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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 11:44 GMT
Do shock tactics win votes?
The Conservatives' first election broadcast paints a dark picture of a Britain in which dangerous criminals, released early from prison, are committing further crimes such as robbery and rape.
The Tories accuse Labour of being soft on crime, but deny negative campaigning, insisting they they offer a solution for every problem highlighted by the broadcast.
Labour have condemned the broadcast as 'desperate negative tactics'. The Liberal Democrats have already said that shocking voters and making them fearful is not the way to tackle crime.
Do you think shock tactics are needed to make people take issues such as crime seriously - or is there a danger in alarming people unnecessarily?
This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.
Everyone seems to overlook the fact that under the old parole system you could get released at a third of your sentence. I was fortunate enough to be released under this scheme (when the Conservatives were in government) at a third of my original sentence. I have not reoffended because I had a strong network of friends and family who supported me with care and encouragement, not because of the hate and threats of right wing fanatics who spend their time looking for someone to birch for every mythical enemy, the media and manipulative politicians' scare them with on a daily basis.
N Hawkins, Middlesex, UK
I will be voting for the first time this year and I think they should face real issues instead of this Hollywood style nonsense. If the Tories wanted to show something relevant then they should show someone sitting waiting exam results that don't arrive. They could have shown the four separate certificates with different results from the SQA that I received year. At least that would have shown what's happening in real life!
Shock tactics are just another variation on political economy with the truth. The real shock is the truth with which that spirited lady in Birmingham confronted The PM, that public services are failing many people.
Let's have more of this: ordinary citizens speaking out honestly from their experience, not politicians' platitudes and drivel from their lack of experience of the real lives many citizens have to live. Let's hear the citizens speak and the politicians humbly learn to listen.
Regardless of one's political point of view I have to commend the broadcast. With spin and posturing, style triumphing over substance, at least we are getting back to hard hitting politics that provoke debate. For goodness' sake - let us have a real debate, with educated and informed people expressing their views. Oh - politicians can join in as well!
'Shock tactics' of the sorts employed by New Labour and the Conservatives in the election campaign and indeed throughout the last four years unfortunately succeed in making it harder for ordinary voters to discern the truth and in clouding many issues. Political parties are also judged on how they campaign and conduct their rallying for support, but if people judged the main parties on their policies rather than their image then neither Labour or the Conservative would be running for government. It would also help if people actually bothered to turn out and use their vote.
Whether or not shock tactics work, there appears to be an underlying theme in all political utterances from the right. Quite simply, there is an assumption by Conservative politicians that the British public is greedy and very stupid - very much like a peasant class. The Tories appeal to base desires such as: more money for me, I want to drive my car however and as much I like, and all foreigners are bad. These are the messages that underly their campaign. So their ridiculous shock tactics don't surprise me at all. Overall crime has fallen and not risen in the last four years. Just because the Tories keep saying it, it doesn't make it true.
Phil Trwoga, London
To paraphrase Disraeli: too many people use statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp post - for support and not illumination. This Tory broadcast was a typical example, for are they really saying that if these people had served their full terms they would not have reoffended? That is the real issue which will not be addressed by such simplistic and cynical tactics.
Crime and punishment is an emotive subject to anyone who has been a 'victim'. Face facts there are no 'easy solutions'. Does the death penalty deter murderers? Evidence from the USA would say no. But promising to keep prisoners in for their 'full-term' will cost billions more in prison building programmes. Has that been costed into the Tory manifesto?
Do shock tactics win votes? I think they do. I don't know about you, but The Lib Dems' shocking policy of telling the truth certainly go me thinking about who I vote for!
Conservatives, try thinking out of the box (prison). Prison has zero effect on the level of crime except maybe increasing it. Crime is merely a indicator of many other factors in society such as health of family life, poverty, levels of education etc.
When you get the above right and you engineer a society that is happy "being" rather then "having" crime will fall. Until then keep entertaining us with your "pulp fiction."
I am appalled by Matthew Worrall's comments and the fact that it was even printed. To even think that to commit a crime because of poverty and ignorance is an insult to victims. To think it is acceptable to rape a woman because the rapist is poor and ignorant is, quite frankly, unbelievable. To even consider releasing these morons who prey on woman and minors is also unthinkable. If this is what New Labour supporters are thinking, then god help us if they retain power.
