Drugs, deluded ravings and doddery fools

I suggest we all wander to the council estate and sit on the stairwell injecting heroin
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The Independent Online

The easiest speech to make in the world must be the one at the Conservative conference about crime.

The easiest speech to make in the world must be the one at the Conservative conference about crime. You start by moaning how we're being flooded with criminals, and only the party of Jeffrey Archer, Jonathan Aitken and the Thatcher family can stop this happening. Then you scream that prisons have become holiday camps, trying to be fiercer than you were the year before. By next year the speech will start, "Now prison has become SO soft there are many jails in which prisoners are no longer buggered by their mentally ill cell-mates. What comfort is there for the victim of a crime if they know that, even if the criminal is caught, they will take a shower unmolested in this way? I ask you."

One delegate yesterday was so anti-crime he went full-circle, saying "Criminals will benefit from a ban on hunting, because the police will be forced to spend their time chasing law-abiding citizens hunting." So under the tough Tories, you'll only get away with disobeying the law if you can prove it's a law you don't agree with.

But if the police do pursue hunters the way this Tory fears, it would make for marvellous entertainment, a three-cornered chase between the fox, the hunt and the police. They could bring back The Sweeney, so Jack could go, "George, I tell you what villain I heard is back out and on the prowl, ready to cause some naughties: Cholmondley-Bartholomew-Fothergill-Brocket, that's who."

Strangely, the main plank of the pro-hunting party's attack on crime will be a "war on drugs". But to take one example, surely all that clubbers who take ecstasy are doing is meeting up once a week to enjoy a pastime that harms no one else, as part of a long tradition that goes as far back as 1983. And it's a lot less violent than hunting. If you introduced a fox into the Ministry of Sound, it would be surrounded by people cuddling it and cooing, "Cool, I love you, you're so bushy, man."

But the party of Kenneth Clarke, (who is paid £100,000 a year as a senior director of British American Tobacco), just went on and on snarling about the evils of drugs.

In any case, even with hard drugs, anyone who has worked in this area knows only the most desperately pathetic character becomes a crackhead, so what good will it do to shout: "We won't put up with this." You might as well have a "war on suicide", and scream: "We're fed up of having to clear people up from under bridges and behind exhaust pipes. So let these yobs know, under the Conservatives there will be zero tolerance for this anti- social behaviour, and this will happen on day one."

Getting someone off hard drugs is a complex business, but obviously depends on them feeling their life has some purpose, as it's hardly an attractive pastime if things are going well. That's why it's very unlikely that the chairman of a Rotary Club would announce: "This year, for our annual summer get-together, I thought we'd try something different. Instead of the usual garden party, I suggest we all wander to the council estate and sit on the stairwell injecting heroin into each others' wrists. Now, I'm aware some of you may be concerned this could lead to one or two of us offering ourselves for prostitution to get another fix. But fortunately Lady Smethwick from the antiques shop has kindly donated this charming set of wicker chairs, which she assures me we can exchange with a local dealer for enough gear to get us all mashed for the whole day."

Fortunately there is a model for the tough-on-crime policies of the Tories, which is America, with its zero tolerance and electric chairs and its Death Row and sentences such as a 10-year stretch for stealing a pizza. And as we can all see this works like a dream, as barely a single felony takes place in America from one year to the next.

The Tories must know their catchphrases would have no effect on crime. They're aware that David Blunkett has been as proudly draconian as any of their lot. But still David Davis said Labour's attitude to crime is, "Fancy mugging an old lady? Why not try it?" If he's going to make stuff up as ridiculous as that, you'd think he could at least be a bit imaginative. He could have said "Every pensioner in Britain lives in constant fear of pillaging. And what does David Blunkett propose? To abolish the police force and replace it with a tank full of tropical fish. I ask you."

Their problem is they have to appeal to the doddery idiots slumped in the hall, but know that in the real world, the "bang 'em up" speeches are meaningless. So Mr Davis said he'd introduce a drug rehabilitation programme for every prisoner. And one woman yelped that her Tory council had cut crime by providing a skateboard park for local kids. Surely this went against everything else that was said, but the dodderers didn't seem to notice and clapped as usual, exposing the utter pointlessness of the whole conference.

None the less, Blair may try to copy them by announcing his own war on drugs. He'll incinerate an entire city, then tell us it doesn't matter in the slightest when it turns out there wasn't so much as an ounce of dope in the whole place.