Is she mad or am I?
The Home Secretary is supporting a new policy: the police are encouraged to harass and hound persistent offenders and give them "a taste of their own medicine." The police have been practising already. Persistent offenders are repeatedly stopped and searched and the police visit their homes again and again.
I expect the police find this very satisfying. I can see that it may amuse members of the public. But surely the Home Secretary is supposed to address questions of "crime and the causes of crime". That needs more than a joke and a headline.
I suppose there's no point in suggesting that the Home Secretary should protect human rights and civil liberties. She's not very keen on those.
But surely the Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith can see that encouraging police to harass individuals, even if they have ASBOs or criminal records, opens the way to all kinds of abuse. Police officers are human beings. They, like all of us, have prejudices and, in selecting victims for harassment, may act on those prejudices. This may happen unintentionally. Even if victims are chosen at random, by drawing names from a policeman's helmet, there's a good chance that the police will be suspected of prejudice.
I suspect that the people selected for police harassment will be young, male and working-class. This is what the press releases suggest. Middle-class offenders who fiddle expenses, tax or insurance claims, thus raising the cost of living for the rest of us, are unlikely to be harrassed. I don't suppose the Bullingdon Club, which includes David Cameron and Boris Johnson among its former members, will be expected to endure such treatment.
But the idea of "giving them a taste of their own medicine" is surely crazy. The police will annoy people who annoy others - presumably in addition to any sentence passed by the courts. (Bypassing legal processes is another dangerous habit of this government.) So where will it end?
Will we see police burgling the homes or burglars or taking to the roads on a mission to knock down careless drivers? Will they defraud fraudsters, rape rapists and kill killers, on the Home Secretary's advice?
The police force should behave better than the rest of the population. Officers should not take part in this silly, offensive game of tit-for-tat.
Meanwhile, Bullingdon Old Boy Boris Johnson is attempting to demonstrate how authoritarian he can be. He's banning the consumption of alcohol on tubes and buses. I travel a lot on tubes and buses and it's never seemed much of a problem. Mind you, I once drank alcohol on the tube. I was given a free sample of Beaujolais Nouveau at Waterloo Station and carried it with me onto my underground train. I don't think it made me behave badly. Boris is also suggesting Saturday schools where young people would be compelled to drill and learn manners. I wonder how many Bullingdon members were in the Officers Training Corps of their public schools.