Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brown Blows Death Penalty Dog Whistle

A typical bit of Gordon Brown sleight of hand in The Sun today on the Death Penalty debate. Apparently "he was moved to speak out after more than 100,000 Sun readers backed the return of capital punishment. Translation: Sun journalist rings Number Ten Press Office desperate for quote on orders of editor.

Here's what Gordon Brown's (Press Officer) said: "Over the last 40 years, Parliament has decided that it is not the best way forward. But that is not to underestimate the feelings that people have - and particularly loved ones, when the worst crimes have been inflicted."

That would be why his government is letting murder suspects out on bail then....

Translated, that quote says: "I can't actually tell Sun readers I'm really against the death penalty because a) it doesn't fit with their story and b) they'd want to lynch me." It's such a clever formulation of words you just know they didn't spontaneously emerge from the lips of the Prime Minister. Well done to the press officer who no doubt spent half an hour carefully honing them. Well done indeed


Anonymous said...

"his government is letting murder suspects out on parole then" - actually my dear old thing it's judges wot do that.

K S Rees said...

The death penalty is barbaric, not to mention ineffective.

I knew The Sun's readership were bigoted and ill-informed, I just didn't realise to what degree.

Anonymous said...

I knew The Sun's readership were bigoted and ill-informed, I just didn't realise to what degree.

With apologies to H.L. Mencken (or P.T Barnum, no-one seems to agree), no-one ever went broke underestimating the sophistication of The Sun's readership.

Chris Paul said...

This is as bad as your genital wafting earthquake post was good Iain. How is this a dog whistle? It seems a reasonable way of saying: "We understand the feeling but the answer still has to be no".

Are you going to tell us that Tory High Command is going to come out for the rope?

Barbaric, ineffective, error-prone, and economically as well as philosophically poor in the extreme.

Anonymous said...

The government does not let anyone out on bail. This isn't East Germany.

These are decisions of the courts.

Of course, between 1979 and 1997 nobody was ever murdered.

Anonymous said...

Yep, cos Cameron would have said come completely different eh??

Ross said...

"The death penalty is barbaric, not to mention ineffective."

Actually quite a few recent studies have shown that the deterrent effect for the death penalty is quite strong with many lives saved as the result of each execution.


Most of these studies were conducted by academics who are personally opposed to the death penalty.

Unsworth said...

How many purchasers of The Sun can actually read?

The survey was apparently conducted via an 090 telephone number.

Is The Sun saying that it received 100,000 calls to its Premium Rate number? This is a very good game, innit?

Now what does the Press Officer have to say (on Brown's behalf) about the rip-off - sorry, 'scientific research'?

asquith said...

Chris Paul, it's worth noting that Iain's mate David Davis supports the death penalty. And of course he hangs round with Cameron these days.

Though I still like him overall because he's a civil libertarian, unlike the Michael Howards of this world.

Anonymous said...

the "dog-whistle" was honed to extreme efficacy by Australia's former PM John Howard with the help of sometime Con Party paid political adviser Lynton Crosby.

For many years the ALP complained that this was a way for the conservatives to telegraph their true position on race and culture. I believe Crosby advised the CP to use similar tactics on asylum seekers in the last election to no avail. I think Michael Howard et al were basically too decent to do it comfortably unlike their Aussie counterparts.

Anonymous said...


how many is "quite a few"? - hard to know as you are the sort of moron who doesnt know how to embed links or use tinyurl.

Anonymous said...

Whether Westminster wishes to re-introduce the death penalty or not, the final arbiter in this decision is Brussels, not our elected representatives, who can be over-ruled by a bunch of unelected and unaccountable f**k wits.

With prisons full and sentencing getting shorter a retuern to the death sentence for very serious capital cases would be most appropiate. The cases involving Steve Wright and Levi Bellfield spring immediately to mind. Why keep such scum in prison at taxpayers expense.

Anonymous said...

Just recently I asked a magistrate friend to comment on the case of the Police Inspector who was let out on bail against the recommendation of the arresting Force, and who then apparently murdered his mother-in-law and then committed suicide.

