So the right wing of the Tory Party have not been disappointed. Today Justice Minister Chris Grayling announced the demise of the publicly-run probation service as we know it. In addition to finally enacting a long-forgotten clause in the 2003 Criminal Justice Act that will provide post release support to prisoners serving 12 months or less, so-called 'custody plus', he has also decreed that supervision of 'low risk' probation clients will be put out to tender.
Despite there still being no hard evidence that Payment by Results actually works, the whole plan to provide former offender mentors ('old lags?') at the prison gate is predicated on the touching belief that third sector organisations and charities can work their magic and thus be remunerated on a results basis. And the figures are staggering. About 50,000 prisoners are released each year having served less than 12 months. That's one hell of an army of mentors to train and newly released prisoners to motivate! Beds to find, jobs to secure and crises to sort before they get paid. No temptation to fiddle of course.
Mr Grayling says that released prisoners will be required to attend drug projects and supervision sessions, which in itself will be an interesting concept for many offenders who hitherto have been used to just 'doing their time' untroubled by well-meaning probation staff. As a concept I have to say it has all the classic hallmarks of a half-baked policy designed specifically for political consumption. You know, like that Tony Blair idea of 'marching' miscreants to the cash point in order to pay an on the spot fine, or even the Tory 'short sharp shock' experiment so loved by young thugs.
Despite the probation service having achieved all targets set for it, we are nevertheless told that the motivation is to save money, the implication being that the private sector will be much more effective and cheaper than the public sector. Call me an old cynic, but as a humble public servant I find I have to put all this into some sort of context, especially as we've just blown £100 million on an utterly pointless election with the lowest ever turnout rate.
We discover that three vast American corporations operating in this country pay virtually no corporation tax here at all. A trader at UBS gets 7 years imprisonment for losing the bank £1.4 billion because he was greedy and wanted to keep his bonus and status. His employers had no idea what he was up to. Hewlett Packard pays $10 billion for a British company and now complains they were 'hoodwinked' as it was only worth $8.5 billion. Whatever happened to the old adage 'buyer beware?' Maybe KPMG who did due diligence can answer that one.
Even Rangers win their tax appeal against HMRC and the Prime Minister touchingly feels that forcing all the energy companies to only have four tariffs will mean cheaper gas and electricity for all of us.
Do you believe in fairies?