The public favour disproportionate riot sentences

81 per cent of the public believe the punishments are either "about right" or "too soft".

As the prison sentences handed down to rioters come under attack from the Lib Dems and from some legal professionals, it's worth noting that the public, as ever, take a different view.

A YouGov poll in today's Sun found that 81 per cent believe the punishments are either "about right" (49 per cent) or "too soft" (32 per cent). Asked about the absurd decision to jail Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan for four years for (unsuccessfully) inciting disorder on Facebook, 57 per cent said the sentence was "about right", 12 per cent said it was "too soft" and just 25 per cent said it was "too harsh". Then again, given that 33 per cent of the public supported the use of live ammunition on the rioters, the figures aren't as surprising as they may appear.

It's hard to see David Cameron forcing Ken Clarke to sacrifice even more of his justice reforms but the coalition's plan to close 2,500 prisons is increasingly at odds with his "zero tolerance" rhetoric. The Justice Secretary, who has just resumed his holiday, will need all of his political guile to avoid another humiliating U-turn.

In the meantime, it's worth noting that one of the most disproportionate sentences handed down last week - the jailing of a mother for five monthas for accepting a pair of looted shorts - has just been quashed by a judge.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.