Wednesday, 28 Feb 2024

'An absolute shocker:' Even Labour's hardliners hate attack ad

‘An absolute shocker:’ Even Labour’s hardliners hate attack ad that claimed Rishi Sunak doesn’t think child sex abusers should go to prison

  •  Labour former frontbencher Diane Abbott branded the Labour ad as ‘horrible’
  •  The party doubled down last night, posting another similar attack ad on Twitter

Labour today refused to remove a ‘horrible’ attack ad claiming that Rishi Sunak does not think child sex abusers should go to prison.

Even as a frontbencher declined to endorse the poster and the party’s own MPs derided it, the ‘gutter politics’ advert remained online.

In a tweet pitching itself as ‘the party of law and order’, Labour shared a photo of the Prime Minister alongside the words: ‘Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.’

The advert sparked a ferocious backlash from across the political spectrum, with Labour former frontbencher Diane Abbott leading the critics as she branded it ‘horrible’.

Another figure from the Left of the party, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, urged the party to remove the poster.

In a tweet, Labour shared a photo of the Prime Minister alongside the words: ‘Do you think adults convicted of sexually assaulting children should go to prison? Rishi Sunak doesn’t.’

Even as a frontbencher declined to endorse the poster and the party’s own MPs derided it, the ‘gutter politics’ advert remained online

But Labour has refused to back down. Asked if the party was planning to remove the poster from Twitter, a party source replied: ‘Why would we?’

The party doubled down last night, posting another similar attack ad which suggested Mr Sunak believes adults convicted of possessing a gun with intent to harm should not go to prison. 

The tweet was captioned: ‘13 years of Tory failure has broken our justice system. Victims wait months if not years for justice, while dangerous criminals avoid prison. Labour will prevent crime, punish criminals and protect communities.’

Earlier Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, appeared to distance herself from the child sex abuse poster.

… but Starmer helped set guidelines 

Sir Keir Starmer helped set the child sexual assault sentencing guidelines criticised in the attack advert, it emerged yesterday.

Despite blaming Rishi Sunak for the poor rate of custodial sentences for heinous sex crimes since 2010, the Labour leader was partly responsible for it when he was director of public prosecutions (DPP).

Minutes of a meeting from 2012 show he was present when the Sentencing Council agreed to redraft the guidelines for sexual assault on children with a separate sentencing range for victims under and over 13 years.

A Tory source told the Mail: ‘Sir Keir is a Lefty lawyer who made his reputation getting some of the most depraved criminals in Britain off on “human rights” grounds. He wrote many of the guidelines that led to soft sentencing which the Government is reversing. When we ended automatic halfway release for serious violent and sexual offenders he ordered his MPs to oppose us and get more criminals out of prison…’

Sir Keir served as DPP from 2008 to 2013. The DPP is head of the Crown Prosecution Service and bears responsibility for all prosecutions undertaken by it.

She insisted it was part of the ‘cut and thrust’ of political debate that sought to highlight the Tories’ record on law and order. She said she stood by ‘what this tweet and this campaign is trying to highlight’, though admitted it was ‘not to everybody’s taste’.

She added: ‘I didn’t design the graphic, it’s not my graphic.’

Mr McDonnell said: ‘I say to the people who have taken the decision to publish this ad, please withdraw it. We, the Labour Party, are better than this.’

Left-wing journalist Owen Jones said: ‘This is an absolute shocker of a political ad. It drags politics into the gutter.’

Left-wing commentator Ash Sarkar added: ‘This is a clear example of something that would be utterly condemned by Keir Starmer’s supporters if it was aimed at Labour.’

The New Statesman’s George Eaton described the poster as ‘one of the worst political adverts in recent UK history’.

The party said it was based on analysis which suggested more than 4,000 adults convicted of sexual assault or sexual activity on children under 16 have dodged jail sentences since 2010. 

However, judges and magistrates, rather than the prime minister of the day, are responsible for handing out sentences.

And the figures Labour highlighted cover the period since 2010 – but Mr Sunak only entered Parliament in 2015 and did not become Prime Minister until October last year.

