Our MP has jumped on alarmist bandwagon

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.
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I regret to see that our MP, Sir Alan Beith, has joined the alarmist bandwagon calling for urgent action over the absurdly-exaggerated reports about a recent disturbance at Acklington Prison.

This means he has fallen for the Northumberland County Council Labour Administration’s union-inspired nonsense seeking some kind of immediate response to a problem that has not yet been identified.

I notice also that his hoped-for heir-elect, Ms PÖrksen, is in permanent tow as though she was an active parliamentary functionary already. I suppose it would be unworthy of me to suspect that these shenanigans were in some way connected with Lib Dem election hopes.

The tactic is familiar – manufacture a crisis out of nothing and then seem to be doing something about it, which in this case has meant the irresponsible and groundless fanning of public fears about prison safety.

I suggest that the duty of politicians is to calm public concerns not encourage them, especially in the absence of any established facts.

A discreet inquiry with officials would have been more seemly than publicly jumping to the tune of anonymous, disaffected prison officers.

A few facts might help put matters in perspective. First, the ‘riot’ was a minor disturbance involving six inmates who organised a sit-in – a common response to changes affecting prison routine, but hardly a matter to worry local residents.

There is an investigation under way by the Ministry of Justice and I think it would have been better if local politicians had kept out of it until this report is complete.

Second, I confidently predict that the report will make it clear that cuts in staff numbers had no bearing on the incident.

Finally, I understand that, partly in response to a retirement and voluntary redundancy programme, Sodexo instigated a review into prison staffing levels before the recent commotion and that this will result in more prison staff being appointed.

My purpose in revealing this is to ensure that Labour politicians are unable to claim a U-turn following their intervention last week and that the Lib Dems are denied their normal practice of claiming credit for something they had nothing to do with.

Gordon Castle,

Northumberland County Councillor,