Back in March I said in this blog that Ed Miliband had lost all credibility as a serious politician by addressing the anti-cuts rally which deteriorated into a riot. Last Wednesday at PMQs he did it again.
On the radio that morning, Ken Clark had been trying to explain why different sentences are passed following rape convictions. He made the entirely sensible point that there is a difference between for example a violent rape by a stranger and other examples of the offence with less, or no, violence. Unfortunately the word “serious” slipped in, and the standard politically correct BBC host began to insist that “rape is rape”.
The fact is that with rape, as with many other offences, there is what is known as a tariff. The entry point is 5 years imprisonment. Then a series of aggravating factors are set out which would justify a longer sentence, and mitigating factors which would lead to a lesser sentence. The judge’s role is to consider all the facts, and impose the appropriate term.
It may be that Ken could have explained this more clearly. But he did not, at any stage, suggest that rape is not a serious offence. Miliband, with the usual claque of mindless left-liberals in support, asked David Cameron to sack him. Cameron thankfully has more sense than that. The person in this incident who deserves the most opprobrium is Ed Miliband, who has turned an extremely senstive issue into a political football, rather than engaging in a grown-up discussion abuot whether the present tariff is right, and whether the aggravating or mitigating factors should be changed.
Despite the gloomy predictions of this writer amongst others, the Conservative party did not take what Barack Obama would have called a “shellacking” at the polls last week. On the contrary, despite the fact that we were defending a high position we actually increased our number of councillors both across the country, and also here in Elmbridge.
In Weybridge North we benefitted from the lack of an incumbent opponent. Tim Crowther, the retiring Lib Dem councillor, was a man for whom I had a great deal of respect, a tireless campaigner for affordable housing and a fundamentally nice and decent man. In Claygate we also defeated the Liberals, but in this case we displaced an incumbent and that in my view was down to the hard work and persistence of Geoff Herbert, the new Conservative councillor. It has been my pleasure to help out in Claygate over the past 4 years as Geoff has steadily increased his vote and chipped away at the Liberal majority and finally, this year, he got his reward. I am absolutely delighted for him.
So we now have 35 out of 60 councillors, a majority of 10 for the first time in over 30 years, and as a result we should have no difficulty getting our business passed as we look to build on our track record of delivering good quality public services at the lowest cost possible to the taxpayer. But there is a risk with large majorities that the ruling party forgets that it is ultimately answerable to the voters for its actions. Our challenge for the forthcoming year is to work with all our council colleagues from all parties where possible, and to continue listening to the electorate and responding to its needs.
I have been asked by the Leader to continue in my role as portfolio holder for Housing, and I look forward to another year of significant new affordable housing delivery.