Don't bother to vote for police commissioners, says Ian Blair
That's silly talk, says Justice Minister Grayling, responding to former Met police chief
JUSTICE SECRETARY Chris Grayling has this morning dismissed as "silly" the call for a boycott of the police commissioner elections by former Met police chief Lord Ian Blair.
Blair called for the boycott on Sky News, saying: “I have never ever said this before but I actually hope people don't vote because that's the only way we're going to stop this.”
Grayling responded on Radio 4's Today programme: "It is a very silly thing to say."
The spat with Blair - regarded as a New Labour luvvie by the Tories - came as the government was preparing a mass leaflet drop on 13 million households explaining why they SHOULD vote on 15 November.
It also coincided with a speech today by the Prime Minister intended to fill Tory voters with enthusiasm for voting Conservative in the elections for the new police commissioners.
Cameron is due to promise "tough but intelligent" law and order under the Tories and will say that "retribution is not a dirty word".
The tone of his speech was briefed out at the weekend by his aides as a return to much tougher punishment for offenders. But it risks going off at half-cock before the PM has uttered a word.
Under the headline, 'Cameron: It's time to mug a hoodie', the Mail on Sunday promised Tory right-wingers "an element of punishment" in community sentences, curbs on "cushy" jail terms, and an end to £46 cash handouts when prisoners leave jail.
However, it is reported today that the plan to end the £46 cash handouts has been dropped and Grayling, who replaced the more liberal Ken Clarke to put some stick about, has just spent ten minutes explaining to Today presenter Sarah Montague that his plans are for rehabilitation of offenders, not just retribution. It sounded suspiciously like an agenda that Ken Clarke could happily embrace.
The danger for Cameron is that his speech will fall far short of the lurch to the right the "hang 'em and flog 'em" brigade had been encouraged to expect.
Lord Tebbit, Thatcher's former party chairman, fumed in The Observer that his was "a dog of a coalition". Writing in the aftermath of Andrew Mitchell's resignation as Chief Whip on Friday, and George Osborne's little run-in with the ticket inspector, Tebbit said the problem wasn't the toffs running the Tory party, it was incompetence.
"Tory toffs repelling undesirable immigrants, providing better schools, using welfare reform as a pathway to work, clearing vandals, yobs and drunks from the streets and standing up to our masters in Brussels would be very popular, and the word would soon be forgotten."
By sending out mixed signals on 'law 'n order', Cameron risks compounding the impression of incompetence at the heart of government. The truth is, when it comes to cock-ups, Cameron is a repeat offender.