David Blunkett's real offence lies in his contempt for our laws and our liberty

The private Blunkett is not a bad man, but as Home Secretary he has set out to screw the British public
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David Blunkett has abused his great office. This is nothing to do with visas, rail trips, car journeys or other alleged peccadilloes - even though these may well force his resignation. On all that, only one point is to be made. Whatever organ governs male sexual desire, it is rarely the brain.

But Mr Blunkett's real offences were committed in cold blood. He has allowed the home secretaryship and the system of law and order to be corrupted, for cynical electoral purposes. In so doing, he is making it even harder for the police to do their job: making it even more likely that the public will not receive the level of policing to which it is entitled.

As so often, and even after seven and a half years in power, Mr Blair and his ministers are behaving like a brilliant, unscrupulous opposition. They are not interested in governing well, merely in wrong-footing their opponents. Labour's opinion research had revealed only one possible awkwardness between now and the election: crime. Given the level of public anger about crime, Labour's fear was that the Tories might make it the main issue in their election campaign.

In view of the fact that David Davis is the shadow Home Secretary, Labour's worries are almost certainly overblown. To make crime a central issue would require a level of energy which Mr Davis has never shown signs of possessing. Tony Blair and David Blunkett are focused on winning the next election. So is David Davis. In his case, it is the next Tory leadership election.

Not for the first time, Labour took their opponents more seriously than they deserved. In the Queen's Speech, just after banning hunting, the Government set out to shoot the Tories' fox. Mr Blunkett might have been justified in proposing one new law and order Bill. As it was, he came up with eight.

This is an intensification of a tactic which Labour has employed since 1997. Over the past seven years, in repeated attempts to persuade the public that something is being done, the Government has brought forward 43 new law and order Bills. It sometimes seems that every time a crime is committed, a minister will appear on television to announce that the Home Office is proposing a new law to make it illegal. Now Mr Blunkett wants eight new laws.

Yet this time, he may find that he has taken cynicism to excess. "You cannot fool all of the people all of the time". Though the Blair Government has spent seven years proving that Abraham Lincoln was being unnecessarily cautious, there are limits. The voters may not express it in such terms, but a lot of them have realised that the crime problem in Britain does not arise from a shortage of laws. It is caused by a lack of order. Far from alleviating this, the passage of more new laws will inevitably make it worse.

The other day, a chief constable was complaining about the additional burdens which this Government has piled upon him. Seven years ago, when making operational decisions, he or his predecessors only had to concern themselves with one supervisory body: Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). Staffed by former chief constables and senior coppers, it was never tolerant of failure. Nor was it unrealistic in the way that it treated serving officers.

Now, in addition to HMIC, there is a new Police Improvement Agency, shortly to be reinforced by David Blunkett's National Policing Plan. The Prime Minister's Delivery Unit also takes an interest in policing matters as does the Cabinet Office, which is much larger than it was seven years ago. Then there is the Treasury, twice the size which it was in 1997, in order to enable Gordon Brown to control all the domestic departments.

So a chief constable now receives endless requests for figures, information and details of targets met and unmet. Frequently, the demands made of him are contradictory. All this undermines both his independence and his ability to provide inspiring leadership to the policemen in his force. He cannot lead when he is being deafened by conflicting instructions from those who are determined to tell him how to do his job.

This failure of leadership manifests itself at all levels. The other day, in a much publicised case, a respectable citizen was stopped on the Embankment in London and threatened with imprisonment for possessing a pen-knife and a collapsible baton. He had the baton - legally - because he lives in a rural area which, like much of the British countryside, is a police-free zone.

The operation which led to his arrest was an anti-terrorist exercise. So he inquired whether the police might be wiser to concentrate on those of Arab appearance. He was informed that he was making a racist comment. Thus is common sense stigmatised as racism. Shortly afterwards, he was being told: "You're f***ing nicked, you a*******".

Later on, he was assaulted in a police station. In this disgraceful incident, the worst elements of politically correct policing were reinforcing the worst elements of the old-fashioned canteen culture. The result was slovenly, offensive, idle and malevolent policing, which is why public confidence in the police has never been lower. I am sure that the vast majority of policemen are still admirable human beings, who put on their uniforms to serve the public and who relish the opportunity to do so. But this cannot happen as long as they are not well led.

So how does David Blunkett respond? By passing more laws which will require more paperwork, more form filling; more senior officers on the phone to the Home Office, trying to find out what they ought to be doing: more senior officers away at conferences: more ambitious young officers deciding that the route to promotion does not lie in catching criminals but in becoming a jobsworth, a pen pusher and a jargon peddler.

David Blunkett's measures would also make it much easier for the police to harass law-abiding citizens. Adultery apart, Mr Blunkett has never been a friend of the liberty of the subject. He does not seem to understand that the purpose of a police force is to catch and deter criminals, in order to enlarge the freedom of the rest of us - not to poke their nose into our behaviour, while the criminals are unimpeded. As the Tory spokesman David Cameron said recently, if Mr Blunkett has his way "Britain will be a police state, without the police".

It may be, however, that Abraham Lincoln is about to be proved right. From the Government's point of view, the timing of the revelations about Mr Blunkett's private life could not have been more unfortunate. They will help to discredit the measures which he is proposing. They may even persuade a lot of voters that the Home Secretary is a hypocrite.

The private David Blunkett is not a bad man. He has endured much suffering in his life, and risen above it. He has treated his mistress at least as well as she deserved. But as Home Secretary, he has set out to screw the British public. He has been a rotten Home Secretary and ought to go, now.

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