MR PENDLE: Trust me, I’m a politician

a RECENT email from former Pendle MP Gordon Prentice touched on the subject of political reform - and set Mr Pendle’s mind wondering why no one had raised the matter before.

Gordon said he had been talking to one of his erstwhile Westminster colleagues who was calling for the setting up of a political standards authority to do for political parties what trading descriptions legislation does for dodgy traders.

In other words, if a party says it will do something, it should be held to it.

And if it finds it cannot deliver, it has to be forced to say why.

And if parties want to lie, obfuscate or change their minds, let them face the penalty for deceiving voters with sanctions up to and including bans on future participation in elections, fines on leaders and suspensions from arliament.

It all sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?

But as Gordon went on to say, it would make for a new and refreshingly different of politics - which is precisely why it won’t happen.

And which probably explains why Gordon’s email was given the somewhat cynical headline “Trust me, I’m a politician.”

It was only last week Mr Pendle said Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke had got it wrong over his plans to offer reduced prison sentences of up to 50% to serious offenders in return for a guilty plea.

And what happened on Tuesday?

The Government announced the controversial plans were to be scrapped in the face of widespread criticism from judges and others.

Now Mr Pendle in no way wishes to suggest his column last week had any influence on the thinking of the Government in any way.

But when he made his comments last week, he was only putting forward what he felt was the general feeling of the ordinary man in the street, and certainly that of those in whose company he keeps.

That is - those who are convicted of serious crimes deserve locking up for a long time - not for a short spell before being released.

And rather than offering reduced sentences in return for guilty pleas, which gives the impression to many of a Government that is going soft on crime, isn’t there an argument which says that what should actually happen is the opposite?

That if a prisoner is sentenced to, say, 20 years, then he serves a minimum of 15 - thus earning a 25% reduction instead of the generous 33% which he is currently entitled to at the moment?