The Tories are right to flag these issues - what on earth is the role of the opposition otherwise? At least the Tories don't roam the streets assaulting the public.
Stephen, Preston, Lancs, UK
There is a species that are far more to blame for voter disenchantment
than politicians, and that's journalists. They, more than any other group, are responsible for trivialising and sensationalising election issues. As an example, we have the Labour manifesto published yesterday and what is the lead story on the news? The styled 'Prescott fight', reported with relish.
I am a new voter this year and from what I have seen so far, I would not vote for any of the parties. I saw less bickering on my school playground! None of the policies that the parties have set in my view are achievable and we will just have another four years of failing health services and public transport that doesn't go anywhere. This country needs leaders, not people who spent all week writing a statement which will "upset" his opposite number.
It should be remembered that crime had fallen for several years under the last Conservative government and has now increased under a Labour government. FACT and this is when the economy is doing well! So poverty can't be the issue.
The American style of electioneering adopted by the Conservative Party is not suited to the UK. The repulsive and wildly inaccurate attacks on honourable and decent men and women is a disgrace whichever party makes them. To say that the PM of this country is not to be believed is wrong, as would be such an assertion made about the Opposition Leader. Such behaviour brings discredit not only on those responsible but on the whole political process as well.
Graham Bindon, Goodwick, Wales
The job of a broadcast is to get people to vote for you. If that means smearing the opposition then they do it. Labour used the same tactics over sleaze (now there's a case of the pot calling the kettle black!) in 1997 - they will no doubt do so in 2001.
The numerical facts in the broadcast are not in dispute - they are after all the government's own figures.
Blair and the Labour party are the last people who should cry foul over putting a "spin" on some statistics for their own ends. That's what we've seen since 1997!
I wish someone would persuade me to vote. Not because I don't know what is going on BUT because I know what is going on. I can't believe any party has my best interests at heart. Labour moves to the right and the Conservatives move to the left to try and get my vote, but the spin-doctors have finished it for me
Lilymon, Wilts UK
It is a shame when parties resort to shock tactics. Issues are raised, but underlying reasons are not given. Crime is an issue whether it is first-time offenders or re-offenders. Surely the key is stop the source and not highlight a small single aspect just to gain some publicity.
What offends me is how desperate Tory supporters are to believe their party's propaganda. I would urge all serious Conservatives to examine the pros and cons of the Early Release system themselves and make their own minds up. This broadcast did not tell the whole truth.
What I find frustrating, and all parties are guilty of this, is the use of statistics to support political arguments. Statistics can be dressed up to give almost any message you please and clearly the Conservatives have chosen theirs. The point to take from this is surely to beware of politicians bearing statistics.
The Labour party should start sorting out the problems in this country, rather than keep criticising the Conservatives for pointing out facts. Since Labour have such little regard for political debate, such as Tony Blair's refusal to ever answer any questions during Prime Minister's Questions, it's not surprising the Conservatives have had to use these tactics. It's the only way to get any issues raised in this dictatorship we are living under. Although Labour may claim that only 3 per cent of those released early have gone on to re-offend compared to 56 per cent released normally, they are not comparing similar figures. The three percent refers to those who re-offend during the period they would otherwise have been in prison. Perhaps in future it would be nice if we could have some proper debate about the issues, rather than putting up with all Labour's spin.
Do shock tactics win votes? I suppose the Tories are hoping they do!
However, I am not sure if the enormous apathy towards the elections will drop because of this kind of tactic.
There have been so many arguments over these past years that the average voter can not tell whose policies belongs to who. So why vote?
It's absolutely appalling that any political party should use such tactics to win votes. There are many people who have been released early from prison that don't re-offend. This broadcast is insulting and low, and will not win many votes.
Herbie McKenzie, London, UK
I wasn't sure last night - it sounded like a worrying issue. But having seen the unadorned facts in a newspaper this morning, I too condemn the Tories. It appears that all the early releases were tagged and subject to curfews - which the broadcast didn't mention. Furthermore, just over 1000 of 35,000 early releases committed crimes while under curfew (and 260 of these were traffic offences). Compared to most prison re-offending rates of over 50 per cent this seems a very successful programme. By scare mongering, the Tories prevent such policies being pursued - despite their success.
Well, they do say desperate times call for desperate measures. If the Tories were a capable bunch then they would instil their prospective voters with confidence in THEIR proposals rather than try and belittle Labour's.
