Across the opinion pages: the Master, technical schools, open spaces and prisoners

Nik Darlington 2.15pm

The Times (£) has a brilliant range of comment pieces published today, worth venturing behind the paywall to read. Opinion genuinely is one of the newspaper’s USPs, along with its beautiful and accessible multi-platform digital interface.

Tuesdays typically mean Rachel Sylvester’s unmissable column, and today she plays on a favourite theme, ‘the Master’. Often enough she has commented how Conservative party modernisers afford Tony Blair deified status, his autobiography a fixture of Tory bedside tables and playbook for the contemporary political scene. This week, however, it’s all about how everyone’s wrongly reading the Blairite tea leaves, including Ed Miliband.

The truth is that Mr Blair was authentically of the centre in a way that neither Mr Cameron nor Mr Miliband is. He was an entryist who had taken control of his party, whereas the current Tory and Labour leaders are both, in background and beliefs, far more of their tribes. The success of new Labour was based on turning this reality into a political strategy that was pursued with ruthless efficiency and consistency. Everything that Mr Blair did and said - to begin with at least - was dedicated to demonstrating that he was more at home on the middle ground than in the Labour comfort zone…

Mr Blair took office promising new Labour would be the “servants of the people”. He lost power when the perception took hold that he wanted to be a Master of the Universe and his MPs turned on him. Neither Mr Cameron nor Mr Miliband have yet shown whether they are the servants of the people or their parties.

Rough reading for both leaders, who feel the weight of the former prime minister on their shoulders in more ways than one. And a reminder, yesterday, of Mr Blair’s uncommon talents.

Meanwhile, Lord Baker, an honorary life member of the TRG, writes about “a new wave of university technical colleges”. The Government is nearly doubling the number of these colleges, which supported by universities provide technical training to pupils between 14 and 19-years-old. Britain’s school leavers need more technical nous to compete in a challenging global marketplace.

We had a few technical schools at the end of the war but these were killed off by English snobbery. Everyone wanted to go the grammar school on the hill, not the one in the town with dirty jobs and oily rags. Germany didn’t make the same mistake: they adopted and still have the 1944 English education system and it is one of the reasons why Angela Merkel is ruling the roost. These colleges are our chance to rectify that mistake.

Under the Labour government Lord Baker, a former Education Secretary himself, convinced Andrew Adonis to trial two of these UTCs. Their expansion was supported by the Conservative party at the last general election, a pledge that has been wholeheartedly fulfilled by the coalition government.

The outgoing Director-General of the National Trust, Dame Fiona Reynolds, eulogises on the centenary of Octavia Hill’s death. With a theme that I also used in an article earlier this year for the Richmond Magazine, Dame Fiona writes that the protection of open green spaces is a battle still being waged, and one still very much worth waging.

When [Octavia Hill] died in 1912, the National Trust had 713 members. We now have four million. While she would no doubt be impressed, she would not be surprised, and she would certainly not be complacent. She believed, as we do, that beauty, nature and heritage are fundamental to the human condition. She spoke of everlasting delight. If she were here now, she would describe the past hundred years of the Trust and what we stand for as one of enduring relevance; a cause which we must never cease to pursue.

Finally, the experienced barrister and chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, writes that Britain should give in to the European Court’s ruling to award the vote to prisoners.

Far from being harmless, giving prisoners the unqualified right to vote has positive values. How better to promote peaceful coexistence in society than to remove any sense in prisoners of second-class citizenship. It is precisely what the Government is preaching in its recent legislation on sentencing reform - namely, greater efforts to make the rehabilitation of prisoners more vigorous in penal institutions.

The right of every citizen to vote is acknowledged to be a constitutional right. It is in truth not a human right but it certainly is a civil liberty guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No 1 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, which the UK ratified as long ago as 1952.

Egremont has long been favourable to the Government’s principled and correct stance on penal reform, and last year we published an excellent article by the Howard League’s Sophie Willett. The ‘bang them up and lock away the key’ school of justice is outmoded and discredited; Britain’s prisons are at bursting point. That much is true.

However, the right to vote is not God-given, as Sir Louis agrees. Nor should it be beholden on any sovereign government to afford certain constitutional rights to individuals who transgress this country’s laws and bring harm to fellow citizens.

