Mr Blair should not use the fear factor to scare voters into supporting him once again

Share
Related Topics

Not a week has passed since Michael Howard peevishly accused the Government of stealing the Conservatives' political language. He was speaking about Labour's policies for "choice" in health and education. As of today, however, he will have even greater cause for complaint. By placing security in all its many forms at the centre of his agenda for the new Parliament, the Prime Minister will be stealing the Tories' most effective armour: their claim to be the party of personal and national safety.

Not a week has passed since Michael Howard peevishly accused the Government of stealing the Conservatives' political language. He was speaking about Labour's policies for "choice" in health and education. As of today, however, he will have even greater cause for complaint. By placing security in all its many forms at the centre of his agenda for the new Parliament, the Prime Minister will be stealing the Tories' most effective armour: their claim to be the party of personal and national safety.

Safety and security come in many guises, and most of them, it is reliably reported, will feature prominently in the Queen's speech at today's State Opening of Parliament. Among the grander measures expected to be announced are plans for the introduction of identity cards and the creation of a new national agency - a British "FBI" - to combat serious and organised crime. There may also be promise of swingeing new anti-terrorist legislation. This is at the macro-level.

At the micro-level of housing estates and local streets, new police powers will be proposed to test anyone who is arrested for drugs and charge them with possession if the test is positive. At present, someone has to be charged before being liable to a compulsory drugs test. For those convicted, the choice is to be prison or treatment; nothing in between. Provisions to extend the reach of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) are also expected.

Some of these measures, such as the formation of a national serious crime agency, we have supported, because too much currently gets lost between the cracks of different forces and disciplines. Wider provision of drug treatment is also to be welcomed - if the Government is prepared to allocate the necessary funding, which it still needs to prove.

Other measures, however, such as ID cards, we categorically oppose, as unnecessary, illiberal and ineffective. It is a racing certainty that expertly forged ID cards, will be on the black market before half the population has been assigned the real thing. Valuable police time will be wasted investigating another new crime: forging or owning a false ID. And we have little doubt which races will be stopped and asked to present their cards more than others, thereby further exacerbating tensions. We also have deep misgivings about the extension of Asbos - whose usefulness is still being debated - and the drug testing proposals, which will make it an offence if traces of drugs are detected in the bloodstream.

It is not just the specific proposals that give such cause for concern. It is the tenor of the package, the way it is presented as necessary protection against hostile forces - known and unknown. The premise is that the nation should be living in fear, and only Mr Blair's government can provide the safety blanket.

This was underlined by the Home Secretary's intervention at the weekend, when he promised new anti-terrorist legislation that would further constrain civil liberties. Among the measures were special anti-terrorism courts without juries and the use of wire-tap evidence in trials. He spoke of using civil orders, restricting movement or behaviour, for terrorist suspects against whom there was inadequate evidence for prosecution. And he cited all the well-rehearsed justifications for curtailing the freedoms of the innocent, including the need to strike a "balance" between encroaching on privacy and catching criminals.

These proposals, set out to loud fanfare at the weekend, may not see the light of day until the Lords have ruled on the legality of detaining foreign suspects without trial. And any decision, the Home Secretary said, could wait until after the general election. Which is, of course, the point, since the idea of terrifying threats - and a government that keeps us safe - will be a leitmotif of the campaign.

The fear factor worked a treat for George Bush. We sincerely hope that Mr Blair will find something more inspiring for Labour to focus its re-election campaign on. And if he does not, the voters should call his bluff.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices