'Welcome to the Monkey Tennis era of government straight out of Alan Partridge'

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This is the Monkey Tennis era of government (Image: © BBC)
This is the Monkey Tennis era of government (Image: © BBC)

Remember Alan Partridge’s desperate, ill-fated ideas for TV programmes? That’s where we are now. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Monkey Tennis era of government.

I thought nothing could be more bizarre than Suella Braverman’s mass buying of tents for migrants. Then we have two statements that just… well, I dunno what to say. I really don’t.

If you think about it for a second, you don’t want to be modelling your act on Norman Tebbit’s infamous speech from 1981. For Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride to tell over-50s to get on their bikes and – updating Tebbit’s seminal work with a 21st century twist – deliver takeaways was the second most insane thing in a very odd week.

'Welcome to the Monkey Tennis era of government straight out of Alan Partridge' eideziqkeiqhhinvA sketch for Mirror shows the depiction of what Keir Mudie reckons is a rather complex system of public services

I mean, people climbing on the PM’s roof, Mr Trump facing a long, long, list of criminal charges, and that bear in a Chinese zoo that people thought was a bloke in a suit. (The bear, incidentally, is called Angela and issued a denial. Which made the whole thing even better.)

But most bizarre, and an indication of how much barrel-scraping is going on, was Transport Minister Richard Holden saying shoplifters should be jailed. He added: "If we need to build more prison places for them, then so be it." I can’t say this enough. What we learn more and more is that prison is not working. Like with any crime, we need to be talking about the underlying causes.

Teachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decadeTeachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decade

Yep, there are career shoplifters. There are also people who can’t feed their kids, can’t buy nappies, all the rest of it. They don’t need prison. They need help. We need a grown-up conversation about crime. There were some encouraging noises from Labour but they seem, like everything else, to have tailed off.

Here are the stats: 15% of the population have no qualifications – compared to 47% of prisoners. Two per cent of the population were taken into care as children – 24% of those in prison. Less than 1% of the population have been excluded from school, compared to 42% in prison.

We are seeing the results of years of underinvestment in education, training, rehabilitation, probation… you name it. If you want to tackle shoplifting, you are tackling a symptom, not the underlying illness.

But that’s a grown-up conversation – not something anyone has an appetite for at the moment. Here’s another one: If you’re prepared to build extra prison places for these low-level crimes, where are the cells for the bankers, PPE fraudsters and corrupt MPs? Then I’m with you, and forget rehabilitation. Throw away the key.

Keir Mudie

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