Reform the nature of a criminal’s penance, certainly; but that penance must still be served.

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Let’s make restorative justice a reality in 2012

Robert Buckland MP 2.53pm

Having worked for many years in the criminal justice system, prosecuting and defending in criminal cases, I am acutely aware that the trial process does not - and cannot - address the problems faced by victims of crime.

Since my election to Parliament in 2010, I have taken an increasing interest in restorative justice and how it can play a bigger role in the criminal justice system in the UK. Restorative justice can help turn lives around for the offenders and aid the healing process among victims of crime.

Restorative justice allows a victim of a crime and the offender to meet face-to-face, enabling both of them to play a part in finding a positive way forward. The practice, already being used across England and Wales in our schools, workplaces and in parts of the criminal justice system, can empower victims and communities to come to terms with their trauma and may also help to reduce crime by making offenders understand the impact of their actions.

In the immediate aftermath of the summer riots up and down the country last year, it was clear that far too many of those involved in the rioting and looting were young people.

In the debate held following the recall of Parliament, I encouraged the need for making those responsible come face to face up with the victims of their crimes and making them play their part in restoring the damage that they have done. I suggested this to be a good way to divert those young children from further involvement in the gang culture and crimes that we have seen.

I was very pleased to be part of an inspirational meeting held at the Pilgrim Centre in Swindon one Friday evening in November last year, organised by my local Quaker group.

Quakers are committed to working for peace and justice through nonviolent social change. Quakers seek to practice peace at all levels, whether being active in disarmament or promoting mediation among children.

It was an excellent evening and I was pleased to see that there are many local people in Swindon, in the Council, in schools, in church groups and the police who are committed to restorative justice. We all agreed that there were excellent examples of restorative justice methods being used in Swindon by the police and the Youth Offending Team, and that more work should be done to spread its use.

In the House of Commons, I asked Nick Herbert MP, Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, about the steps the Government is taking to increase the use of restorative justice. I took this opportunity to raise awareness of the effective use of restorative justice procedures in Swindon by both the youth offending team and the police, particularly in the sentencing process and as an alternative to prosecution.

The Government has specific plans to support the invaluable work being done locally. The Minister assured me of the Government’s commitment to delivering more restorative justice across the system. The Minister agreed with me about the value of the work in Swindon in not only providing enhanced victim satisfaction, as victims are otherwise too often an afterthought in the process, but also in reducing reoffending rates.

Last month, I met Lizzie Nelson from the Restorative Justice Council. The work of the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police was highlighted; they have been doing some useful restorative justice work in response to the riots.

Greater Manchester Police as a Force is very pro-active in the use of restorative justice. In November 2011 they resolved over 600 crimes using these methods. While the restorative justice work has been slower than anticipated and the Force have not been able to resolve as many cases as they would have liked given this method, there is tentative progress being made, with one offender having agreed to a conference and another using a ‘shuttle method’ with a second offender. This can only help both the victims and also the offenders face up to the severity of the crimes committed.

The Government is considering how they can increase capacity to enable local areas to provide more effective responses to crime and disorder. Funded by the Ministry of Justice and implemented by the Restorative Justice Council (RJC), the Government has also recently introduced a register that lists all qualified practitioners of restorative justice - a process where offenders meet their victims and hear about the pain they have caused.

The Government will also be piloting new Neighbourhood Justice Panels, where local residents, properly trained and with advice and support, will be able to bring victims and wrongdoers together to deal with local problems in a way that gives them a real say in the outcomes for their communities. I am delighted to say that Swindon will be one of the pilot areas.

The great thing about restorative justice is that victims are never forced to go through the restorative justice process. The wish to meet the offender has to be led by the victims themselves. Currently many victims of crime who want to meet and confront their offender have to fight very hard against entrenched practices in some of the agencies that purport to offer welfare. I am keen for Swindon to be used as a beacon for restorative justice practices and am pleased that the Swindon Youth Offending Team and the Neighbourhood Team are already well engaged in these practices.

I believe that momentum is starting to build around restorative justice issues. Between November 2011 and February 2012, there was media coverage of restorative justice issues that almost reached 40 million people. An ICM poll, commissioned by the Prison Reform Trust, showed that 88 per cent of the public felt that a restorative approach was an appropriate response to the UK riots. Books such as Belinda Hopkins’ The Restorative Classroom show how thinking on restorative practice in schools can make a difference.

