Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers

1. Better to have no deal at Copenhagen than one that spells catastrophe (Guardian)

Naomi Klein warns that a climate change deal that limits the rise in average global temperatures to 2C would be disastrous for Africa.

2. Why new challenges need new people (Financial Times)

Martin Wolf says that the "post post-Thatcher era" requires politicians who have the flexibility to recognise new challenges. Gordon Brown now has to prove he can do so.

3. For a balanced verdict on Blair, look beyond Chilcot (Independent)

John Rentoul argues that the Chilcot inquiry is being intimidated into passing an unduly critical verdict on Blair.

4. Heroes of New Labour (Economist)

Bagehot names the outstanding figures of the New Labour era, including Lord Adonis, Donald Dewar, Lord Mandelson and Robin Cook.

5. The influence of Prince Charles the lobbyist is out of hand (Times)

Paul Richards argues that our deference to the crown prevents us from questioning "the secret relationship" between the heir to the throne and government ministers.

6. A perfectly proper Prince (Daily Telegraph)

But a leader in the Telegraph says that Charles has a duty to take a close interest in government policy, and calls on republicans to declare their true motives.

7. A global order swept away in the rapids of history (Financial Times)

Philip Stephens says that the choice now is between a world of co-operative multilaterism or one of narrow nationalism.

8. Not even Cameron can control the politics of anger (Guardian)

Martin Kettle predicts that, if elected, Cameron will struggle to cope with a hostility towards politicians "almost revolutionary" in its force.

9. A toxic childhood won't be cured in school (Times)

Alice Thomson says that Ed Balls should blame parents for the materialism of school children.

10. Gamblers who must be punished (Independent)

Paul Collier argues that bankers who take excessive risks should be criminalised.

 

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It's not WhatsApp that was at fault in the Westminster attacks. It's our prisons

Britain's criminal justice system neither deterred nor rehabilitated Khalid Masood, and may even have facilitated his radicalisation. 

The dust has settled, the evidence has been collected and the government has decided who is to blame for the attack on Westminster. That’s right, its WhatsApp and their end-to-end encryption of messages. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants tech companies to install a backdoor into messages like these that the government can then access.

There are a couple of problems here, not least that Adrian Russell aka Khalid Masood was known to the security services but considered to be low-risk. Even if the government had had the ability to gain entry to his WhatsApp, they wouldn’t have used it. Then there’s the fact that end-to-end encryption doesn’t just protect criminals and terrorists – it protects users from criminals and terrorists. Any backdoor will be vulnerable to attack, not only from our own government and foreign powers, but by non-state actors including fraudsters, and other terrorists.

(I’m parking, also, the question of whether these are powers that should be handed to any government in perpetuity, particularly one in a country like Britain’s, where near-unchecked power is handed to the executive as long as it has a parliamentary majority.)

But the biggest problem is that there is an obvious area where government policy failed in the case of Masood: Britain’s prisons system.

Masood acted alone though it’s not yet clear if he was merely inspired by international jihadism – that is, he read news reports, watched their videos on social media and came up with the plan himself – or he was “enabled” – that is, he sought out and received help on how to plan his attack from the self-styled Islamic State.

But what we know for certain is that he was, as is a recurring feature of the “radicalisation journey”, in possession of a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and that he served jail time. As the point of having prisons is surely to deter both would-be offenders and rehabilitate its current occupants so they don’t offend again, Masood’s act of terror is an open-and-shut case of failure in the prison system. Not only he did prison fail to prevent him committing further crimes, he went on to commit one very major crime.  That he appears to have been radicalised in prison only compounds the failure.

The sad thing is that not so very long ago a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice was thinking seriously about prison and re-offending. While there was room to critique some of Michael Gove’s solutions to that problem, they were all a hell of a lot better than “let’s ban WhatsApp”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.