Veteran Tory politician Ken Clarke was sidelined in this week’s cabinet reshuffle, leaving his post as justice secretary.
The move marks a sad day for the criminal justice system in England and Wales. Clarke proved one of the most intelligent justice or crime ministers in a generation. He challenged the Daily Mail view that throwing people into prison was the best way to protect society. He was prepared to take a fresh look at criminal justice and the role of restorative justice. Clarke wasn’t always right – his comments about rape were ill-judged – but his heart was in the right place.
We need to get away from the idea that prison is the answer to everything. Why does the UK – or at least England and Wales – lock up more people than almost every other democratic country? How can we rehabilitate criminals while protecting the public? The Daily Mail doesn’t care – but politicians should. Ken should be a role model for future justice chiefs, not a false dawn.