In conclusion, it is about all of us, you and me, and how as a society we work together to tackle the problems and conflicts that we face. Let’s make this vision more of a reality in 2012.

Robert Buckland was elected MP for South Swindon in May 2010.

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'Tough on crime'? An asinine soundbite if there ever was one

Oliver Harvey 7.45am

Ken Clarke’s vital reforms to Britain’s justice system are in danger of being permanently sidelined.

Earlier this year, the Justice Secretary was forced to drop his plea bargaining reforms after describing some rape cases as ‘less serious’ than others during a BBC radio interview. Then August’s appalling series of riots seemed to have firmly ruled out any possibility of sentencing reform, prison population reduction or the ‘rehabilitation revolution’ seeing the light of day.

Earlier this month, the repeal of greater sentencing powers for magistrates - introduced towards the end of the last Labour government - dropped out of the Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Bill (Lapso) after it was opposed by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.

None of this, however, has altered the arguments for justice reform. Unless we are to continue living with public disorder and criminality at least part of the solution must be a proactive approach to rehabilitation and a focus on non-custodial sentences.

Britain has one of the highest prison populations in the world, currently edging towards the 100,000 mark and almost doubling over the last fifteen years. This has been credited by successive Home Secretaries from Conservative and Labour governments as the main cause of falling crime rates.

In fact, this suspicious cross-party consensus tells us that the views of Home Secretaries move in lockstep with the police. Different metrics measure different crime rates in different ways. A cleaner statistic is this: over half of Britain’s current offenders have already served custodial sentences.

We are operating, at a colossal cost to taxpayers, a revolving door for criminals to return to communities and to reoffend, with all the social and economic costs that entails.

One response with considerable public appeal is simply to lock offenders up for longer. An arch proponent of this idea is Peter Hitchens, with whom to converse on the subject is to tread the pages of a Charles Dicken’s novel.

While superficially attractive, it is simpleton’s logic. There is a fair case to be made for longer sentences for heinous crimes (murder, rape, firearms offences), but jailing burglars for decades both bears the hallmarks of an authoritarian regime and is a spectacular waste of money when alternatives are considered.

First, expand and improve the use of non-custodial sentences and put more emphasis on rehabilitation. As Ken Clarke has argued, non-custodial sentences must be made more ‘demanding,’ with tougher terms, more visible punishments and higher touch probation.

Punishing first time offenders and those convicted of relatively minor offences within the community is sensible as it prevents the ‘career criminalisation’ process which contact with hardened criminals in jail provides, and it gives an opportunity to offenders to get their life back on track.

Uncomfortable as it may be for some to admit it, an alarming proportion (90 per cent) of offenders have mental health problems or suffered childhood abuse. Often a lifetime of crime can be preventable by appropriate early intervention.

Second, the ‘rehabilitation revolution’ must be made to work. Literacy programmes, a ‘working week’ for prisoners and lowering the barriers for ex-cons to find work are part of the solution. Enlightened prison regimes can have spectacular results, but too often the success of rehabilitation is left to the inclination and resources of individual prison governors.

As Paddy Scriven, general secretary of the Prison Governors Association, has pointed out, rehabilitation is most successful with prisoners on longer jail terms. Short custodial sentences can have the effect of exposing minor offenders to hardened criminals, cutting them off from their communities while offering their victims only the briefest of respites. Short sentences are also expensive. In the vast majority of cases they should be scrapped, while resources should be concentrated on prisoners serving terms greater than one year.

Last year’s Green Paper - Breaking the Cycle - addressed many of these points. There is a broad consensus among prison governors and probation officers, a surprising fact considering Ken Clarke’s aim to cut substantially the prison budget.

Yet in the rush for politicians to be seen as ‘tough on crime,’ an asinine soundbite if there ever was one, the opportunity to get our justice system working again is slipping away.

Renovation Zones call for penal reform to cut the re-offending that is ruining communities

Paul Marsden 8.11am

On Tuesday, Ken Clarke said that the riots make the case stronger for penal reform, with three-quarters of those aged over 18 taking part in the riots being re-offenders. In his final extract from a revolutionary set of policies, former MP Paul Marsden writes why penal reform must be part of Renovation Zones.