The magistrate explained exactly what options would have been legally open to the Bench, and why it was the correct and only decision that could have been made "according to the Law". Which Law is, I believe, still made by Parliament/the Government.

And here's a suggestion for discussion about the death penalty: supposing a serial murderer were offered the choice between Life (meaning absolutely no release) or capital punishment, I wonder what s/he would choose?

asquith said...

Bruce of Arabia, the dog-whistle strategy worked in the short term, but in the end the Australian government came across as nasty, extreme and interested in only immigration and crime to the exclusion of all else and lost the recent election.

It is a strategy which Dave from PR is moving away from, albeit with limited success.

Anonymous said...

penfold - unless you are proposing a radically foreshortened appeals process it actually costs more to execute a prisoner in the US than it does to keep them for life.

How would removing a couple of serial killers make any difference to Britain's prison overcrowding? Or are you going to start executing petty criminals as well. Just because we are hosting the Olympics after Beijing doesnt mean we need to start following the Chinese lead on corporal punishment.

Anonymous said...

Asquith - I hope so. I always thought mainstream British politicians were immune to this sort of thing if for no other reason than the large muslim and black electorate which Australia doesnt have. But as recent events have shown re sharia law there is a rich seam of xenophobia in the country that is there to be tapped into by the unscrupulous political operator.

Enter stage right Lynton Crosby who is coming over to help out with Boris Johnson's campaign. But BJ is a thoroughly decent cove and his grandfather was a muslim to boot. I hope they give Crosby the boot back to Oz. I imagine Ken is relishing the opportunity to bring out a few choice Crosby moments to paint Boris as a closet racist by association.

Anonymous said...

Judith, the law provides the framework within which judicial decisions about bail are made, but the magistrates/judge are still able to exercise quite a bit of discretion over whether or not to grant bail in a particular case.

For most offences, the presumption is in favour of bail and the bench has to give their reasons if remanding in custody. However, for the most serious offences (including murder and rape), the presumption is a remand in custody and reasons have to be given if bail is granted. I assume the judge must have done that in the case that you mentioned and I believe that it would have been open to the CPS to appeal that decision.

Occasionally, there will of course (quite literally) be errors of judgement.

strapworld said...


When did the Sun change its views on capital punishment? They say they are against it!

Yet with 99% of their readers voting to bring back the death sentence are not the Sun guilty of the crime they accuse politicians of - namely not listening to THE PEOPLE!

Ross said...

"how many is "quite a few"? - hard to know as you are the sort of moron who doesnt know how to embed links or use tinyurl."

You know if I were going to call someone a moron I probably wouldn't do it immediately before admitting that I was too stupid to cut and paste a URL, but heh it's your reputation at stake, here it is in a form even you can access.

Newmania said...

Barbaric, ineffective, error-prone, and economically as well as philosophically poor in the extreme.

Civilised- It shows human life has a value
Effective- Well it would certainly deter me , but I expect the prospect of death does not deter the imaginary people of Labour La la Land . I think even the most self deluding would accpt the re-offending rates are low !
Economically - You have a point there. So what ?
Philosophically - What on earth would an depressingly small minded illiterate spewer of Labour propaganda know about that ? Philosophically then ( which Chris Paul thinks means stamp collecting ) how is it just that someone can kidnap kill maim torture and sexually assault children and spend the rest of their days playing chess in a comfy cell ? Thats alright is it "philosophically"...which "philosopher" did you have in mind?

Brown is against capital punishment as is the Labour 'Party' for fashionable reasons . Many of its voters are not that is his problem. The Conservative Party are split over principles far above the mindless progressiveness of the fatuous left as they lead us into a moral dark age.For them convenience and squeamishness have replaced morality and so long as they don't have to look at the murderer or the victim they can go on with their crapulous pontificating.Just take the black bags around the back so no-one has to look.

Anonymous said...

k s rees - "The death penalty is barbaric, not to mention ineffective." In my judgement, when the death penalty results in a dead murderer, I call that effective.