The broadcast gave a very true-to-life picture of what is happening on our streets today. I was mugged walking along a quiet residential road. A neighbour only popped out to get some shopping and was mugged by youngsters who drew up in a car and then sped off. When Tony Banks was mugged in the street, he was affronted that someone had dared to mug him - an MP - and had it brought home to him what we ordinary folk have to put up with. I am not a Conservative supporter but even I have to admit they got it right this time.
Janet Couzens, London
The Tories accuse Labour of releasing rapists early, yet how many innocent people have died as a result of the Tory policy of releasing dangerous schizophrenics back "into the community" while failing to deliver on the promised "care"? The hypocrisy of the Tories knows no bounds.
I thought it was hilarious. All the criminals needed were striped jumpers and a bag with "swag" written on it to complete the illusion. And all that over-acting!
The best bit though was the man who was going to starve to death because he couldn't afford any petrol. If the BBC are looking for new comedy writers, they should put a call in to Tory HQ!
What next from the Tories? Probably an ad featuring actors pretending to be asylum seekers. They will sit around smoking and discussing the way they are going to cheat British society when they get here. Then the strap line "Labour is encouraging this"!
Why do people think that negative campaigning is any less valid than positive? The role of an effective opposition is to both point out where the current government is going wrong, and to suggest solutions to those problems. Without acknowledging the wrongs of government, where is the incentive to oppose them?
Labour show no hesitation in blaming "18 years of Tory government" whenever anybody points out a failed promise. How is this any less bad?
Compared with the rest of northern Europe, Britain has appallingly high levels of violent crime, not least within families. Just THINK how many beaten wives, battered children, burgled homes, mugged pensioners etc resulted from the Tories being happy to let over 3 million Britons be unemployed for so long!! How dare they attack Labour for pursuing more humane, enlightened and farsighted policies!! Why can't they just move to Texas??
A Davies, Sweden
As far as I understand, 35,000 people have been released on the early release scheme, and only 1000 have re-offended. Given that the rate of recidivism when men have served a full sentence is much higher, someone must be doing something right. Keep up the good work. And has anyone done a study why these 1000 did re-offend?
Am I correct in thinking that the percentage of early release criminals that reoffend is under 10 per cent? If this is correct it shows what desperate levels the Tory party are having to sink to in order to try and get votes. Let's not forget that police numbers halved under the 18 years of tory rule.
I think the broadcast was reprehensible and in poor taste. It says more about the Tories' desperation than Labour's record. I actually feel sorry for whoever commissioned it.
The whole argument about this election broadcast demonstrates in my opinion how biased against the Conservatives much of the media has become. I have found much of the election coverage so far too be extremely biased and unfair. Labour is always given favourable coverage. I ask this question. If Labour made a similar broadcast would such a fuss have been made by the BBC? I think not.
Whatever is said by politicians of any party, violent crime and the fear of violent crime scars many peoples' lives. What is the point of all the 'benefits' that Labour promise us we will have under their governing administration if criminals can ruin people's lives by their actions? Experiences here and overseas have shown us that great numbers of police on the streets and a tough sentencing policy reduces crime. Good on the Conservatives for bringing this matter to the fore!
Early release prisoners are 19 times less likely to re-offend than those who are in prison for the full term. Even Americans must be able to see that this policy is sensible.
Whilst the ad campaign may be over the top, it should be remembered that it was in fact the Labour party that escalated the "ad-race" with their numerous spin doctors and image consultants. Are they and their supporters now complaining when another party uses the very same media that they have decided is only acceptable for them to use?
I can't tell you how depressing and predictable it is to see the same reactionary old rubbish being trotted out once more. The only thing achieved by this kind of "bang 'em up" mentality is an increase the nation's capacity for fear and hate. Why is everybody ignoring the real reason for crime - poverty and ignorance. If the politicians had any kind of sense or understanding they would stop playing to the galleries and start thinking about real issues.
We do live in a more violent society, and whilst the message given by the broadcast was a strong one, there has to be something seriously wrong in releasing violent criminals any earlier than the parole board would allow, and especially when they commit further serious crimes on release.
Labour hasn't got the guts to publish the true UK crime statistics. Most people know that violent crime in the UK has risen exponentially since Labour came to power whereas in the USA it has fallen over the same period. Britain is severely under-policed and it's high time Blair and Co. did something about it, assuming they get back in of course.
