Over the Lines

Dave Woodhall compares two parts of the same political whole.

Cllr John Lines

Cllr John Lines

I was watching the news from the Liberal Democrat conference yesterday. Delegates had been debating last month’s riots, which were rightly and unanimously deplored as “unjustified criminality”. They also overwhelmingly supported a motion that said imprisonment for offences arising from the riots should be regarded as a last resort, only to used when no other sentence was deemed appropriate. There should, delegates agreed, be an emphasis on non-custodial sentences, allowing those found guilty to live productive lives and not be forced to sever ties with families and home life, while also doing work to improve the community they had damaged.

Tom Brake, co-chair of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Party Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and equality, said during the debate, “Complex problems require carefully considered solutions, not sound bites.”

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that his words followed comments from Cllr John Lines, the Conservative cabinet member in charge of Birmingham’s council housing, who in the wake of the riots said of offenders who were also council tenants, “We will waste no time getting rid of this scum of the Earth.” So not only would they be put in prison, they – and presumably their families – would also be homeless on their release.

And I thought to myself no, not all politicians are the same.