It takes two to tango as they say, but I think he would perhaps admit that he met his match recently with a seriously robust run-in with some very angry wimmin on twitter that seemed to take him genuinely by surprise. If ever you needed some evidence as to the limitations posed to decent discussion by 140 characters at a time, this was it! That's the thing about twitter - it's either mostly platitudinous bollocks, political puffs, or soundbite flame mail.
Anyway, it's good to see that Ben has decided to return to using the medium that brought him to wide public attention in the first place, the blog. In what could either be described as a masterstroke of perversity, or sign of divine revelation, he has confounded us all by posting a piece in defence of probation. It seems it wasn't prepared under the influence of mind-altering substances, but rather the result of some thoughtful reflection. I hope he will not mind me quoting from it:-
My – improbable, maybe – objection to this is that the Probation Service has met every target set by Government to reduce reoffending. Indeed, it is a fact that the reoffending rate for those under supervision is the lowest level ever.
I hold no brief for Government and its bureaucracies. As a general proposition, I think Government can screw anything up. And yet the Probation Service is not merely performing well, it is possibly one of the best performing public services.
In planning to break up this service and sell it, the Government is acting out of pure ideology. There is no evidence whatever that the private sector can do as well, let alone better. Indeed, the discussions I was in with the private sector revealed that they hadn't any clue how to even begin to do the job of probation.
In their ideological frenzy, the Government has blown its cover. If it had the slightest interest in reducing reoffending and protecting the public, it would allow all qualified parties to bid for future contracts. But, and this is the tipping point for me, the Government is barring Probation Trusts from even bidding for the work. The only people with any expertise in this work are being specifically forbidden from being involved in it.