John, Leeds UK
If you want to see something REALLY scary, go to the HM Treasury website and download the Pocket Databank. Turn to the page 'UK Public Finances' and look at years 1991-97, £171.2bn extra debt - v scary!
Judging by the figures I've seen on the
BBC website, quoted by William Hague himself,
the scheme seems to be quite successful.
Only 1 in 35 re-offend, which is probably
comparable with society as a whole. In a perfect
world this is still too many, but I believe the
main fault lies with so-called experts who deem
that a person has been rehabilitated and are being
conned by the criminal's lies into believing so.
That does need tightening up.
Do shock tactics work? Clearly not as the electorate appears to have made up its mind some time ago and appears not to want to change it.
The saddest fact is that the early release scheme works. If you live in a country without a death penalty like the UK then nearly every prisoner can expect to be released at some time or other. The average re-offending rate for those let out after the full completion of their sentence is 40%, while 97% of those that are let out early under the scheme do not re-offend. The scheme therefore clearly cuts crime, as well as saving on the costs of maintaining prisoners in jail. By the way, prisoners let out early are not entirely free - they must wear tags and have their movements restricted until the end of their full sentence. An even sadder fact is that the Tories supported this scheme when it was proposed.
Richard, Risborough, UK
The only thing that wasn't shocking about the Tories broadcast was the fact that they're prepared to use such tactics. Who are they selling to? They already have the vote of the extreme right wing.
Er... forgive me but are you Tory supporters all mad? The Tories' line on this crime issue is quite simply the biggest most blatantly barefaced case of Hello Mrs Pot I'm Mr Kettle - what an absolutely contemptible bunch of bigoted desperadoes. If you Tory lot think that you are some how telling the truth it just shows how low you are in the food chain
I think the broadcast was absolutely disgusting and has probably done more damage to the Tories than it has to Labour. They virtually blamed Labour for ten rapes - by people that were due to be released ten months later anyway. Even the ex-Tory party vice-chairman, Michael Dobbs, was outraged! When this campaign started I expected the Tories to do quite well on June 7th - after seeing this I hope they are annihilated!
Rob, Newbury, UK
I too notice that BBC Online US viewers all seem to agree with the Tory campaign. Perhaps they should get their house in order before judging the British Government, for example reform of the gun laws - It seems every week some school kid kills a few pupils and teachers.
The fact that the USA has the death penalty in most states, the so-called three strikes and out policy in some states, does not deter criminals in America.
Such negative campaigning is deliberately intended to turn ordinary people off politics. The hidden agenda of engineered cynicism and apathy which all parties have advanced over the last few years doesn't just stab other politicians in the back, but democracy itself.
Terry Johnson, Oxford, UK
I've just thought of another benefit of legalisation - It could generate lots of business for those local chemists that everyone is so worried about with the collapse of drug price maintenance.
Let us be clear. What the Tories are saying here is that you are more likely to be raped under a Labour government. They are beneath contempt.
I can't wait for my local Tory pollster to come round so I can ask them how they are going to pay for all the extra prisons to keep these people inside after their £20bn of tax cuts.
All politicians resort to gutter politics if they see an advantage in it. It's a dirty game. Tories, Labour, Lib Dems - they all play by the same rules. Is this any worse than using a popstar to get the teenage vote?
LPW, Bacup, Lancs, UK
This type of advert is typical of the worst form of advertising that the Tories have stooped to. They will stop at nothing to pander to the most racist xenophobic people in the country. Perhaps they should come clean and join the British National Party.
The Conservatives' campaign tactics grow more disgraceful by the day. Not only have they twisted the figures, but by effectively trying to link another political party to such dreadful crimes, they illustrated the desperately low levels to which they are prepared to sink.
Surely the point of a political campaign is to promote your own party and not smear the opposition. People want to hear what each party is offering and not how bad the opposition is - they can decide that for themselves!