Former Conservative Cabinet minister Rory Stewart said: ‘Is someone going to point out that this is about laws, sentencing guidelines and judicial practices? 

‘That were not and would not be different under Labour?’

The poster had ‘important context’ added below it by Twitter, which read: ‘The current sentencing guidelines for this crime has a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment. There is no Conservative party policy that plans to remove this.’

Last year, Mr Sunak distanced himself from Boris Johnson’s controversial claims about Sir Keir – a former director of public prosecutions. 

The then-prime minister accused the Labour leader of failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, but Mr Sunak commented on the remark that he ‘wouldn’t have said it’.

My party is better than this brand of gutter politics, writes former Labour Home Secretary DAVID BLUNKETT

By David Blunkett

When I heard yesterday about a tweet from the Labour Party’s official account suggesting that Rishi Sunak was somehow responsible for failing to ‘lock up’ criminals who had abused children, I immediately thought: My party is better than this.

When I was told about the second tweet accusing the Prime Minister of being complacent about gun crime, I came close to despair.

First of all, it’s deeply offensive to get down in the gutter to fight politics in this way. And second, once you resort to personal abuse, you create the risk that Britain’s public discourse will degenerate even further – to the levels that we have seen recently in the US.

When baseless allegations and spurious slurs replace fair and robust political debate, not only is the standing of our leaders undermined, the very foundations of our democracy are compromised.

I find it impossible to believe that, as a former director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer would endorse publishing this kind of material during a local election campaign. That said, he appears to have done nothing to immediately intervene.

I find it impossible to believe that, as a former director of public prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer would endorse publishing this kind of material during a local election campaign 

But he should. Steps must now be taken to ensure that unacceptable language and imagery of this sort are never used again, and that the people responsible for it are properly dealt with.

Needless to say, it is absurd to argue that the Prime Minister must take personal responsibility for the sentencing policies of judges. We can all be grateful for a clear separation of powers in this country, one that – unlike in dictatorships the world over – protects the independence of the judiciary from political direction.

As a former home secretary who was often deeply irritated by court judgments, I have recognised all this at some political cost at times. Nevertheless, I know it’s vital to discourage any government interference in sentencing. Of course, it’s right that politicians seek to protect the public and strengthen the law where necessary. Indeed, that is exactly what I did 20 years ago with the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act.

If that law, or measures designed to deter the use of firearms, are ever judged to be too lax, it is up to parliamentarians to put this right.

We do no one any favours by dragging such important issues into the realm of political knockabout.

Steps must now be taken to ensure that unacceptable language and imagery of this sort are never used again, and that the people responsible for it are properly dealt with

Labour rightly condemned Boris Johnson when, as prime minister, he accused Sir Keir from the despatch box of having been negligent in failing to act against Jimmy Savile when the Labour leader was head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

It was a ludicrous accusation: one that should have taught Labour Party staff and politicians alike that when boundaries are breached, politics and MPs are the only losers. I’ve never used Twitter and, at times like this, I’m glad I don’t.

But perhaps one of the lessons to be learnt from the past unedifying 48 hours in political campaigning is a simple one: don’t put out anything on social media that you would not say from a public platform, or that you would consider inappropriate if you heard it from your own political opponents.

Pictured: Rt. Hon David Blunkett MP

There are signs that many in Labour recognise all this. Yesterday, shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell declined to say she stood by the child abuse tweet, and even John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, said: ‘This is not the sort of politics a Labour Party, confident of its own values and preparing to govern, should be engaged in.’ He is right. Far from doubling down by refusing to delete this grotesque and offensive material, the party must now demonstrate that a lesson has been learned.

It must resolve to conduct its campaigning with respect and decency, not just through to polling day on May 4 but into the general election, expected next year.

That is what the British public expects. If Labour wants to win an election – as, of course, I hope it will – then first we must win the confidence of the people.

Our conduct must be exemplary and our language, though tough, should be moderated by a belief that what we say and how we act are the hallmarks of a government-in-waiting. On this occasion, my party got it wrong.

Source: Read Full Article

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