The transformation required in the Renovation Zones must be reflected in our prisons. Criminals serving sentences must appreciate that they are being punished for crimes that they have committed. Ahead of that, however, must be a culture of transforming lives.

Instead of languishing in a cell for up to 23 hours a day, prisoners should be learning and exercising for up to 18 hours a day. All activities should be focused on acquiring new skills and identifying future careers.

The fact is that many criminals in prison will, when released, be returning to the types of areas that are candidates for becoming Renovation Zones. These ex-convicts should become positive role models for these areas rather than sources of aggravation, competition and tension.

Re-offending rates range from 26 per cent to 74 per cent for some prisons and when surveyed, 68 per cent of prisoners said that the single most important factor on returning to a community is having a job.

In order to bring down those re-offending rates rapidly, into single figures if possible, we must strive to have work available for prisoners on their release. Rather than wait six months before becoming eligible for work placements, in a Renovation Zone ex-prisoners would be required to join work programmes on the day of their release.

Simple and dynamic change is needed in the communities worst affected by high crime, high unemployment and extreme deprivation. Renovation Zones would cover the priority areas in need of renewal.

It will call for tough ‘Street Leaders’ who are given the full support of communities and local authorities. Their focus will be  on new skills and work, work, work.

Young people need opportunities geared towards real world skills. They must be given the chance to articulate their views in their own way.

Ex-prisoners must be dovetailed into the RZ work programme to reduce rates of re-offending.

A culture of fresh ideas must dominate and failure or only partial success accepted as part of the process of renewal.

A revived local pride must be engendered and linked to a stronger national pride. Improving the environment should be inherent to RZs so that people appreciate the world in which we live.

It will be difficult, the road will be long but the days of dead-end neighbourhoods punctuated with police sirens and shattered dreams must end. Through radical renovation, we can build buzzing, vibrant, respectful and happy communities.

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"Words, words, mere words", but Ken Clarke is correct about reforming Britain’s prisons

Nik Darlington 8.10am

The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has an important article in the Guardian today, in which he blames the riots that swept English cities this summer on this country’s “social deficit” between mainstream society and a “feral underclass”.

Some people are dismayed by the language used. Be that as it may, dismay all you wish but I would wager that more people are horrified by the criminal acts in Tottenham, Croydon and elsewhere than some choice words of a popular old hand known for plain speaking. Actions speak louder than words.

For what it is worth, “feral” derives from the Latin ferus meaning “wild”. In turn, “wild” means “uncontrolled or unrestrained, especially in pursuit of pleasure” - an apt description of what occurred in English cities in August.

And Mr Clarke is not playing to any ‘nasty party’ gallery because he is writing in the Guardian, whose readers have not voted Tory since the 1950s; if it had passed you by, the Tory press and the Justice Secretary do not see eye to eye in many things beyond a penchant for beer and cricket.

More importantly, Ken Clarke writes that the underlying nature of the riots and the rioters must be a prompt for “radical reform”. Our prisons are places for punishment, of course, but there must be a heightened emphasis on rehabilitation.

Punishment alone is not enough… Locking people up without reducing the risk of them committing new crimes against new victims the minute they get out does not make for intelligent sentencing.

It’s not yet been widely recognised, but the hardcore of the rioters were, in fact, known criminals. Close to three-quarters of those aged 18 or over charged with riot offences already had a prior conviction. That is the legacy of a broken penal system - one whose record in preventing reoffending has been straightforwardly dreadful. In my view, the riots can be seen in part as an outburst of outrageous behaviour by the criminal classes - individuals and families familiar with the justice system who haven’t been changed by their past punishments.

I am introducing radical changes to focus our penal system relentlessly on proper, robust punishment and the reduction of reoffending. This means making our jails places of productive hard work, addressing the scandal of drugs being readily available in many of our prisons and toughening community sentences so that they command public respect. And underpinning it all, the most radical step of all: paying those who rehabilitate offenders, including the private and voluntary sectors, by the results they achieve, not (as too often in the past) for processes and box-ticking.