A government has no right to deny a population the laws it wants. Is someone seriously suggesting that the moral judgement of the (mainly) garbage sitting in the HoC and the 100% squalor of the Cabinet is superior to the wishes millions of voters? Whatever gave them that idea?

We should never forget that Brown is as unelected as any Soviet leader. He has no legitimacy.

The Remittance Man said...

Mr Paul,

Then why didn't he say that? As you have demonstrated there are entirely rational and sensible arguments against the death penalty. There are equally valid moral ones.

Brown likes to lecture us on his moral up bringing and he's never made the attempt to disavow eulogies to his supposed brilliant intelect. So why the heck doesn't he simply say he's opposed to capital punishment?

The only answer I can think of is that he lacks the moral courage (something else about which he loves to wax lyrical) to even take a stand on what is a life and death issue.

Anonymous said...

Remind me again - who voted Gordon Brown in as prime minister to head the government of this country? I don't recall an election.

Yak40 said...

Australian government came across as nasty, extreme and interested in only immigration and crime to the exclusion of all else

Because the press went on and on about these things and ignored the good that Howard's innings accomplished e.g. on the economic front.
Meanwhile along comes a wishy-washy Rudd bleating about "change" and a whole generation that had never voted before due to age go to vote for him.
Sounds like the empty suit Obama come to think of it.

Unless the UK can send the awful Labour to the wilderness, soon, I fear their actions will not be undone.
Bye bye nice, civilised, independent UK thanks to Labour.

Anonymous said...

Ross, you fool why do you think I am unable to cut and paste my URL? Had it occurred to you that it's not actually necessary?

What a good article - especially the second half that referred to all the academics who had destroyed the arguments. It's an interesting piece of analysis but hardly a killer blow.

But they clearly didnt ask themselves the obvious question: how come in all the other western countries where there is no death penalty the murder rate is an order of magnitude lower than in the US?

Anonymous said...

Ross this is what your URL looked like


try www.tinyurl.com if you want to post long URLs.

But you obviously went and asked a grownup how to embed URLs which is the equivalent of thinking up a witty comeback the next day.

Anonymous said...

verity said...
"Remind me again - who voted Gordon Brown in as prime minister to head the government of this country? I don't recall an election."

Same as Winston Churchill in 1940, Anthony Eden, James Callaghan, John Major in 1990.

Anonymous said...

tyburn jogger said...
"Try www.tinyurl.com if you want to post long URLs."

Grown-ups on this site prefer to embed. Makes it much easier for the end-user.

Anonymous said...

Tyburn Juggler - Because the wimpy socialist countries that don't have the death penalty are tiny.

The United States is vast, vast, vast and it has 302m people. There is no comparison. Don't kind yourselves that you are somehow "more advanced" spiritually or intellectually than the United States. Even that little crumb of comfort is denied you when you look at the figures and understand what you are reading.

You're not superior to anything, frankly. You have a prime minister who wasn't elected. You have a national health service which has been turned into a tool of oppression and control. You have a country jammed full of jobsworths and pretend jobs in the public sector. You have more surveillance than any country in the world, including Russia and China.

By the way, Singapore and Malaysia have the death penalty and PER CAPITA they have a teeny, tiny percentage of the murders and mayhem that "advanced" Britain has.

Anonymous said...

how come Levi Bellfied isnt being described as a serial killer? Is there a minimum of 4 murders/attempted murders before he gets called that? Or just too many "serial killers" for the tabloids at the moment?

David Lindsay said...

Far fewer countries have the death penalty than is generally supposed, and far more American States never use it, or do not even have it these days. It hardly happens in the US outside Texas.

But the real point is this: the State has no more right to take a morally innocent human life (i.e., that of a wrongly convicted person) on the basis of mere judicial guilt than on the basis of, say, disability, or old age, or terminal illness, or still being in the womb.

So, when can we expect liberal America (New Jersey recently abolished the death penalty, even if only symbolically), and the UN (which recently called for a moratorium on the death penalty by a margin far too large to be put down to mere Western cultural imperialism) to act against those evils, too?

Nor is it coherent for a country to have nuclear weapons but not capital punishment. The solution to that incoherence is not the restoration or retention of capital punishment.

