Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Sarah's Law, Sven's Law, lynch law... it's the law of the desperate politician"

From The Times Online (UK):

WHY, HAVING resisted for six years, has the Government suddenly decided that it is after all keen to consider “Sarah’s Law”, which would allow people to identify convicted sex offenders? One answer can be found by looking at this week’s other surprise political development: Tony Blair’s extraordinary appearance as co-presenter on a BBC radio World Cup phone-in show.

Both were stunts driven by the desperate desire to make some sort of emotional connection with a disaffected public. “Only connect!” wrote E. M. Forster. “Only connect the prose and the passion.” Substitute politicians for prose, and you have the cri de coeur of our lonely political class.

...

It is a sad fact that nothing in society today seems to unite as many people as the football. Nothing, that is, except perhaps hatred of paedophiles. Which might explain why a Government in danger of being knocked out in the next round could consider bringing on Sarah’s Law to connect with popular concerns. Why else would John Reid, the Home Secretary, suddenly be converted to the idea? There has been no new wave of violent paedophile attacks, no new evidence that such laws make children any safer. New Labour, however, is coming under so many attacks and feeling so unsafe, it seems prepared to turn child sex offences into a political football.

Whether they involve tail-ending Sarah’s Law or Sven’s Law, these stunts reveal a government lacking any sense of leadership or purpose. New Labour’s supposed control freaks have lost it — and they are not the only ones. One chief constable attacked the Home Office for having “surrendered” policy on sex offenders to media pressure. He had a point, but it was a bit rich: didn’t the Metropolitan Police recently try to reorganise the entire drugs regime around press stories about celebrity coke-heads? We might call it Kate’s Law.

...

ONE THING that Sarah’s Law definitely will not protect us from is fear — and neither will its high-profile opponents. Indeed, the debate over this legislation appears to be a contest to see who can scaremonger most effectively.

The Home Office and supporters of Sarah’s Law are stoking fears of an imaginary army of predatory paedophiles lurking at the school gates. For their part, opposition politicians and police chiefs complain that focusing on a few high-profile offenders could “divert attention from people who could pose a much greater risk” — by which they mean members and friends of a child’s family — and could also lead to “lynch law”.

All sides seem to agree that we live in a nightmare world populated by lurking sex fiends, pervert relatives and lynch mobs of angry mothers, in which we can trust nobody (except, of course, the politicians and police). Some of us might think that these fearful ideas “pose a much greater risk” to our children’s prospects of growing up in a free society.

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