"TONY Blair urged voters yesterday not to allow the crises engulfing the Labour Party to eclipse his government's long-term achievements as he tried to rally demoralised troops ahead of tomorrow's local elections.Leaving aside the point that on Thursday the English will be electing local councillors and not MPs, the problem with Mr Blair's injunction is that the scandals currently surrounding this government are to me entirely representative of the last nine years.
The embattled Prime Minister appealed to supporters to see the "big picture", rather than punish his party for the failure of the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, to deport foreign criminals and for the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's affairs."
Prescott's problems are largely those associated with the disability of owning a set of testicles and can afflict any government but in the area of criminal justice, the last nine years have been largely Charles Clarke-shaped in the sense that this government has repeatedly shown itself more inclined to pass new legislation than enforce the laws already in existence. The government that brought you ID cards, detention without trial, restrictions on protest and free assembly on the grounds of 'preventing terrorism' did so with the justification that public safety took precedence over any consideration of civil liberty. Yet we find this government that wishes to criminalise 'incitement to religious hatred', finds itself unable to prosecute or deport those who incite plain murder, or indeed those who have already committed murder.
This in the same country that fines people for throwing a crisp out of a car window, encourages people to grass on their neighbours for using a hose-pipe when they shouldn't, and has a police force that has both the time and the resources to investigate the weighty matter of the Prime Minister being rude about the Welsh.
Blair's response to the revelation that his government has failed in its most fundamental duty to protect its citizens? You guessed it:
"Tony Blair has sought to brush off suggestions he has "lost control" by telling MPs he plans to toughen the laws on deporting foreign criminals. "And by "toughening the laws" he means, of course, new legislation.
I don't know about you but if it were my vote Tony Blair was seeking on Thursday, I'd consider mentioning the last nine years of New Labour criminal justice to be in rather bad taste, and poor salesmanship to boot.
But they sure have sorted out those smokers and fox-hunters - so that's 'progressive', right?