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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 15:06 GMT
The politics of hope
Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

Home Secretary, David Blunkett
Home Secretary, David Blunkett

On Politics Show on Sunday, 14 November, 2004, Jeremy Vine interviewed David Blunkett, Home Secretary:

Jeremy Vine: The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, joins us now; welcome to you. So, if you have learnt from Mr Bush's re-election, we can expect a security election here, is that right?

David Blunkett: No, I've been learning from listening to people in the community and what they say to me is, you don't have to invent anti-social behaviour, you don't have to invent fear of walking down the street late at night, you don't have to invent fear of terrorism, you just have to live it and see it, and feel it, and I find it extraordinary that the academic from King's College, should think that because we can't remove all fear and all insecurity, we should, in his words, take the foot off the brake actually not do anything.

I mean that's extraordinary.

Jeremy Vine: It would be right to say would it that you have tried as a government to move off Iraq, you've realised you can't do that; so you now need to bundle up domestic crime issues, with international terror.

David Blunkett: No. We are attempting to ensure that we deliver the politics of hope about a modern Britain for the 21st Century. People content and comfortable in their own lives, secure in their neighbourhoods, secure because of the measures that Gordon Brown has taken in terms of their economic life and full employment, and secure in a world that is ever insecure.

We've got more change, more rapid change, more perception in what's taking place in the world, than we've ever had. Satellite television, internet, immediate communication, television - 24 hours, seven days a week news, all of that creates a, a subliminal atmosphere of insecurity that I'm intent not on hyping up, but overcoming.

And you only overcome that insecurity by taking measures this side of a general election, not hyping it up and promising measures after the general election.

Jeremy Vine: But of course when you say, I'm going to overcome this insecurity, you draw attention to it, as Chris Cox was saying in the film, you create shock horror headlines that make people feel more unsafe than they need to.

David Blunkett: Well, I'm not saying that. I'm saying here are a number of issues that we've been dealing with for the last three years. I've been arguing, three years next month, for identity cards. I've been arguing for the last year that we need to join up customs, immigration, the policing and intelligence services in to the new Serious & Organised Crime Agency.

We're going to legislate to make that happen. I think a government that failed to take action on the genuine concerns and fears and insecurity that people have, and their real experience, would be a government that wouldn't deserve to be re-elected.

And I think we should be re-elected.

Jeremy Vine: You are now proposing ID cards as a barrier to terrorism, whereas before it was about stopping people getting the wrong benefits.

David Blunkett: No, I, I've always said that there isn't one single reason why we need biometric ID cards with a proper data base; we need it because we need to know who's in our country. We need to know whether they're entitled to draw down on our free services.

We need it so that we can actually ensure that people are entitled to work and work, rather than in the black economy. And we need it because 35% of those engaged in terrorism across the world, and I've checked this with the Spanish, who after all, in Madrid last March experienced not the theory of terrorism, but the reality, that 35% of those involved in terrorism, actually used multiple identities, and if we can get to them, and we can trace them, we can do something about protecting ourselves.

Jeremy Vine: You made a speech a few days ago in which you said, security internationally and locally, are inextricably linked - internationally and locally. What is the relationship?

David Blunkett: The relationship is one of insecurity and fear. If people fear that we're not taking the necessary action to protect them from al-Qaeda and the international network that is seen to be, and will be demonstrated through the courts over months to come, to be actually on our door step, and threatening our lives, and they feel insecure in their neighbourhoods, with anti social behaviour, we can hardly expect them to open up their hearts and minds to arguments about not only health and education, and progressive policies in terms of social welfare, but about poverty across the world.

So my, my policies are about providing hope and aspiration, but also engaging people so that they can put aside racism, fear of difference, fear of what is going to happen to them, and if I wanted to frighten people I'd do exactly what the Conservative opposition want, I'd say to the Prime Minister, don't rely on us joining up police and intelligence, in the way we do through the Home Office, appoint a homeland security czar, whose whole life would be spent on television and radio, frightening people to death.

Jeremy Vine: But would you say, as you just did, that we're going to discover in the next few months that the terror threat, the Bin Laden threat is on our doorstep. How can you possibly know that?

David Blunkett: Well I'm talking about people who are and are about to go through the court system.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) Well you may...

David Blunkett: (overlaps) They, they may be found not guilty.

Jeremy Vine: Exactly.

David Blunkett: But our security and policing services have been securing our well being over the last three years, and they are the front line.

There's no point in picking the pieces up in terms of what's called resilience, ie decontamination and all the expenditure that we've had to put in place, just in case the something desperately goes wrong, no point in doing that if you don't actually put in the front line services to protect us from those incidents in the first place.