Ross said...

"how come in all the other western countries where there is no death penalty the murder rate is an order of magnitude lower than in the US?"

Er because countries with a higher murder rate have a greater need to maintain the death penalty. The relatively high US murder rate has been the case at least since accurate records began at the beginning of the 20th century when both the US and the UK had the death penalty.

Secondly please look up what "order of magnitude" means if you don't wish to beclown yourself twice in the same thread. Using technical terms as though you understand them just makes you look even more pathetic than you have already demonstrated yourself to be.

Anonymous said...

Verity - I guess you have spent a lot of time away from these shores otherwise you would know we still live in a Constitutional Monarchy. The PM is appointed by our Queen as her Prime Minister - not a popular vote. If you have a problem with this take it up with Her Majesty - she appointed Gordon Brown.

Personally I find her judgement usually impeccable and just think she had, as you might say, a senior moment.

Anonymous said...

Tyburn, I don't really understand the problem; it takes about 1 second longer to copy/paste the URL than to click a tinyurl, which is hardly a strain if you were really interested in the content. Furthermore one is hardly a moron for being unaware of that website or unfamiliar with HTML.

Anonymous said...

"The death penalty is barbaric, not to mention ineffective."

Why is it that when discussing the death penalty, mention is always made to the fact that it does not deter people from murder. A murderer is not executed to prevent others from murder but to pay the penalty for his or her crime, it is as simple as that. It is a penalty not a deterent.

I see nothing barbaric for a society to shorten the life of a person whose very actions have proven them to be not fit to remain in a civilised society.

The question for society to answer is whether they are prepared for the possibility that an innocent person may be excecuted in error. This has happened but is the price we may have to pay for removing evil bastards from society.

Locking up for life whilst providing some form of vengeance is a lot more costly and more barbaric than a lawful execution.

For those of a liberal disposition and the Bleeding hearts brigade, I believe Julius Caesar once summed up the debate quite well by remarking,
'In this world we only have the law, justice is to be had in the next.'

Anonymous said...

David Lindsay - around 42 American states out of 50 have the death penalty. Only happens in Texas? And, uh, Colorado. And Utah, where you get a kind of soup du jour choice of lethal injection or firing squad. They sure do away with them in New Hampshire, David Lindsay. And they enforce the death penalty in Virginia with great enthusiasm.

Florida executes people not just for murder, but aggravated rape. They have the electric chair, but they do offer the alternative of lethal injection.

Please don't write pretentious rubbish. You haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about.

Who gives a rat's arse what the UN, populated by a few civilised countries but mainly third world crooks, gangsters and thugs, wants?

4X4 The People, I have no respect for the Queen because she never sacked Tony Blair but instead, stood back and watched him destroy our civil libertiesand our constitution. I think the royal family should be removed from their status because they do bloody all except attend Commonwealth banquets.

Anonymous said...

yes Ross mate - I know what "order of magnitude" means. I have a PhD in maths from Cambridge you idiot. Here is the murder rate in UK


feel free to add in ref to the US murder rate. From whatever source it will come out an "order of magnitude" lower than the UK murder rate.

So if UK and US had the same murder rate a century ago when they had the same state sanctioned death rate then a century later one of these countries has a much lower murder rate and also a lower execution rate what conclusion might you draw from this? I will give you one: one of these countries decided that addressing the causes of murder violence through social programs rather than just executing people might actually work. It actually did by your numbers, u fo.

Isnt it better to stop people killing each other? Or just enjoy a good Texan fry up.

Anonymous said...


This is a dreadful post:

1. The quote is absolutely standard and non-sliperry. He is saying nothing, which is what most politicians say most of the time. It would be worth noting if he held out the possibility that the death penalty could be brought back. I would like you post every time David Cameron said something equally slippery. I know this is a conservative leaning blog, but blind partisanship is not appealing to non believers and this is quite simply nothing but shrill pointing of fingers on your part.

