Just a month after being demoted to the lowly post of Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab has come up with a ground-breaking idea.
Showing a talent for going beyond his immediate remit, he espied that the economy is suffering from staff shortages. That leaves a gaping hole of at least a million vacancies crying out to be filled.
Having thus identified the problem, Mr Raab returned to the domain of law enforcement and experienced an Archimedes-sized eureka moment. A flash of mental lightning made him realise he is sitting on an untapped labour reserve of murderers, thieves, burglars, robbers, rapists and other criminals doing unpaid work (or none) at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
Why not let them out on day release so they could plug the staffing holes in the British economy? Just think how many birds could be killed with that one stone.
The immediate personnel problem will be at least partly solved – that much is obvious. Then of course we must never lose sight of the real purpose of prisons. They are there not to punish wrongdoers but to rehabilitate them, isn’t that so?
Now, what can achieve this purpose better than the joy and pride of honest labour, something, if I’m being totally honest, most inmates have never experienced? For example, by filling some of the 55,000 care vacancies, prisoners could learn to look after old people, rather than robbing them of their pensions.
There is of course the danger that released inmates might help themselves to their charges’ possessions rather than just emptying their bedpans. And here we come to another side benefit of the Raab scheme.
On the off chance that some of the chaps haven’t yet found God, innocent bystanders must be protected from possible relapses. That means hiring more prison guards and policemen, thereby drawing even more people into the workforce.
Or else – I’m thinking as I go along, so bear with me – violent criminals could be used to keep the nonviolent ones in check. That way not only could a pickpocket obtain a day release to wash dishes in a pub, but so could a murderer turned guard. The state wouldn’t even have to arm those men – they already know how to turn toothbrushes into shivs or battery-filled socks into deadly weapons.
Think also of another side benefit: tax revenue for the Exchequer. Since the prisoners would be under constant watch, they wouldn’t be able to insist on cash in hand. That means their earnings would be taxable – verily I say unto you, this whole idea is a never-stopping fount of benefits.
I hope Mr Raab will thank me for developing his bright insight to its logical extension. Meanwhile, I have to wonder if our leaders played truant when arithmetic was taught.
We have in Britain today just over 80,000 prisoners, most of whom haven’t done a day’s work in their lives. How many could be of genuine use on day release, with little time to train even the trainable ones? A couple of thousand at best, would be my guess. Fine, I’ll give you 10,000, what with my generosity knowing no bounds. Still, we are talking about an empty gesture, not a solution to a problem.
However, we do have a real, as opposed to fanciful, reservoir of labour waiting to be tapped: 9.5 million welfare recipients of working age. The simple trick of withholding their benefits cheque would enable the government to find the 28,220 cleaners we need, and 55,019 carers, and 6,557 bar staff, and 2,251 postal workers, and 32,615 shop assistants – and so forth, practically ad infinitum.
Suddenly real benefits begin to pile up, including instant savings in the social budget. There is a slight problem though: our ministers may come up with a palpably inane idea of integrating prisoners on day release into the economy, but not with the sound one of doing the same with able-bodied youngsters on benefits.
You see, the social and the NHS are two sacred cows of Britain. As such, they can be milked, but never slaughtered. If Mr Raab or any other minister even hinted at the possibility I’ve outlined, he could plant two good-bye kisses on his government career. First, because he’d be deselected; second, because his party wouldn’t stay in government for long.
As Jean-Claude ‘Junk’ Junker said in a rare moment of sobriety, “We all know what to do. We just don’t know how to get re-elected once we’ve done it.”
Virtue signalling wouldn’t be so bad if it were real virtue. But signalling fake virtue is worse than not having any at all. Yet this is what our politicians, journalists, writers, all public figures in fact, have to do to stay in business.
Unless they constantly mouth the whole approved list of shibboleths, they’ll find themselves on the receiving end of God knows how many slings and swarms of arrows. The breed of sacred cows may change from time to time but, while they are sacred, they are untouchable.
The belief that every criminal is a useful member of society waiting to happen doesn’t quite qualify as a sacred cow, but it’s definitely a calf suckled by our deracinated society.
Not only our virtues but also our sins are fake. Thus a man who tells a crude ethnic joke is a worse transgressor than a burglar, and someone who feels up a strange woman is much, much worse than someone who mugs her.
For a man falling short of woke standards of goodness has only himself to blame, whereas a criminal is a victim of society – so goes the mock-virtuous superstition. Hence Mr Raab ought to be congratulated on scoring a double whammy:
He signalled his virtue by stating his belief in rehabilitation, and he avoided the pitfall of signalling vice by offering a real solution to a real problem. Isn’t our Conservative government wonderful?