One thing you could say for the Tories over recent decades is that the old delectation for capital and corporal punishment had slipped away. Ted Heath and John Major despised it. Margaret Thatcher, a keen bircher as a backbencher, shrewdly let it go. Suddenly though, the enpurpled spirit of Sir Cyril Osborne has risen from the grave, in response to the Supreme Court’s rulings over, first, votes for prisoners, and then the possible removal of some sex offenders’ names from the national register.
Nobody would think from the squeaking and snarling of Conservative outrage that what was under discussion was an appeal for removal from the list after 15 years of not offending. But already backbenchers are demanding that the UK withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. At the head of the pack is Philip Davies, the MP for Shipley, a Tory Yorkshire terrier devoted to liberal lamp-posts. David Cameron follows close behind. Sustained by headlines about rights for ‘pervs’, it seems that the old Tory tunes play best. Given the flat notes of the new ones, there may be a connection: punishing the pervs to distract us from the flagging economy and the dismantling of the welfare state.