2. A suspected murderer is just that. A suspect. I would have thought you would be in favour of the principal of innocent till proven guilty. Of course, steps need to be taken to make sure that obviously dangerous people/potential absconders are kept in prison, but the onus should be on releasing prisoners. Only a fool or a fraud would pretend that making a decision on whether to lock someone up for possibly more than a year when they are still legally innocent is easy. Your comment sugests that failure to keep every murder suspect behind bars until they have been proven innocent is akin to being soft on crime.


This is lazy commentary and, frankly, suggests you have your own dog whistle.

Big Andy

Anonymous said...

trollmolloy said
"Tyburn, I don't really understand the problem; it takes about 1 second longer to copy/paste the URL than to click a tinyurl, which is hardly a strain if"

Yeah but stupid if you post a URL that gets cut off and dont check if it was posted properly. Made my point.

"4X4 The People, I have no respect for the Queen because..."

I am shocked, shocked I tell you. Cordelia says it cant possibly be true. I've told her to take the children to the Panic Room. Will sort this out myself.

How can you say this Verity? Are you proposing an otherthrow of the constitutional arrangements of these fair isles? Love to know what you are proposing to replace them?

Anonymous said...

Verity gets battier by the day.

Anonymous said...

Verity: Your comments would have more weight if you did not go so over the top.

Brown is elected. His constituents elected him.

Unless we have a referendum on all decisions, there will always be a "more" democratic system.

I think if there is any democratic deficit in this country, it is caused by too few people being involved in local politics, which gives the executive - the majority of whom are elected - too much power over our elected representatives and increasingly how the are selected.

American is no utopia. You mention it is very distinct from the UK. Why bring it up so often?

Anonymous said...

Verity and others, would you execute a person who had been sentenced to die who was a mentally defective 15 yo who had killed someone in a botched holdup? Would you? Not a murder but a foul manslaughter. Where do you draw the line? Where does it all end? Will you pull the trigger?
Think it will make a difference?

Praguetory said...

What Newmania/Ross say...

Given the impact on murder rates I believe the death penalty is a pro-life policy and so I support it. I understand objections to it based on morality, but those arguing based on effectiveness have weaker cases.

Ross said...

"yes Ross mate - I know what "order of magnitude" means. I have a PhD in maths from Cambridge you idiot"

Oh how sweet you're a Walter Mitty character as well as a buffoon. Hint people with PhDs in maths know what an order of magnitude and furthermore would understand that correlations don't prove causation. In fact someone with a GCSE in the subject would understand that you deluded fantasist.

"From whatever source it will come out an "order of magnitude" lower than the UK murder rate."

So now you believe that the US has a lower murder rate! Do you even understand what argument you're making? The US murder rate is around 5.9 per 100000 the UK's is around 2 per 100000. The comparative figures for the USA and the England & Wales used to be much further apart:

1910: USA 4.6, England 0.8
1920: USA 6.8, England 0.83
1930: USA 8.8, England 0.75

In fact in 1930 there genuinely was an order of magnitude difference between the two countries.

1950: 4.6, 0.79
1960: 5.1, 0.62
1970: 7.9, 0.69
1980:10.2, 1.11
1990: 9.4, 1.09
2000: 5.5, 1.61

So since the UK abolished the death penalty our murder rate has been converging steadily with the USA, and yet you were claiming that the fact that the USA has a higher murder rate proves the ineffectiveness of the death penalty.

"So if UK and US had the same murder rate a century ago"

But they didn't. See above. I have to say I would have though that even someone with a pretend PhD would have taken the time to actually look up the relevant numbers.

Ross said...

"Yeah but stupid if you post a URL that gets cut off and dont check if it was posted properly. Made my point."

It was posted fine, you simply need to treble click the url then press copy and paste.

Anonymous said...

Tyburn Juggler - What on earth is a "Texas fry-up"?

7:08 - I seldom bring up the United States, but I do respond to the streams of misinformation about it from posters on this blog. (See above.)

As you have brought it up, though, I will mention that it is more democratic than Britain and has far, far more secure checks and balances on government. There is no checking Gordon Brown. And yes, he was elected by his Scottish constituents, not a majority of voters throughout the isles. One small group of voters has imposed an unwanted, rather grotesque, prime minister on the entire country. This is not democracy.