The core of the argument is that socialist thoughts on the subject of crime centre on finding the perpetrators "victims" of society and deserving of yet another opportunity to redeem themselves. Us Tories believe that we all accountable for our actions and that members of society need to be protected from these people ... and our sympathies go to the true victims, not the criminals!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
Shock tactics are only likely to win votes if they are seen to be backed by the truth. In this case it seems that the Tory campaign is hiding the fact that the early release scheme has been an overwhelming success in terms of recidivism. When people are made aware that the shock tactic is part of a deception they are likely to feel resentful and react again the Tories. Given the already incredibly high proportion of our population that is imprisoned, relative to the proportion in comparable countries, it seems strange that any party would want to increase the level of imprisonment still further.
The approach of the Conservative Party takes political campaigning to a new low. It reflects very badly on the Conservative "Leadership" and shows how desperate they are to win votes. They will say or promise anything no matter how extreme but ultimately they have under estimated the fundamental integrity of the British voter.
With £20 Billion of tax cuts how are the Tories planning to pay for all the extra prisons needed for its war against crime?
Has the fact that the Early Release Scheme has
actually reduced re-offending passed the
Conservatives by? I think in an attempt to look
'tough' they could do more
harm than good.
Why are the prisons so full of mainly the working class? It could be something to do with 18 years of social neglect by the Tory party. They stood by and did nothing as the drug culture and all that entails thrived. They should be ashamed.
Last night's scare-mongering broadcast smacks of desperation. The Tories, and in particular William Hague, are aiming their misjudged punches lower and lower as they realise a slap in the face for Labour will not shift the opinion of the judges in this contest: the voters.
The Tories have to resort to shock tactics because everyone knows their own policies don't add up. Compare this with Labour's optimistic, uplifting broadcast on Monday. The Tories made Britain a place of despair and fear for all but the privileged few, and it is clear that they want to take us back there. Why is it that every statement by the Labour Party is condemned as "spin" by the Tories and their supporters? Could it just be that Labour is telling the truth about its achievements? The Tories are dead in the water - everyone knows that and I can't wait for June 7th to see them wiped out once and for all!
I think it is only right that the public are allowed to see what actually lies under all the gloss and spin of this government. The truth is that there are less police, less nurses, and less doctors. Yes Mr Blair is right there is more to do, but it seems to me that his party are not the ones to do it. The truth surely hurts but this is the society we live in, why run away from the fact. Get real Mr Blair.
It's nice to see William Hague defending British values by using the lowest of American campaigning techniques.
It's no shock at all!! The Tories have a long history of
trying to appeal to mans' most vulgar instincts. e.g. greed,
racism, sexism, snobbery, exploitation of the weak ..... etc.
but what's far worse is that they camouflage this vulgarity
by calling it "freedom of choice"!!!!
Despite people's protestations to the contrary, this kind of advertising does work, and it affects those that are most vulnerable in society in the first place - the old and the poor. The fact is, that these people would most likely have re-offended had they served their full sentence anyway, and so the Tories have proved nothing. Tougher prisons is not the answer, all it does is cost the tax payer excessive amounts of money and create a larger criminal underclass for the future. Just look at what's happened in George W Bush's Texas prison system. The answer lies in creating a stable, happy and vibrant society which discourages criminal activity. Judge for yourselfs whether Labour is succeeding in this, but they'll probably do a dam better job than the Tories.
Robert Irons, London, UK
The Conservatives are the Opposition. It is their job first to highlight any problems with the Government. In the early 1990s, Labour themselves did nothing but constantly criticise the Tories' record, rather than just setting out their own policies. Who can forget the lie over privatisation of pensions? At least this was based on the truth.
Yeah, I was shocked to see that the Tories have got something to say....
As other comments have stated - it all comes down to the voter's ignorance. People have a nasty habit of believing what they see on prime time TV. If either party could get the cast of Eastenders to say, on the show, that they'd all vote for one party - that party would win a landslide victory. There should be a test before the election to ensure that only informed people were allowed to vote.
Pete, London, UK
Governments should be judged on their record. All this distaste for 'negative campaigning' by Labourites stems from the fact that the Tories have a point. Of course they (Labour) never indulge in 'negative campaigning'. They never mention the Poll Tax, privatisation etc. and if they do its always balanced and informed!
Speaking as a whingeing PC bleeding-heart liberal, I found the Tory broadcast quite amusing. It was so slick that they just ended up making the criminals look like chic anti-heroes in a remake of "Lock-Stock-and-2-Smoking-Barrels". This pretty much underlined the point that the Conservatives have no serious contribution to make. Roll on their extinction .
