Backed up by sympathetic allies among the Lib Dems, Clarke has been talking about a “rehabilitation revolution” in the justice system. Plans include widespread restorative justice, diverting drug addicts and the mentally ill out of jail, and a sentencing overhaul. The result could be thousands of people convicted of minor crimes being given community alternatives to prison.
“The speech to judges I made, they were my views,” says Clarke, “shared actually by 90% of the people who’ve got anything to do with the criminal justice system… It helps that I have Liberal Democrat coalition partners..."
Occasionally, he goes further, once with a comment that could rile his colleagues on the right, who fear the Lib Dems are watering down the party's agenda.
"It is my view that we have the possibility, if we get it right, of delivering more as a coalition than a Conservative government with a small majority in parliament could have delivered. I think the present situation, in the national interests, from the national point of view, is better than a Conservative government with a tiny majority over two opposition parties would have been."
I should add that the last few Labour people in the same role have been reprehensible, in my view,and horribly, horribly authoritarian. This is a vast improvement.