Theresa May is so desperate to regain her popularity she is willing to create a hierarchy of murder.
The home secretary had a torrid time at the Police Federation conference last year. It turns out her police reforms (code for cost cutting) aren't that popular with the rank-and-file.
So this year May and the organisers have conspired to make the event go rather better. The newchairman has asked members to be respectful, May has been given a briefing on which questions will come up at the Q&A and she's arrived with sweeties for the police. The sugary treat is a promise to put cop killers in jail for the rest of their natural life, instead of the current minimum of 30 years.
The idea has all the hallmarks of cobbled-together-in-the-back-of-a-taxi policymaking. It is free, it will please the red tops and it is tailored to win May a warm reception from the police. Of course, she doesn't have to go to these annual get-togethers, but it doesn't pay for a law-and-order home secretary to be frozen out of their conference.
So the home secretary cooked up a policy designed for announcement rather than implementation. It hasn't even worked on that level – even when she says things they like, the Federation can't mask its disdain. But her policy is also populist, counter-productive and morally intolerable.
If May bothers to implement her proposal (these things often die a day after announcement) she would be creating a hierarchy of murder victims. A policeman's life is worth more than a member of the public's life.
May says this is because "to attack and kill a police officer is to attack the fundamental basis of our society", in which case, she must believe this is a police state. Killing a policeman is no worse than killing a doctor or a racing car driver or a newsagent. All murder is an attack on the fundamental basis of our society, because society is about coming together for mutual benefit. Her rhetoric is the product of either a simple or a cynical mind. Perhaps a bit of both.
Admittedly, we do hand down harsher sentences for crimes based on additional criteria, such as racially-aggravated assault. But these tougher sentences do not reflect the identity of the victim. They reflect the motive of the assailant. They exist to clamp down on particular types of problematic behaviour. In other words, they are aimed at creating less crime.
Penal experts predict May's policy would do the opposite, particularly in prison. With no prospect of release, inmates will lose any restrain on their behaviour. That type of mentality is highly dangerous for maintaining order in jails.
These types of moral and practical discrepancies are what you get if you treat British law as a press release. May's proposal has been constructed specifically to get her over a tough speech, with little thought to its ramifications. For a law and order home secretary, she seems uninterested in the first and intent on damaging the second.
Keith Vaz isn't often right, but he's right today. "An in / out referendum before the next election would clear the air," he tweeted. "We could actually hold it on the day of the next general election."
His view is presumably less influenced by his desire to "clear the air" than it is by basic political strategy, but his basic political strategy is a very good one.
Labour's shadow Europe minister, Emma Reynolds, is in Vienna today outlining the party's policy on Europe. Miliband's in a bit of a bind. The Labour leader does actually believe he will be prime minister come 2015, and he doesn't intend to spend the entire time bickering over Europe. But nor does he want to end up on the wrong side of voters' opinions on the EU by opposing a referendum come election time. Tricky. Luckily for Miliband, Vaz has provided the least bad option: demand a vote in 2015.
Today's intervention by Nigel Lawson shows quite how damaging David Cameron's EU referendum pledge will prove to be. No matter what deal he secures in Europe (and it is unlikely to be impressive) there is a substantial minority of core eurosceptics in the Tory party who will vote 'no'. Lawson's intervention fires the starting gun on the debate. Now that a senior, former pro-Europe political figure has broken ranks, they can do so under some degree of cover.
Why should Labour wait until after the election for the Tories to destroy themselves? Why not force them to destroy themselves during a general election campaign? Having now won the fight for a referendum, eurosceptic Tories will soon have to acknowledge the idea that their leadership is going to run a pro-EU campaign. From Labour's perspective, there is no better time for that campaign to be fought than during a general election. Voters will be put off by a party whose leadership and backbenchers are so substantially at odds and whose concerns centre on their pet hates rather than the subject of the economy. The party's Ukip-centred anxiety attack will become a full-blown nervous breakdown.
The Tories have already shown they will fall for this sort of trap. Fifty-three Tory MPs backed Labour on the EU budget and defeated the government, despite Ed Balls' trap having all the subtlety of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Even better, it would kill off one of George Osborne's much-loved dividing lines. As things stand, the Tories believe they have Labour on the wrong side of public opinion on Europe, much as they do on welfare and the European Convention of Human Rights. By demanding a referendum early, Labour can paint itself as more committed to a public say on the EU than the Tories are. By the time the party is campaigning for the UK to stay in, it will be joined in the endeavour by the Conservative party.
The Tories will claim there is not enough time before 2015 for Cameron to secure a good deal for the UK. Labour can simply claim that there is. In truth, no amount of time would be enough for Cameron to secure a credible deal, given he has already revealed his hand. Cameron's negotiations are a doomed endeavour.
Will the Tories play ball? Absolutely not. The chances of having an EU referendum on voting day are slim-to-none. And that's all the better for Labour. If the Tories refuse to hold the referendum on election day, Labour will find itself on the right side of the issue – pushing for a more robust EU policy than Cameron is prepared to deliver. If the Tories do agree to hold a referendum, it will do them more damage than it will Labour.
Wonga and other payday lenders are the subject of this week's Hear hear podcast, where I was the weekly guest.
The podcast, which is only on its second episode, is the brainchild of political journalist Sean Dilley. Sean's doing a good job bringing professional radio standards to podcasting, making a lively, fast-paced, intelligent show which isn't afraid to get into detail on its topics. Wonga comes in for some particularly... searching criticism. Check it out below.