabinet meeting this morning that he would seek cross-party consensus to increase the 28-day deadline.
He said senior police officers thought it was “right and proper” for the Government to re-address the issue, following a failed attempt to introduce 90-day detention in 2005 when the Government was defeated in a Commons vote.
The Government was defeated [the Public Whip] by 322 to 291, with 49 Labour rebels. (I recommend the Public Whip’s insight into how Parliament works in practice both in that vote and the vote on extending detention without charge to 28 days.)
Mr Reid told the Cabinet that since changes extending the maximum detention period from 14 to 28 days were introduced there had not yet been a case in which a longer period of questioning was required.
But he said detectives investigating last year’s alleged plot to carry out terror attacks on airliners had required the full four weeks to complete their investigations and there were fears that future cases may need longer still. …
The power hasn’t been required yet but it may be in the future?
Yes, we should listen to the police. But we shouldn’t blindly accede to their requests without considering the trade-offs.