My memory is so bad I hadn't realised that the rate of recividism under the Tories was zero. Wow. The good old days, yes? All those in favour of higher taxes for a hugely expanded prison building program, hands up now! All those in favour of the cheaper & more effective solution of rehabilitation,don't vote Tory.
The aim of the Tories was to bring this issue to a head and lead the debate. They have succeeded - well done William Hague. How many more people watched that broadcast to see what all the fuss was about? I concluded that it was fair and accurate - facts are facts - when Tony Blair and his mob are cornered they cry foul - listen to them on any Tory plan and they use scare tactics about closing the NHS, schools, abolishing the pension - all inaccurate and all put about by Labour to scare and shock. Labour seem very able to dish it, but unable to take it.
Ian Alexander, Batley, W Yorks
I can't remember the Tories being any better at beating crime while they were in power for 18 years. The campaign completely lacks imagination and feeds on peoples ignorance and prejudices. Apparently the biggest building programme in the US is prisons. Do people really not believe that these resources could be better used for preventing crime, other than investing it in bricks and mortar?
The bottom line is, I (and many others) are sick of crime in this country. We constantly hear of repeat offenders, what is this about, they shouldn't be given a chance to re-offend. In my opinion this government is the softest I've seen yet on crime; what ever happened to a life for a life! - that would make these criminals think twice.
Is this the same Tory Party that presided over a doubling of crime, and a trebling of violent crime, during its eighteen years in power. Their ridiculous policies didn't work then and they will not work now.
I wouldn't say that shock tactics gain votes, but they do bring the issues to the attention of voters, who can then make up their own minds.
This type of broadcast is immensely damaging to sensible debate. We need to start acknowledging that prison has limited use in preventing crime - and that alternatives can be much more effective. The Tories' simplifications - if anyone actually listens to them - make people more afraid, less able to consider effective solutions to the problem. Hague is doing us a great disservice.
Matthew Treherne, UK
What I find most disturbing is the ease with which the media and general public dismiss whatever the Tories say whether it is true or not, and yet at the same time accept at face value everything that Blair's Bunch say whether its true or not.
I thought the broadcast was superb. It is a disgrace that Labour tries to spin its way out tackling serious crime. It is disgusting that criminals are let our early, and no surprise that they often re-offend. I would never dream of letting anyone walk alone at night, and that is unacceptable. Jack Straw has failed the law-abiding people of this country.
Justin Tomlinson, Swindon, UK
When are the politicians going to learn that all this name calling and sniping does nothing to endear them to the voting public?
All it does is show the voting public that they are only any good at behaving like a bunch of primary school children.
This broadcast only smacks of the desperation of Hague and Portillo. The good people of Britain will see through this blatant exaggeration. The fact is that no government can completely rid its society of miscreants. If the Tories think that this will make any difference in their electoral prospect, they will be disappointed come 7th of June.
Wilson Onyeka, London, England
The reaction of lots of whingeing liberals and Labour supporters shows they are afraid of the effectiveness of this ad. And as for nasty, personalised campaigning isn't that what new Labour has reduced our political system to. They were the party of Cedric the Pig, personal sniping at John Major and lies about the Tory pension policy in 1997. They deserve to get back what they dished out - and it WILL work!
I am sure every Tory is going to think that the broadcast was acceptable and every non-Tory that it was reprehensible.
Labour supporters have to protest against someone telling the truth about crime?
Despite Labour spin that crime has fallen 10% recorded crime rose 3.7% last year to 5.2m offences while the detection rate plummeted to 25% (down 4%). If the broadcast has burst the bubble of Government complacency that must be a good thing. We must go back to community based policing and police houses. Centralisation of policing has been a disaster as has falling police numbers and funding for the prison and probation system.
Ian Brealey, Northampton
The Tories perhaps have gone a little too far with their shock tactics, but unfortunately it's the only way they can highlight the impact of crime in this country. Labour has made no effort to tackle the increasing crime problem. I don't believe it was meant as 'scare' tactics - instead a way to face facts in the best way possible.
The fact that two rapes was committed by people who would have been in prison if it wasn't for the early release scheme is certainly cause for concern. However, the way the Tories have exploited the situation is appalling. By all means bring this subject to the election table but not in such a cheap and tawdry way. It is just another example of how bereft of ideas the Tories really are and how dangerous a man William Hague really is.