Anonymous said...

you silly fool Ross - it is well known that the UK has an order of magnitude lower murder rate than the US. Prove otherise.

Am I a Walter Mitty figure who claims to have a PhD from Cambridge? Whatev works 4 u my luv. I think not u t***t.

Anonymous said...

sorry you dont unnerstand what a maths PhD from Cambridge means you morons. Means I can evaluate your nonsense you silly things.

Anonymous said...

Verity said...
"7:08 - I seldom bring up the United States"

Ha! Ha!

Anonymous said...

Nice post Ross. The fact that tyburntroll has to descend into personal abuse means it has conceded you the moral and intellectual victory.

"Moral" opposition to the death penalty has nothing to do with morals at all. It is just grandstanding by liberals in front of what they imagine to be an appreciative audience.

Personally, I oppose it not on moral grounds, but on miscarriage of justice grounds. Given that the police tend to fit up the local weirdo whenever anyone gets murdered (Colin Stagg, f'rex), then I've no confidence that only actual criminals would ever be executed. But if it were a local issue decided democratically - by allowing it in principle and then electing judges who would campaign for office on whether or not they'd ever impose it as a sentence - I'd go with that.

@ David Lindsay: Nor is it coherent for a country to have nuclear weapons but not capital punishment. Poppycock. A nuclear weapon's purpose is to deter any form of attack by other nuclear-armed states, on the basis that if they attempt it, their leaders personally - not just their slave armies, but they, personally - will get vaporised instantly by return of uninterceptable weapon. As such, the Bomb has eliminated war between countries so armed, and is a net saviour of lives, not a net taker.

You'd be on much surer ground if you were to argue that it's incoherent for a country to allow abortions but not capital punishment. Funnily enough, it is always liberals who support killing unborn children, but oppose killing convicted murderers. The Third Way "triangulation" of this contradiction might, perhaps, be to redefine capital punishment as post-partum abortion. Then it wouldn't be capital punishment any more, in the same way that the Lisbon Treaty isn't the Constitution any more, so liberals could support it without reserve.

If you think of Levi Bellfield as an unborn baby, David, you'll feel a lot happier about watching the bastard die slowly and painfully, because you already approve of unconvicted babies doing so.

David Lindsay said...

I DID make the abortion point, Broon's Talking Bawgie. I should point out that the American Republican Party has used that issue to keep itself in existence for two generations and counting. But the people whom it has thus deceived and strung along are starting to wise up. Cameron, take note.

As for nuclear weapons, they are like capital punishment in having zero deterrent value. Just as plenty of Texans and Chinese (see below) are visibly undeterred by capital punishment, so no one at all appears to be deterred by American, British or Russian nuclear weapons these days, just as they only ever deterred Russians, Britons or Americans in the first place.

Just look at the number of wars that the US, the UK and the USSR (or France, for that matter) fought against all and sundry between 1945 and 1991, and at the ongoing American, British and Russian entanglements to this day. No one at all is scared of our nuclear "deterrents".

But my main purpose in returning to this post today is to alert Verity and others to http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2008/02/if-its-all-righ.html, posted today. I don't agree with Hitchens about capital punishment, of course. But I defy those who do to explain why they agree of a practice now most prevalent in China, Vietnam and Cuba. Are those states of which you approve?

Anonymous said...

"A murderer is not executed to prevent others from murder but to pay the penalty for his or her crime, it is as simple as that. It is a penalty not a deterent."

As a state prosecutor in the US, I believe the first purpose of criminal law is neither punishment, nor rehabilitation, but the protection of the public. Whether it keeps us safe is what's primary: its impact on the defendant is infinitely subordinate to that.

And yes, the death penalty is a deterrent: no one who was ever executed ever committed another crime afterwards. Giving someone a life sentence provides no such guarantee. A very un-hypothetical hypothetical for those of you who oppose capital punishment: what sentence do you propose for a convict already serving a life sentence who murders a prison guard or another inmate?