People don't want to, to have us with very good systems of picking their bodies up, they want us to actually have very good systems of protecting our lives.

Jeremy Vine: But this link between international security and local security, which is a link if you like between al-Qaeda and, well, street crime, you're not saying if somebody wrecks a bus shelter, they're part of a terror network?

David Blunkett: No, I'm saying that they create a feeling of disfunctionality of a community that is out of control, and the more we build respect and security and stability, the more we have a nation that will have pride in itself, but will also have a progressive forward-looking attitude. And you see this in the...

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) Why bundle them up when they're so different? Why bundle them up?

David Blunkett: Because you can see it in the Netherlands at this moment. A country that allowed people to say what they're like, virtually to do what they like. Now desperately looking in on itself, saying, can we afford to do this?

Can we put individual rights to do, think, act, just as you will, over and above the rights we hold in common, in order to have a decent society, that's held together, that's functional.

And the answers that are coming out of the Netherlands is no you can't. You do need a balance between the maintenance of individual human rights, and the balance of human rights that we have as a society, as a community, to protect ourselves. Whether it's in our homes or whether it's international.

Jeremy Vine: Aren't you with your apparently six bills coming in the Queen's Speech stoking all that, and doesn't it help you if we live in a state of fear.

David Blunkett: No it certainly doesn't. It's always been the far right who benefit from a state of fear. I'm arguing that the politics of hope and aspiration, of opportunity, underpinned by the confidence that comes from security in the economy, security in the neighbourhood and security internationally, that allows us to develop progressive politics, and of course continuity and consistency from this government, through to the next parliament, that's what people really want.

Jeremy Vine: The problem is, we don't know what's out there do we. And neither do you.

David Blunkett: No, which is why we have to take the necessary pre-emptive steps. Nobody would forgive any politician who actually said I, I understand your worries, I understand that there are fears, but because human rights lawyers are worried about what we've done, we've decided to do nothing about it. I mean that would be absurd.

And a democracy that doesn't protect itself and its freedoms isn't worth holding, and that's what we've seen from history. That's what happened with the Weimar Republic, people said, you know, let the far right have their head, in the end they'll collapse, and of course they didn't.

Jeremy Vine: We heard a reference in the film to polls which suggest that despite all this talk, the Conservatives are ahead on attitudes, public attitudes to crime and to terror. Do you think people trust you to have the right solutions to this?

David Blunkett: Well we're actually neck and neck and we're closer to actually making the Labour Party, the party of law and order and security, than we've been in our history. And I'm proud of that because you see in my constituency, where I've really got most of the signals from, in terms of the measures we've taken, the actions we've brought in over the last two years, in my constituency, people say that actually feeling safe to walk down the street, is the first and primary goal that they want us to achieve.

That way, they'll come out to public meetings, they'll go down to their local school, they'll join in in being part of the solution.

Jeremy Vine: (overlaps) And they don't feel secure.

David Blunkett: ...in turning round their community. They haven't. I'll tell you what, just one tiny example, these are so-called gimmicks. We've combined over the last two months, the new regulations on fire works with my anti social behaviour legislation on dispersal and curfews and it has worked.

In most parts of England and Wales we've begun just begun, to turn round the culture that previously bedevilled people's lives with unacceptable use of fireworks.

Now that's just one tiny example, and I've actually, for once in my life, got letters coming in saying, thanks, something is being turned round, and honestly, for the health of democracy, we've got to get people believing that democratic politics, and we in cabinet, are actually prepared to listen, and make a difference to their lives.

And then they might bother to turn out and vote.

Jeremy Vine: On a broader question, this may not even be party political. There is a general perception that there is a rise in yobbery, in drunkenness, insolence, discourtesy, whatever you want to call it - where do you think that's come from.

David Blunkett: Well there's a fall in respect and I mean I, all of us struggling to be decent parents need to ensure that our children understand truth from fiction, that they understand respect from disrespect, that they actually understand that simply looking after number one and individualism, is unacceptable in a complex society, where we have a to survive together.

Secondly, we've, we've recorded more of the thuggery and the anti social behaviour and the binge drinking, because we've changed the recording rules.

And because we've reduced burglary and vehicle crime and robbery so substantially, or rather the police and local people have, then they're concentrating quite understandably, on low level thuggery and anti social behaviour, which is why we're acting on it, taking that action on a Saturday night, setting up the beat teams that were in the film, making sure that the new community support officers are part of those teams, expanding the visible presence on the street, and I think people rejoice in that.

Jeremy Vine: David Blunkett, Home Secretary, thank you very much indeed for coming in.

David Blunkett: Thank you.

NB:This transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.

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The next Politics Show will be on Sunday, 21 November at 12.30.

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