Because I am such a comforting, avuncular presence, young people often ask me whether they should go into politics. I draw on my pipe and ask whether they've ever considered the advantages of becoming a heroin addict instead. The hours are better, you do less damage and it's comparatively easy to give up heroin once you realise the marrow has been sucked out of your moral constitution.
The government refuses to legalise heroin but it is thinking about legalising under-age voting. Kids are bored, you see, so they start voting, perhaps for their housing association. It seems harmless but of course it's not enough. They want more and more kicks. Voting for their local councillors becomes tame, so they start canvassing. They become activists and many end up as candidates, the poor devils. In the final, gruesome stages, they end up on the front bench during Home Office questions saying "our highest priority is" and "crucial support to victims" and "which is why we have a ten-year strategy".
So it is that two of the new Home Office crew offer us the symmetrical spectacle of junior ministers who are equal in degradation but opposite in manner. Hazel Blears is irrepressible; Caroline Flint is sulky. They both talk the ugly dialect of their kind, a sort of generic policy babble. The kindest thing one can say is that they may be the only people in Britain who don't realise what rubbish it is. "Strong communities are central to government plans for civil renewal," one said. That really infuriated me. The other, Perky to her colleague's Pinky, said: "so that local people get the best possible results from a world class service." In the French Revolution, sketch writers would have had them both taken away on a specially-decorated tumbril.
But they won't be around for long. The Home Office constitutes some career development process for them. Ms Flint will descend into the backbenches for rehab; Ms Blears, I fear, is after crack. Or Work and Pensions, as it's known to parliamentarians.
David Blunkett told us us in consecutive breaths that violent crime had fallen 5 per cent and had risen. "Which is why we need to get a grip on, er ..." he said. Readers are invited to finish his sentence for him. But you can't be bothered, can you? He added to his canon of gnomic utterance: "This is why we've taken action because what is legal and what is illegal depends on who's got their hands on the particular weapons at the time, which is why the amnesty was the most successful we've ever had."
That was to answer why gun crime had doubled to its highest-ever level in Britain. It's something less than adequate, you might think. More confusingly, he suggested that, under Michael Howard's Home Office, crime had risen by 19 per cent. The whole point of our Pale Rider, I'd thought, was that crime had fallen under his stewardship, and that was why Mr Blunkett was following his "prison works" example with such dumb, doglike loyalty.Reuse content