Every now and then, a particularly heinous murder happens in Britain that brings the possibility of bringing back the death penalty to the columns of the national newspapers. Such is the case with the shooting of Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford last week.
In the Spectator, Simon Heffer joins the fray. His article is entitled 'The case for capital punishment', presumably so named by a sub-editor who hadn't read it, for the article contains nothing of the sort.
Heffer starts in the vein so beloved of right-wing columnists. Attending a conference some 15 years ago, stuffed full of those 'liberal elite' types that were so powerful in those days (when that arch-liberal-weeper Margaret Thatcher was in office), Heffer comes across a Professor of Ethics from the US who supports the death penalty but is too scared to say so. To me, this suggests that the pusillanimous academic might be need of some assertiveness training (he is, after all, an 'adviser retained by the police departments of several major cities' so should be able to hold his own in debate). To Heffer, of course, it is the ideal excuse for clothing himself and those who think like him in the vestments of the Victim. Unable to speak their minds because of the Terror of the Liberals. Diddums. With no apparent irony, Heffer continues his 'victim speak' by describing the exile of those supporting the death penalty from the 'offices of the sages of the quality press'. Nice to see Heffer admit that neither the Telegraph nor the Spectator, both of which he writes for, come under the title 'quality press'.
But what's the learned prof's killer fact? Well, that China has shot 6,000 drug dealers in the back of the head, thus solving its drug problem. Even Heffer has to dismiss this as a rational argument. But that's the best one his article has to offer.
The rest of the article is mostly taken up with the 'if we had the death penalty, life would be better' line of reasoning, with no attempt at backing this up. Heffer does not stop to consider that my current home town, which has reduced the murder rate to an unprecedented degree over the last 15 years or so, has done so without the death penalty or the threat thereof.
My favourite line from the article comes near the end when Heffer cannot resist blaming the satanic influence of Brussels for all the UK's ills. Our membership of the EU, he states (rightly), precludes us from re-introducing the death penalty. From this, he makes a gymnastic leap of Lewis Carroll logic:
Those who mourn WPc Behenivsky can add to the list of her murderers the high contracting powers of the EU
Wonderful stuff. Morally putrid, but wonderful. The ultimate in 'root cause' excusery. The murderers couldn't help themselves. They were simply acting on orders from Brussels.
If this is the best that those who favour the death penalty have to offer, their hope of its re-introduction will certainly prove to be empty.