Back in the day’s when local Labour Parties were just begining to get a taste for what New Labour was about, I was in a very old Labour CLP that was getting very worried indeed about the direction the party was going under Blair in opposition.
I shared much of that concern but one area where I was totally committed to the leadership was over crime. I never for the life of my understood why the left, which claimed to represent the concerns of ordinary working people – the major victims of crime, took such a soft line and let the Tories portray themselves as the party of ‘law and order’.
Some on the left really did believe that defending working class communities from drug pushers, muggers, thugs, vandals and assorted yobs was a ‘Tory issue’ and that the left should simply focus on the root causes of crime. Thankfully those views did not win out and the Labour government has been committed to a tough line on crime – but has it delivered?
“Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime” remains a great aspiration, not simply a soundbite. But it has been undermined by a lack of effective policy,” says Jackie Ashley in the Guardian.
She rightly argues against the knee-jerk liberal opposition to David Blunkett but what I like most about her piece is the way she points out how in this area Labour are rediscovering some of the forgotten values of the left:
Respect, order and self-discipline were once the watchwords of the progressive left. They were inherited from Chartists, the friendly and temperance societies and the union movement. Postwar politicians like Beveridge and Attlee, Cripps and Bevan, all took it for granted that, alongside state help, citizens would retain an intolerance of crime and yobbishness, and an instinct for self-help and saving.
So when Blunkett tells the Guardian that his job “is to provide some stability and order” and that “anti-social behaviour is actually at the foundation and root of instability” he is talking Labour language, and progressive language too.