Monday, March 31, 2014

UnBanning Books and Labour Party Faultlines - AS update on pressure groups and parties

The Howard League for Prison Reform has once again managed to raise the profile of a key issue in the conduct of our prisons management, and this time it's a reaction to a recent change proposed by the seemingly besieged Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling.

Mr. Grayling signed off on a policy last November to stop prisoners receiving, amongst other restriction, books.  His intention was to provide a more rigorous incentives policy within prisons to encourage good behaviour, and at first the policy passed with little notice.  Then, the Howard League for Prison Reform's director, Frances Crook, wrote a piece for online site politics.co.uk criticising the policy, and a storm ensued.  Change.org raised a petition about it, and a range of prominent authors joined in the chorus of opprobrium towards the policy.  The Guardian's Lindsay Mackie goes through the events and their possible consequences here.  As yet, Mr. Grayling has not offered to make any changes, but with a far higher profile accorded to his hitherto unnoticed ban, he may yet feel forced to bow to public pressure.  After all, stopping prisoners from reading does seem to be a particularly harsh and retrograde step.

Meanwhile, the Observer's seasoned political commentator Andrew Rawnsley has sought to identify the faultlines underlying Ed Miliband's Labour Party.  What is interesting is his assessment that most of these faultlines relate to strategic positions held by senior figures rather than substantive policy differences.  Indeed, the main area of specific policy mentioned in his piece is that of devolution versus centralisation.  So as an explanation of the party's current policy position, it is perhaps of less value than a raw political assessment of how a party looks at winning power.


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