Who says Labour can’t come up with ground-breaking ideas?

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David LammyCertainly not me. Not any longer, at any rate, and I regret having in the past described the Labour party as a collection of openly subversive nincompoops.

For the ex-minister David Lammy, MP, hasn’t just proposed a change in law. What he has come up with is nothing less than ditching a fundamental principle of legality.

In Britain equality before the law has been regarded as inviolable since God was young, but that doesn’t matter to Mr Lammy. He is out to blaze new trails, and the fire will consume all those outdated notions.

The wealthier the victim of theft, goes Mr Lammy’s proposal, the lighter should the criminal’s punishment be.

Forget about the thou shalt not steal nonsense. Forget about even the monetary value of the theft. What matters is its impact on the victim.

Focusing specifically on shoplifting, Mr Lammy argues that a theft of £200 would hurt the likes of Fortnum & Mason a lot less than a corner shop. This is where I start applauding, for this statement displays commendable factual accuracy, a virtue not always associated with socialists.

It has to be said that modern politicians, especially those of the leftish persuasion, don’t feel shoplifting is much of a crime anyway. Under the latest Labour government, for example, it was ruled that a theft of under £200 wouldn’t even be prosecuted – just pay an £80-pound on-the-spot fine, Mr Thief, and go on with your merry ways.

Mr Lammy’s proposal goes even further. He has made the step hundreds of generations of jurists have been reluctant even to consider: the victim’s wealth is to become a factor in sentencing (and no doubt prosecuting).

I think this idea is wonderful not only on its intrinsic merit, but also because of its unlimited potential for expansion. Mr Lammy doubtless realises that, but he is too modest to boast about the full implications of his proposal.

Congratulating him again, this time not on his daring but on his reticence, I’m willing to put forth a few possibilities. Each one comes out of Mr Lammy’s proposal the way Eve came out of Adam’s rib (if you happen to credit that bit of virulent anti-Labour propaganda).

1) The older the murder victim, the lighter should be the murderer’s punishment.

No one can deny the actuarial near-certainty that a 70-year-old’s life expectancy is considerably shorter than a 20-year-old’s. Hence being killed represents a smaller loss for the former – and must lead to a lighter punishment for the killer.

2) The older the rape victim, ditto.

As we all know, a sex crime – and you can interpret the concept as broadly as you like, to include, for example, patting a woman’s rump on a bus – traumatises the victim for life.

Since an 82-year-old granny has less of her life left than a nubile nymphet, her trauma wouldn’t last as long – hence a much lighter sentence for the chap who ‘likes’em well old’.

3) The bigger the target house, and the more auspicious its location, the less culpable the burglar.

Knocking off a Knightsbridge mansion stuffed to the gunwales with objets d’art should be punished lightly, if at all. After all, the owner’s wealth wouldn’t diminish all that much should a £100,000 painting get lifted (or slashed, to express the burglar’s well-justified resentment against poncy culture).

Conversely, nicking some underwear off a clothes line in the garden of a Peckham semi must be punished with all severity. After all, the cost of replacements may take a significant bite out of the victim’s social benefits.

4) Cheating on income tax should be punished more severely than cheating on welfare (actually it already is).

Since, as we know, the whole is greater than one of its parts, then the social budget is by definition smaller than the whole Exchequer revenue. Hence the rich bastards who hide their income offshore – even if they do it legally – should have the book thrown at them, while welfare cheats must be politely asked to desist.

5) Knocking out a pedestrian’s teeth should be punishable in inverse proportion to the number of teeth he (or she) has left.

Indirectly this will also exculpate those who assault a rich bastard sporting provocative pinstripes. His dental work would tend to be better than that of the kind of chap who is likely to punch the pinstriped toff unprovoked.

Summing up Mr Lammy’s proposal and my slight embellishments on it, one has to say that they vastly extend the social ramifications of the law.

They are nothing but a continuation of class war by other means, and isn’t this what legality is, or should be, all about? Of course it is.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Mr Lammy on thinking up this advance in jurisprudence. And I do welcome any new ideas on how his breakthrough can be further expanded.

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