What will become of the other big coalition row that’s burning away alongside free schools? David Cameron was asked today about the plans to introduce mandatory sentences for repeat knife offences, and made some very supportive noises again, which the Tories signed up to Nick de Bois’ amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill think is a sign that they’ve made the right decision. He suggested that Nick Clegg could change his mind about it – and some have taken this as a sign that there’s a compromise on the cards.
The Conservatives tell me they are ‘looking carefully’ at de Bois’ amendments, but the Lib Dems say they haven’t heard of any compromise being offered and they will only accept a deal that has evidence behind it that it would cut knife crime. A senior Lib Dem source says:
‘Everybody opposes knife crime. Who is in favour of knife crime? Which party says we want to see more knife crime? What is going on here is a discussion about public policy and how you make public policy, the aim of any policy would be that it would reduce knife crime. In our view we don’t believe the mandatory custodial sentence for possession of a knife would work.’
The amendment won’t be debated until after the Queen’s Speech – and while there are around 45 MPs backing it at the moment, if the government decides it can’t support the plan, the whips will find it very easy to melt away the rebels: they can always mention that the Prime Minister has got another reshuffle planned.