Trouble at the Home Office

This week John Reid struggles with prison overcrowding and the debate on adoption by gay couples con

It was never going to be a quiet week for the Home Secretary, John Reid, after his announcement that the Home Office may have to be split into two separate departments. Three days later Mr Reid issued a plea to Britain’s legal chiefs to jail only the most serious offenders as Ellee Seymour detailed.

With news of a Judge in Wales giving only a suspended sentence to a man who downloaded child pornography to his computer, people are questioning just where the line can be drawn with the most dangerous and persistent criminals under Mr Reid’s new recommendations. Mr Eugenides says this is a case of the “government's monumental, almost unbelievable, incompetence.” Prisons are crowded – true. But too crowded for such a criminal? Answers on a postcard please (the comments link below will do).

Bloggers will never again be thought of in the same way after one was paid by Microsoft this week to “correct” their entry on Wikipedia, according to Dizzy. Microsoft said it had approached Rick Jelliffe and agreed to pay him but they had never paid anyone before to do this.

Credit also has to be given to Guido for publishing a story from David Cameron’s website two days before most of the Sunday papers caught up with it. Mr Cameron gave an unequivocal “no” to a general legalisation of cannabis but left the way open for it to be legalised for medical purposes.

Certainly little credit can go to Harriet Harman’s blog as she doesn’t seem to understand the need for regular posting. Two posts in a week just isn’t up to the job.

Regular as usual was Iain Dale who is drawing many similarities between Labour’s current cash for honours scandal and Nixon’s Watergate scandal. This comes as it is alleged that Labour officials have secretly deleted emails from a hidden computer system in an effort to try and destroy evidence. No doubt this will continue to rustle the feathers of many-a-blogger in the coming week.

And I leave you with some of the best blogs on the debate over gay couples and adoption. The Catholic church have been very explicit this week where they stand on this drawing in criticism from across the board. The Istanbul Tory said: “In truth, the Cabinet is hopelessly split over the issue of new equality laws.” And at Love and Liberty there was no beating around the bush. Alex Wilcock said: “after centuries of taking pot-shots at each other (often literally), the Catholic Church and the Church of England have found common ground: persecuting gay people and children.”

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame