A certain sense of incredulity is surrounding the appointment of Jonathan Aitken to lead a study group on prison reform. The appointment by Conservative Party think-tank the Centre for Social Justice headed by former leader Iain Duncan Smith, it seen as a rehabilitation too far for the former Conservative Minister who was jailed for perjury after claiming not to have received favours from a Saudi businessman in return for his support but it transpired later that he had.
The appointment may be unusual, however as a former inmate he may well have a unique perspective as well as experiences and contacts that the more traditional appointee may not have. The media clearly want to make a story out of this, linking the disgraced Thatcherite and one-time supporter of UKIP to the current Conservative leadership, leading to rebuttals and the distinction between the Centre and the Party being stressed. However this could actually be a non-story. The CSJ will offer advice which the party can read, adapt and convert into policy if they wish; the fact that part of the report will be informed by a former inmate is perhaps unsurprising. The only reason it is seen as interesting is because the inmate is also a former colleague. But if he was once recognised as having the qualities required for the cabinet, should those qualities not be used regardless? Is this desperation for a story I ask myself!!