Tories on offensive over Blair's 'politically correct' crime stance

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Michael Howard lashed out last night at the "do-gooder coalition" between Labour and the Liberal Democrats as he set out a six-point plan to sweep away the "failed, politically correct approach to crime".

Michael Howard lashed out last night at the "do-gooder coalition" between Labour and the Liberal Democrats as he set out a six-point plan to sweep away the "failed, politically correct approach to crime".

The Tory leader tried to turn the spotlight on law and order by charging Tony Blair with failing to tackle an issue that brings misery to millions of families. He said: "It's your duty to take a stand. How else do you think Mr Blair and his wishy-washy, pussyfooting government are going to get the message?" Mr Howard, speaking in Barnes, south-west London, reserved equal contempt for the "barmy" Liberal Democrats. He said voters would be stunned to learn to learn that the party planned to abolish mandatory life sentences for murder or a second serious violent crime.

The Conservative leader said: "We are the only party that is taking a stand on crime, that is prepared to tackle the politically correct do-gooders head on."

He promised that a Tory government would, as an early priority, introduce automatic minimum sentences for third-time burglars and class-A drug dealers. The Tories would also ensure, he said, that every court sentence would make clear how long an offender would serve.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said the promises were worthless. He said the Tories had pledged to build 20,000 prison places, but failed to say how they would raise more than a fraction of the funding.

* Prisoners on new "part-time" sentences, split between jail and the community, will be able to vote on 5 May. The Department for Constitutional Affairs said only inmates detained on the day would be prevented from voting. Under a pilot scheme for intermittent custody, 35 offenders are locked up at weekends and are free during the week.

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