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Thursday, October 06, 2011

‘Tory fetish’

‘Tory fetish’

From John Bowden - HMP Shotts

Someone once said that a Liberal is just a Tory who’s been arrested and this certainly seemed to be the case with former Tory minister and high flyer – Jonathan Aitken when he emerged from his spell inside an apparently changed man. Where he once exuded the sanctimonious arrogance of his class and political type with his metaphorical sword and shield, the ex-jail bird Aitken now cut a very meek and pacific figure, full of compassion for the disadvantaged souls that he shared prison with and imbued with a missionary desire to improve their lives.

Unfortunately it’s also usually the case that there’s nothing quite like the sight of the working class engaged in a riot to send middle class liberals into headlong flight back into the ranks of the hang ‘em and flog ‘em brigade, and Aitken’s article – “These rioters need the discipline of a tough military jail”, Inside Time September - is illustrative of his own return to the ranks of those who believe that what’s required to keep the rebellious poor firmly in their place is a dose of good old fashioned military-style discipline.

Of course he’s talking nonsense. The riots that swept across English cities last August were symptomatic of everything far more profoundly wrong with our society than just a lack of discipline and respect for authority. And when did sending young offenders to places like military style detention centres ever remedy the deep structured ills of social deprivation and gross economic inequality, obvious underlying factors in the recent social unrest?

Speaking as a graduate of the old detention centre and borstal system with their core ethos of military type discipline and punishment I can assure Mr Aitken that such places achieved nothing in terms of positively improving its recipients. On the contrary, they produced instead young men considerably more hardened in their criminality and attitude towards authority, as well as an instilled belief that violence and intimidation were the means by which power and respect were achieved.

Attempting to regiment young offenders in a glass house type environment achieves nothing in terms of positively rehabilitating them or improving the social conditions that breed unrest and rebellion. Mr Aitken needs to rid himself of this Tory fetish for disciplinary the poor and disobedient or otherwise discord completely his newly acquired image of benevolent penal reformer.

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