Neil Halliday, UK
Why are Labour supporters complaining? Each time Hague has posed serious questions to Blair the prime minister has climbed on his soapbox and repeated the same old spin
How Labourites hate criticism! Was the plan to release criminals in droves published in the Labour manifesto then? What kind of message does it send at this time of record increases in violent crime in England?
Full marks to the Conservatives for raising the issue. If Labour is so certain it has done nothing wrong they have nothing to fear from the debate.
The Tory election broadcast is despicable and will be seen as such by most right-minded people. As well as playing on the fears of elderly and vulnerable people it grossly reinforces stereotypes of crime.
The facts are that young men are predominantly the victims of street crime and home office statistics show that the greatest number of re-offenders is people who serve their full sentences.
The British are not like the Americans who are, it seems, taken in by such tactics.
Scare tactics do work. A prime example of this came in 1988, when George Bush ran the Willie Horton ads to claim Dukakis would be soft on crime. Those ads guaranteed Bush a landslide victory. The electorate may not like negative ads and shockers, but such advertising mean big ratings and the politicians know it. If the Tories win this election, it will be because of these ads.
Good for the UK Conservatives for addressing taboo subjects like violent crime, including rape. I lived through New York City during the late 80s crime wave. Conservative mayoral candidate Rudolf Gulianni ran and won office on a platform of taking back the streets from rapists, subway terrorists and homeless predators. London is now going down fast. If Conservatives in the UK can muster a little backbone against the PC thought police, they can win the election.
Fortunately the British do not fall for shock tactics as much as the Americans. Though unfortunately the responses to the political leaders at present seems we are heading that way.
Lu Coulcher, London, Eng,
I don't know what half these people are whining about. Just decide whether it is true or not. I actually think its fair enough. I'm no law expert and I'm sure I'll be shouted down by the apologists, but if someone is given 4 years in prison then it should mean 4 years, not some other random number. Alternatively, you could have it like it is in Denmark where towards the end of the sentence people are in prison during the week and back home and down the pub at weekends. How much does that deter people from offending again? Think about it.
The Tories are really pushing the self-destruct button here- this is utterly pathetic scare-mongering. I cannot imagine who will be inspired to vote for them based on this kind of campaigning.
Funny how the supportive comments about this are from across the USA- the country with the most appalling prisons problem - even by Bush's own admission.
When will the British people finally pull their collective heads out of the sand and face up to reality rather than the fairytale that Labour paints? Or is that too much of a "politically incorrect" thing to do these days?
The Conservative ad is no more and no less than a straight lift from the 1988 US presidential campaign, when it was used against Democrat candidate Michael Dukakis. It's style is graphic, and focused on Labour policy, not their own. The broadcast was clearly intended to shock people, rather than inform.
David, Aberystwyth, Wales
The broadcast made a powerful point about the state of our criminal justice system, where liberal, politically correct politicians and judges regard imprisonment as inhumane. Well done the Tories.
It is sad to see a once great, fair-minded party having to stoop to the gutter for a few votes. This just once again confirms my belief that they are not fit to govern. And I say that having voted Tory in every general election since 1974.
Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I thought Labour had spent the last 4 years trying to correct the problems caused by 10 years of Tory government? Blair needs to crack down on lenient sentencing - a trend, which started long before Labour came to power. My partner was seriously assaulted by a convicted rapist who was released early. The attack occurred one week after his release. This was seven years ago. Was Labour to blame for that one too?
The only shock about this advert is that it shows people the effects of the governments early release policy. If you don't like what you see, show the government by voting for a different party. Don't shoot the messenger by moaning about an advert.
Jonathan Cook, UK
The Tories are doing the same as the British Nationalist Party. Preying on ignorance.
The point about this broadcast is not the shock - it's the use of the half-truths. Shock horror! 35,000 prisoners released early - many go on to re-offend (many meaning 3%). At least they haven't invoked demon eyes yet.
Politics in the UK has used shock tactics for years, generated, in the main, by the appalling reporting of the tabloid press. Since the majority of voters get political insight of the policies from newspapers, with their biased and incorrect reporting then it is no surprise that the opposition parties have to resort to this sort of tactic. If the facts are right, then they should be brought to the attention of the people - and the Tories may have no alternative than to shock, simply to get noticed.