I have noticed some people lazily describing the Justice Secretary’s words as lacking depth and an understanding of underlying problems. Evidently, they read the sexy headline (probably chosen by the Guardian) about a “feral underclass” and bypassed the article itself, which if they had bothered to read might have found their answer.

However, reform can’t stop at our penal system alone. The general recipe for a productive member of society is not secret. It has not changed since I was inner cities minister 25 years ago. It’s about having a job, a strong family, a decent education and, beneath it all, an attitude that shares in the values of mainstream society.

Just in case the casual reader thought this was mere rhetoric, replete with the ethos of long-held experience, are coalition government policies such as deficit reduction, welfare reform, work programmes and liberalising our schools.

Rehabilitation must be the watchword of this Government’s penal reforms. After this summer’s riots, in which three-quarters of the tried perpetrators are reoffenders, that fact is staring us in the face more than ever.

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Justice reform: High prison populations are a sign of failure, not success

Sophie Willett 7.58am

The Howard League for Penal Reform welcomes the reforms proposed in the Government’s Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders. The Government is bravely addressing some tough issues that successive administrations since the mid-1990s have ignored.

We have been at the forefront of arguing that pressure on public spending presents an opportunity to re-frame the criminal justice debate in favour of reform. Prison numbers have more than doubled over the past decade. The exponential rise in the numbers sent to prison is nothing to be proud of. By the time somebody has gone to prison it is too late; the damage has been done; somebody has been a victim of crime.

It is perfectly possible to achieve less crime, with safer communities, and fewer people in prison.  During the 1990s in Canada, for example, cuts to public spending saw the prison population fall by 11 per cent. During that decade, crime also fell to its lowest rate for 25 years, including drops ranging from 23 per cent for assault and robbery to 43 per cent for homicide.

Social and economic factors contribute towards crime. The Howard League recently commented about an alcoholic man sent to prison for the seventy-third time for a short sentence. He stole drink to feed his addiction. What use is it to send him to prison for a few weeks over and over again, at an extortionate cost to the taxpayer? Of the 53,333 people jailed in 2008 for six months or less, 74 per cent were re-convincted within a short time of release. Most served an average of six to eight weeks at a cost of £530 million.

Alternatively, community sentences can be more effective and they save money. In 2008, the re-offending rate for community sentences was 36.8 per cent. Lower re-offending leads to lower costs for victims and and criminal justice agencies further down the line. Community orders are also cheaper as immediate solutions. On average, they cost a tenth of what it costs to send a person to prison for one year, which costs around £45,000. Most community orders enforcing unpaid work or directly tackling problems such as accommodation or alcohol cost between £2000 and £3,000 per year.

There should be changes to make community sentences more prompt and intense. While there is isolated good practice, too many community sentences do not take place for weeks or even months after a court conviction. Even then people are only expected to do the odd day here or there for many months, setting them up to fail. The sentences must be proportionate and brisk.

The Government plans to invest in drug recovery and improve links with the NHS to provide mental health services to keep people away from crime and the penal system; additionally, a review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, so that people can get a job and rejoin society once they have lived crime-free; and increased judicial discretion for the sentencing of teenagers.

Prison has its place in ensuring public safety and managing dangerous offenders. Yet ever increasing prison populations are a sign of failure, not success. In recognising that the criminal justice system is a blunt tool, and that lasting solutions to crime lie outside the scope of the prison cell, the Government is taking a major step towards meaningful reform that will shape the way we respond to crime in the 21st century.

Sophie Willett is writing on behalf of the Howard League for Penal Reform, the UK’s oldest penal reform charity, founded in 1866.

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Ken Clarke’s detractors might stick the boot in, but it would be a huge mistake to remove him

Nik Darlington 7.18am

Ken Clarke is a formidable politician and genial character who can connect with the British public in a way that so many of his peers cannot.

That this popularity has not always extended to some fellow Tories is almost entirely because of his pro-European views. It is true that Clarke disagrees with most of his party and the majority of the country about Europe. It is true that Ken has made some big and regrettable errors lately. But it is incorrect to insist that he is sacked from the Cabinet.

