SENTINEL: Stamp stockpiling, open prison, Nick v Nigel, top advert, energy firms


The Standard’s Sentinel columnist casts his weekly glance at events in and around Boston

Ah, don’t you just love the Ministry of Justice? For a piece in this week’s Standard it was presented with a set of figures showing that the number of sex offenders at North Sea Camp had doubled. These were the same figures that they had been unable to provide upon request, meaning that they had to be obtained from a Freedom of Information request. Sentinel notes that the MOJ’s explanation for the rise was that it ‘reflects the national picture’ of more sex offenders being sentenced. They also forwarded a spreadsheet to prove this trend. Except the numbers do not prove that at all. They show that the number of people convicted of sexual offences between 2011 and 2013 fell from 6,066 to 5,612. The MOJ points out that the percentage of those offenders actually going behind bars has risen from 57 per cent to 60 per cent. That’s right but dust off your calculators and you’ll see that 57 per cent of 6,066 is still higher than 60 per cent of 5,612 (3457-3367). So the national trend shows a fall in convictions for sex offenders, hardly the 100 per cent rise seen in North Sea Camp. So what is the reason? Sentinel fully understands the need for an open prison and believes they do, of course, play a valuable role in getting people ready for the real world after they have served their punishment at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. But the point stands that the nature of our open prison has changed without any consultation from the MOJ. They offer us promises that the people out on day release and volunteering in Boston town centre are safe, let’s hope that, on that at least, they are true to their word. But what’s the theory behind the change? That is it better to have sex offenders together so that specialist staff can work with them? Vague promises that the prison will be no trouble are fine but these would be taken a great deal better by the public, who after all are on the doorstep, if the MOJ were honest and gave a proper reason. Don’t hold your breath...

*The price of a first class stamp will rise 2p to 62p and second class by 3p to 53p on Monday. Except you probably already know that given how surprisingly difficult Sentinel found it to buy a book of six first class stamps this week. A couple of shops suggested that, with the price rising people are stockpiling to beat the rise. Do people really do that? Sentinel supposes we should doff our caps as these savvy shoppers but, equally, at 2p a stamp, is it worth the hassle?

*The lights might go off if we dare to look into whether the energy companies are ripping us off apparently. Pull the other one. Sentinel’s energy supplier is completely useless. They forgot to send a bill for several months and then expected a big payment when they finally remembered they wanted money. They put the price up but offered no explanation as to how to change tarrifs. They sent a vague apology on email for not operating to the best of their ability but nothing by way of compensation for being shoddy of course. Would they know where the switch is to turn the lights off? Anyway if the worst does happen then everything will be fine. Centrica (not Sentinel’s supplier) boss Sam Laidlaw – who warned about risking investment with an inquiry – apparently trousered a £2.2million pay and perks package last year. Sentinel reckons he can fork out for a few candles (or fork handles) for us all...

*Sentinel mentioned last week how Boris Johnson was being linked with the safe seat that Sir Peter Tapsell is soon to depart. This week the outgoing MP, the Father of the House, told the Standard’s sister paper the Horncastle News that ‘Bo Jo’ would, most probably, snub the chance to take the seat because it is too far away from the glare of the television cameras. He added: “Almost every weekend, I’m asked to go on some programme or other but I refuse because I tell them I can’t give up my wife’s lovely cooking in Roughton Hall in order to trail down to London for a 10-minute interview with some irritating person who is trying to embarrass me.” Nothing if not a character eh?

*This week saw round one of the Nick v Nigel EU TV debate clash. The pair traded political blows on a set that appeared to be a giant advert for LBC radio. Not that you could blame the station for seizing the opportunity. The event was, typically, over-hyped and neither participant veered far away from the points they have made in the past. The spin room, disappointingly, wasn’t like one of those rotating restaurants that actually spins. Instead it was Sky News’ Kay Burley force feeding her microphone into the mouths of an array of politicians and hacks who offered their take on who ‘won’. Still it was refreshing to see an actual debate and a chance to get stuck into the issues surrounding Europe, challenging the myths of both sides. In fact the key lesson was probably to ensure your election leaflets don’t spout complete nonsense as both were embarrassed to an extent by what past literature had espoused. If this were a boxing match and the polls were the judges then Farage clearly emerged the winner. Sentinel’s sure the UKIP leader be gutted to know, though, that he lost when it came to Sky News’ ‘sweat watch’. Those who prefer their politicians not to perspire – has anyone done polling to see if people care about this? – won’t be on ‘Team Farage’. This wasn’t a boxing match or a ‘sweat off’ though so it will be interesting to see what the impact is on both Nick and Nigel’s fortunes come ballot day. And indeed on the Labour and Tories who chose not to take part. Some might say they arrogantly hope Nick and Nigel both turn people off leaving them to mop up votes. Of course if people engage with the debates and arguments they might both instead be seen as the aloof establishment who can’t be bothered to lower themselves to roll their sleeves up for a debate. Farage clearly benefitted this week from being cast in the ‘outsider’ slot that Clegg himself exploited in the 2010 election debates. It’ll be interesting to see if that continues in round two on Wednesday. If you’re as sad as Sentinel it should be worth getting the popcorn in...

*Interesting comment on The Standard’s website from someone calling for fairness and for UKIP to be given a fair say in the media? Obviously missed the three interviews with Nigel Farage alone in the past year!

*Top marks to Johnsons Garden Centre. Sentinel enjoyed the centre’s new advert at Burton Corner which is proudly displayed with the slogan: “Spring is so exciting, I’ll wet my plants”.