Make the Right Connection
Cameron’s former speechwriter quit politics to devote himself to Only Connect, a theatre group for ex-prisoners.
Danny Kruger’s office, a small cubicle in the basement of a converted church in the rundown King’s Cross area of London, is a far cry from the halls of Westminster. After several years in the Conservative party, most recently as a special adviser to the leader David Cameron, and a stint as chief leader writer for the Daily Telegraph, he quit politics in 2008 to devote his time to Only Connect, a charity for ex-prisoners, founded by his wife Emma.
It is named after the celebrated E.M. Forster injunction: “Only connect! Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted.” It aims to help ex-offenders to build a life outside prison. It not only helps them with the prosaic, practical business of life – housing, and jobs – it also provides a creative outlet and a community. The group produces plays, with ex-prisoners as the actors. These have been a critical success, receiving good reviews in the national press. But their main purpose has been to engage the ex-prisoners in a collaborative effort, working as a team towards a common goal.
“The arts can be transformative,” says Kruger. “It opens up the heart to relationships and self-expression. It induces great self-worth.”
The government does little to help released prisoners, and many fall back into crime; two-thirds are reconvicted within two years of their release. Kruger wants to change that. He thinks that small, locally-based charities are the answer. “We need many little platoons at work, not just the single big battalion of government.” Only Connect has six members of staff, including Danny and Emma Kruger.
None of the 25 or so people it has worked with on its resettlement programme has so far returned to prison.
Only Connect is putting in place a system to track their progress, reviewing it every three months. The idea is that members will stay in contact with them indefinitely. “We are like a club, we’re a membership organisation, and we want to be in a relationship with our guys, our members, for as long as they want us to be.”
Accountability is crucial. The charity is small but Kruger says it could be highly effective on a larger scale, and thinks he could prove it. “We can make substantial savings for the taxpayer through this work. It costs £35,000 a year to send someone to prison, so if we stop 20 people a year going to prison, we’ve saved £700,000.”
It is hard, unglamorous work, but Mr Kruger says that he is happy. “It feels good to be actually putting into practice some of the principles that I was writing about when I was in politics. This feels very real.”