This weekend, the news was dominated by Stephen Hester and the £1m bonus he was due to get (on top of his £1m salary) for managing the disposal of RBS, the bank we all spent £45bn rescuing.
The Tories didn't want to stop him getting his bonus, nor did they want to talk about it. After all, the Chancellor was given £3m on his 21st birthday, so he doesn't really have a problem with acquiring large sums of unearned currency. Nor did the Tories want to talk about the other £35m Stephen Hester will 'earn' by the end of his 5 year contract.
So what do they do? They follow the time-honoured tradition of throwing out some moral outrage for the Mail readers. This time, it's a plan to deny injury compensation for anyone with a criminal record - a statistically tiny amount. Aided by the claim made by Soham child-murderer Ian Huntley after a fellow prisoner slit his throat, they're trying to foment a lynch-mob on the issue.
Personally, I think Huntley and any other victim of crime should get their compensation. The point of laws is that they apply equally to everybody, whatever they've done. If you start making moral exceptions, you end up with tyranny. Good laws are made on points of principle. Bad ones are made using extreme examples to whip up horror.
However, the wider point is that this is another importation of American politics. Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas? asks how poor Americans have been brought to the point of voting against their own economic interests. This is how: they're encouraged to focus on personal and moral politics (gay marriage, guns, 'family values') while the professional politicians continue to create a Land Fit For Financiers. This is exactly what the Tories are doing: while we argue about criminals, they enrich themselves and their donors.
None of this is helped by Labour's David Lammy MP making a grab for rightwing territory himself, by claiming that the ban on beating children led to the summer riots. A couple of points for you David:
1. How do you know these people weren't beaten as children?
2. Most were in their late teens and twenties - the ban only came in during the late 1990s.
3. Grow up.
Floundering politicians always reach for the smack.