  1. Ken Clarke’s experience of Government is valuable: Out of the current Cabinet, only William Hague, Francis Maude, Dr Liam Fox, Andrew Mitchell, David Willetts, Cheryl Gillan, Sir George Young and Lord Strathclyde have ministerial experience (Lords Henley and Howell are others but do not attend Cabinet). Even then, only Hague could be said to have served on the political frontline.
  2. As Chancellor, he successfully guided the UK out of recession and bequeathed an economy to Gordon Brown with every major economic indicator on the up (a rare feat attributed to very few). Ken Clarke understands the difficulties ahead because he has tackled and solved a troubled economic scenario before. He was criticised by some Conservatives for refusing to rule out tax rises such as VAT in a 2009 conference speech. Labour dithered on VAT and looked weak; this Government has taken the tough but necessary step and increased it. Clarke was right, his critics were wrong. When it comes to recovering from recession, Clarke’s words ought at least to be acknowledged.
  3. Civil liberties are an important dividing line between this coalition Government and Labour. Ken Clarke, along with the likes of fellow lawyer Dominic Grieve and Liberal parliamentary colleagues, has held firm on the important but increasingly politically difficult task of rolling back Labour’s surveillance state. History will be the judge but I am confident that the restoration of civil liberties can be one of this coalition’s most positive and enduring legacies. It has been said that the Freedom Bill would not exist if it wasn’t for the presence of Liberals in government. That is only partly true. Many Conservatives are vehement defenders of civil liberties, not least Ken Clarke.
  4. He is on the right track on prisons and sentencing. Tim Montgomerie’s Daily Mail article on Saturday said Clarke is “reversing Michael Howard’s successful policy of locking up repeat offenders.” This misses the point of Ken Clarke’s proposals, which is to reduce re-offending through more intelligent sentencing and a “rehabilitation revolution”. The ‘prison works’ policy might have succeeded in locking up lots of criminals but it is not addressing re-offending, which remains high. Moreover, as expenditure bites, sending more and more people to prison is unsustainable. Stopping those who leave jail from returning is a pretty good place to start. To label this as soft on crime only disguises the very genuine problem this country has with rehabilitation.
  5. It is quite straightforward: the public likes Ken. Speaking in those idiosyncratic up-and-down tones, Ken Clarke is candid, serene and articulate. People like it when politicians are straight with them and whilst Clarke is wont to get ahead of himself at times (dangerously so of late), likeability is going to be a valuable commodity in the next few years.

Certainly, Ken has not made life easy for himself lately. Before the election, The Spectator Coffee House’s David Blackburn criticised George Osborne for his “mercurial”, “esoteric” and inaccessible muddling of economic policy; “Ken Clarke would not have made such an elementary political mistake.” Fast forward to last week and the same author accuses Clarke of a “glaring tactical error” in “lecturing Middle England about its ignorance.” The article blames arrogance but that is unfair - uncalculated carelessness is more likely. Nonetheless, it betrays a surprising failure of Ken’s political instincts.

Additionally, Ken’s comments about prisoners’ votes and the ECHR have been unhelpful. He is trying to paint it in the most reasonable and pragmatic light, and managing expectations is an honourable duty, but the basic premise of prisoners having a human right to vote is wrong.

Yet Ken Clarke is too valuable a member of David Cameron’s Cabinet to dispense with. His vast experience, not least as a popular and successful Chancellor, combined with good instincts on civil liberties and justice, all wrapped up in a wizened veneer of sheer likeability, ought to be enough to convince the Prime Minister to keep the faith.

The Conservative party has always been a broad coalition of instincts, beliefs, personalities and backgrounds. That is something to be treasured, not trashed. To sack Ken Clarke now, having spared Vince Cable before Christmas, would send out a concerning message about the relative expediency of Liberal and Conservative coalition partners. Moreover, jettisoning Clarke might appease sections of the press but it could alienate ordinary voters who would see the Government as being intolerant of differences of opinion in this era of ‘new politics’. There is already enough unnecessary blood being spilt by Dr Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes.

Ken Clarke is a member of the Cabinet and so he naturally has to adhere to a stricter code of loyalty and conduct than a backbencher. Yet leaving the dredging up of old tales aside, present complaints about him amount to disagreements.

The justification given by the Prime Minister for retaining Vince Cable was that in a coalition government, people are going to disagree. The same should apply for Conservative ministers as well as Liberals.

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