Three items caught my attention in the newspapers this morning. The first that government has all but ruled out a commercial rescue for Northern Rock after conceding that funding for a deal cannot be found. There was news reported earlier in the week that a further pensions “Black hole” of over £100 million had been discovered, so one can understand why HMRC and the Treasury are seeking to leverage any opportunity, in the next budget, to squeeze more tax from an already overloaded population facing higher oil and energy prices, inflation, interest rates, food prices and so on.
The saving of Northern Rock, which will reportedly cost you and me £650 a year is only one of the dots in a children’s puzzle, which when joined-up, show some kind of picture, perhaps of a smiling Gordon Brown, who knows? However, in this case, it may be argued that saving Labour's reputation was placed above the nation's financial stability and in this example, you and I have been generous in lending £24 billion to the bank to keep it going - which might never be repaid in full. A little like a political loan, which conjures-up an image of an embattled Peter Hain.
Ironically, I’m vice chairman of a political ‘Think Tank’ called the Conservative Technology Forum (CTF) but unlike The Progressive Policies Forum (PPF), through which Mr Hain received tens of thousands of pounds from six different people, employs no staff and has apparently not published any work since its inception in December 2006, the CTF actually conducts research, holds meetings and I was up at Westminster on business last Monday. Perhaps I’m not ‘Progressive’ enough?
A second news item that caught my attention was that the children, who stoned a pensioner, Ernest Norton, to death last year on a tennis court last year while he was playing with his son, have had their sentences quashed.
A retired engineering draughtsman Mr Norton collapsed when a half-brick fractured his cheekbone and he had a fatal heart attack. The gang of boys reportedly ran away cackling: "He's dead, he's dead."
The judge decided that because Mr Norton had a pre-existing heart condition, it could not be proved that the boys were responsible for his untimely death; neither could the bricks and stones.
This rather brings to mind that the young men, who were responsible for the death of Richard Would, the landlord of the Nottingham Castle pub in my ward– reported here - a year ago, are still at large. I met his widow, Lynne and attended his funeral and have a pretty good picture of what occurred that night and what the police did and did not do in the time that elapsed following the attack that led to a fractured skull and his death some months later.
In both these examples justice is not only blind but impotent as well and I note that the full force of the law will be applied against the “Canoe” man, John Darwin, who with his wife, swindled a life insurance company out of £250,000 but what you and I might think of as the prosecution of ‘Real’ crimes are frustrated by inadequate resources, a mountain of paperwork and a Crown Prosecution Service which makes a virtue out of mediocrity!
Conservative leader David Cameron appears to think along similar lines and claimed, in a speech last week in Manchester, that Britain is "creeping" towards a state where violence is socially acceptable. He said aggression was being "feted" - as illustrated by the use of mobile phones to film people being beaten up.
"Society" he continued, needed to be "resocialised" in order to "reclaim our streets" and public areas from gangs.
Cameron said he was not advocating "an army of vigilantes and have-a-go heroes" but said elements of community life had to be rebuilt.
"Our society is creeping slowly, with quiet resignation and muted resistance, to a state of cultural and social acceptance of violence in our country," he said.
"We're collapsing into an atomised society, stripped of the local bonds of association which help tie us together."
Low level disorder, from which greater problems grow, should not be tolerated, he said, while calling for tougher powers for magistrates, more prison places and an end to police performance targets.
Finally another education story related to this week’s local school league tables, - shown below - it appears that parents hoping to ensure places in oversubscribed Catholic schools are behind a surge in "late" baptisms into the Church in England and Wales. I think we can understand why!