The Tories broadcast is disgraceful and also inaccurate. The fact is that those prisoners who are released are 19 times LESS likely to re-offend. The early release scheme saves millions to be re-invested in prison discipline for the hard-core offenders. The sheer desperation of the Tory campaign shows they are not fit to govern.
Alex Morton, London
Rape is a terrible crime and I have absolute contempt for the Tories for stooping to this level. The disenfranchised youth and crime culture was created by Thatcher and this use of negativity just shows how absolutely desperate Hague is.
Politicians can put more policemen on the streets or they can increase funding for the prison service. But anything they do will not stop crime itself happening and it is insane and vulgar of the Tories to put out such a bleak piece of negative propaganda. Crime happens because of unfulfilled potential, resentment, greed or simple moral poverty. At least the Labour party has made positive inroads in the past four years being tough on the causes of crime.
I have just seen the new Labour poster "Towering Inflation". This is the next in the series of spoof disaster movie posters featuring Hague and Portillo.
I find this ironic type of advertising much more acceptable and much more effective than the approach taken by the Tories.
It says a lot when most of the comments in favour of the broadcast come from Americans, they did vote for Bush!
The Conservatives obviously know they can't win by campaigning on their own good points, so have to try and dish dirt on Labour. Well Hague, if you want to be negative towards Labour then at least broadcast the truth instead of your insensitive lies!
Fair play to the Tories. Why stop the truth being told just because it isn't the usual prime time escapist viewing?
Richard, Ohio, USA
In a representative democracy, we should let parties say what they think. If you don't like what they say in their broadcasts, you know where to place your X on the ballot paper.
Blaming Labour (or any other party) for individual crimes is frankly, a little bit sick. I remember Michael Ancram declared that it was inexcusable to suggest that the 'forces of conservatism' were an 'evil'. And they then come up with this? There is something very rotten at the heart of this Conservative Party and I am one former Tory voter who will not be voting for them again until the architects of this vile piece of filth are run out of British politics for good.
All's fair in love & war!!
This is a question where the ethics can not be separated from the facts. If the facts on which the broadcast is based are accurate, then it is legitimate to dramatise them - assuming this is done in a responsible way. If, however, the alleged facts are not in fact the case then the broadcast is clearly wrong.
The dispute does raise the important question about how we should deal with persistent and violent criminals.
If what the Conservatives have to say is indeed true, then why shouldn't they use shock tactics? Blair's government is only too ready to avoid even mentioning anything that might tarnish their reputation; and this includes the admittance of some truly horrific crime figures. You only have to walk in Soho during the early hours of the morning to realise there is a crime problem in this country. This is not so much negative campaigning, but a home truth.
John Randelf, Cambridge, UK
All the Tories can do is try to scare people. They haven't got anything else to say. That sums up their policies too!
What's wrong with negative advertising? If it portrays the facts accurately, it is just as useful as other advertising. If it's utterly biased and incorrect, voters will know this and punish the offending party at the polls. Labour's only complaining about its use because it knows it's vulnerable.
Chris Bowen, Hanover, USA
I think that the broadcast is a fair reflection of the fact that criminals have been let out of jail early without serving all their sentence. A debate about "shock" election broadcasts seems to me to be a distraction from the real issues.
The percentage of appearances by the Tories in the media attacking Labour's policies is 18.4%, compared to 15% presenting their own policies. Labour on the other hand spent 9% attacking their opponents and 27.3 presenting their policies. The Tories can only win by exploiting fear and prejudice - a tactic used by every other deeply unpleasant right-wing party from the BNP to the Nazis. Is it any wonder that apathy amongst voters is so strong when politics is brought down to mudslinging rather than ideals and honest, open debate?
Daniel Harkin, Weston-super-Mare, UK
Utterly disgusting. This campaign by the Conservatives leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and smacks of desperation.
These tactics were also used in the famous Willie Horton ads run by Bush Sr in the 1988 US presidential election and Michael Dukakis can vouch for their effectiveness.
This is simply gutter politics. How dare any party use such tactics to get votes. Have they ever felt how the victims of those crimes are feeling?
Dave Smith, Hayes, Middlesex, UK
Freeing criminals who only serve half their sentence is shocking. So what's the fuss about? Labour are complaining that the broadcast does not tell the full story, that criminals are tagged and have curfews. But the fact remains they are back out in society in half the time to re-offend. This early release policy surely does less to deter criminals.
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