Charles Clarke: 'We must eliminate the disrespect that blights lives'

From a speech by the Home Secretary to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton
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The Independent Online

The British people want us to defend our values of respect, tolerance, freedom, and democracy against any who wish to destroy or replace them with some other doctrine. The united response to the terrorist attacks from all parts of our society, including from all the main political parties, was deeply encouraging.

I cannot say the same of the conduct of the Conservatives during the general election campaign. It was characterised by the most unpleasant and pernicious campaigning by any major political party that I have seen. On immigration, on violent crime, on antisocial behaviour, on penal policy they sought to turn legitimate debate on issues of public concern into ill-informed and ignorant abuse by the frequent dishonest abuse of statistics, by playing on fear and by promoting fantasy.

The British people rejected them conclusively and rightly so.

But I have drawn an important lesson. It is that never again can we allow such irresponsible and dangerous behaviour to play such a prominent role in any election campaign. That means that we have to determine that by the next election: we have a fair system of immigration and asylum; we have eliminated the antisocial behaviour and disrespect which still blights the lives of so many; we have built on our success to reduce dramatically levels of violent crime; and that we have a penal and criminal justice system genuinely focused upon promoting effective justice and preventing re-offending.

The nature of crime is changing. At the national level, we face an increasingly potent threat from terrorists and organised criminals. At local level, communities are increasingly menaced by antisocial behaviour. However, tackling a lack of respect is about more than just cracking down on troublemakers. It is about changing attitudes and challenging people to play their part in building a decent society.