tag : bright yellow-green apples: the problems of hysteria

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Saturday, April 29, 2006

the problems of hysteria



Should I stay or should I go, now?

To put it bluntly, I don't think the Home Secretary should resign. I also think that a lot of the calls for his resignation, over the recent furure, have rather spurious basis.

Firstly there seems to be a fetish for resignations, such that any mistake is enough to require one. Every minister and every mistake, the the catcalls are the same. It's lost any real meaning when there actually is a cause for resgination, which does crop up from time to time. They are ignore the fact that it would take a while for someone else to bed into the post, which might further delay and sort-out of the problems.

Secondly, there appears to be a lot of whollyness about what's actually happened. Foreign nationals have committed crimes, of varying degrees of seriousness, and then served their times in jail before being released. Yet people act as if criminals have been released prematurely, accidentally, and will all roam the streets looking for another offense to commit. And thus they must be expelled, to their home countries, before they unleash their crime waves upon us all. It does seem to be a cocktail of fear of foreigners and fear of criminals - both of which become inflated into a monstrous beast - that is behind the hype. At worst, this mistake in the system might be seen as a case of there being insufficient post-incarceration care - but this should be seen as common to all who're released. The hysteria is absurd, and you don't help people not to reoffend by shooting them off elsewhere. Otherwise it's just NIMBY xenophobia.

11 Comments:

Blogger Martin said...

You won't be surprised to know that I agree with you on the matter of the perceived issue being criminals let free to rape and murder, and that that entirely misses the point. And yes, much of the media pressure comes from corners who would much rather anyone with a criminal record never saw the light of day again (until the day their mother doesn't pay her council tax).

But I do think Clarke should go, not because I am a fetishist for resignations (though I did think that Ruth Kelly should have resigned as well) and not because of a false notion of danger to the public either, but because the man has clearly demonstrated himself not to be suitable to run the Home Office by his inability to enforce its own procedure and then, having identified that failure, not resolving the situation without hesitation (and it seems, only resolving it now because it is public knowledge). In any other walk of life, where your job and responsibility are not conferred upon you through democratic election and cronyistic appointment but through ability and accountability, you would be out on your ear for that kind of managerial incompetence. That the tabloids get all resignation-happy about these things doesn't mean that everyone should be excused such obscene mistakes.

You may say that I don't like the man, and you'd be right, but I'm completely resigned to the fact that the policies of any given successor would be exactly the same (tyrannical immigration system, prison overcrowding, etc.), and that's about the only thing that makes me think he should perhaps stay - better the devil you know!

12:26 PM  
Blogger ash said...

I'd agree, and say the whole lot of them should resign... but that would be largely based on dislike.

I don't think Charles Clarke has made a real mistake here. Anyone who has served their time for their crimes should be released. You can't sentence someone and then, once they have fulfilled the punishment seen as just then go ahead and punish them again just because they happen to be foreign.

I really do wonder about the British public sometimes.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

"I don't think Charles Clarke has made a real mistake here. Anyone who has served their time for their crimes should be released."

Nobody agrees with that more than me, but Ash, don't you feel that laying down policy, not following it and then not managing to resolve the situation once you became aware of it - regardless of the subject matter - accumulates to some kind of a mistake?

9:58 PM  
Blogger hatchris said...

Thanks for being a voice of vague reason on that issue! I don't like Charles Clarke either, Martin:-p, but I'm in two minds as to whether he should go. On the one hand, yes, he has been incompetenet, and I don't think he's a good enough home secretary in general (nor do I like his politics), but on the other - who is there left in the government to do his job?! Labour appears to be running out of competent,scandal free ministers. Is this just what happens when people have been in government a long time, all the mistakes creep in, or has the government been extra especially bad recently? Or is at all a media storm?
My guess is somewhere between all of them, but I certaintly don't have too much confidence in anybody at the moment.

Meanwhile, in the background, Mr Ming is pretty much failing to make himself sound at all interesting.

Sigh :'-(

11:55 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Martin -

"...but because the man has clearly demonstrated himself not to be suitable to run the Home Office by his inability to enforce its own procedure and then, having identified that failure, not resolving the situation without hesitation (and it seems, only resolving it now because it is public knowledge)..."

Ah, now that's more like a half-decent reason. And it certainly comes closer to why I'd like to see Charles Clarke resign - the patchiness of efforts, the lack of actual commitment to anything for more than a few minutes, the way so many things seem to be dealt with proportionally to how much public notice or fuss there is. But then, there hasn't been a decent Home Secretary since who knows when. And it seems the media and attention has now shifted onto John Prescott, which is considerably less newsworthy.

1:05 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ash -

That's essentially what I was getting at, originally; that the fuss seems to come attached to the label "foreign", in particular.

1:06 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Chris -

Perhaps that's cos he's outside his cherished brief of international matters, where he could stalk around like a true political giant! ;)

1:06 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Yes, the media attention has shifted (though it was all Clarke again this morning). But you seem to be arguing here that our views shouldn't be driven by the media agenda (while not, apparently, realising that being willfully contrarian to media direction amounts to exactly that, i.e. your just-because-the-media-say-he-should-resign-I-say-he-shouldn't line still centres on the media attention for its reasoning).

This idea that Clarke should stay because there's nobody better is maddeningly silly and defeatist - I was just kidding, but some of you seem to be being serious! Clarke should be judged by his performance and ability alone. If he's unfit to do the job then he is, he can't get away with it just because there's no obvious replacement!

Yes, there's an unpleasant fuss about foreigners-presumed-malevolent, but there is a real issue here, if you cut through the froth. Clarke can't get away with it just because he's under media pressure, that's as perverse as saying he should go because he is.

10:17 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I picked on the media as the most prominent and colourful source of accusation that he should resign, not the bedrock. I just don't think any correlation of overwhelming incompetence can be drawn from this single event, in the way that it must be if there can be a resignation sparked by the event. It's so hard to tell, in the midst of so many leaks and so much sophistry, what has really occurred and the motives or competence behind them. In all, a don't think this single occurrence, alone, is enough to justify him leaving. If we can get some systematic element, rather than an isolated case (in theme, rather than timeframe!), then perhaps...

12:21 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Systematic incompetence and mismanagement over the course of months could hardly be taken as a 'single occurence'...

All I'm saying is you seem very keen on having Clarke stay because the media want him to go (see also: Ruth Kelly), arguments following afterwards, in which case may I point you to the one half-convincing argument I've seen for allowing him to stay in his job up to now:

[If Clarke resigns] Westminster would walk away, dusting its coat and crying “problem solved”.

6:39 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Jenkins seems to make convincing points about most things, I find.

You're right to point out that most of my views expressed here, in this case, hinge on the media - that's because I approached this from the starting point of the way they'd treated it. And, speaking in the context of the way they, and a lot of the opposition for that matter, keep saying "questions are being asked", I'm not convinced of a case. I'm more convinced by what you say, not least because you don't have a dubious agenda in what you say about it.

12:32 AM  

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