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Last Updated: Monday, 19 July, 2004, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Blair rejects 60s liberalisms
By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

In case there are still a few Tibetan yak farmers who haven't heard - David Blunkett doesn't like liberals.

Community support officers
Blair pledged to be tough on crime
This former leader of the socialist republic of South Yorkshire - as Sheffield Council was then known - has no time for bleeding hearts, branding them the "Liberati".

Now he seems to have found an ally in the shape of none other than the guitar-playing former longhaired CNDer Tony Blair.

And what do they blame for inflicting this curse on the land - a curse that has led to a breakdown in law and order, respect for authority and general nastiness? The 1960s of course.

The pair appear to have taken a leaf out of former Tory Chairman Norman Tebbit's book by declaring the decade of free love produced parents whose liberal, hippyish attitudes towards discipline and authority have bred a generation of feral yobs.

Too stoned

Nothing to do, presumably, with the governments of the time, the most liberalising of which was the Labour administration whose reforming home secretary was Tony Blair's hero (along with the guitarist from Free) Roy Jenkins.

Also nothing to do, presumably, with the example set by our political leaders over the past couple of decades.

Vandalism and graffiti will be targeted
Now, seeing Mr Blunkett casting himself as the puritan who "missed the 60s" - and not for the usual reason of being too stoned to notice.

But rock and roll loving, schoolboy rebel and part-time drifter Tony Blair?

If anyone in the cabinet shows the signs of being a child of the 60s then it is the prime minister.

He picks up a guitar at the drop of a hint, is prone to wearing jeans (horror of horrors) and refers to people as "guys". And it's a fair bet he has kept the Kaftan as a memento of the times.

Had enough

But no, he believes it is time to end the "1960s liberal consensus".

Smashed window
One in four people say there is a high level of disorder in their area
"From John Stuart Mill onwards, it has always been recognised that with freedom comes responsibility. But in the 1960s revolution that didn't always happen," he said.

Indeed, in the 1970s and 1980s the "basic theme" of legislation was around the prevention of miscarriages of justice, he said.

"Here, now, today, people have had enough of this part of the 1960s consensus."

This strikes a familiar tone. It is precisely the type of language used by the Tory party, and Michael Howard in particular, over the past decade and more.

That will allow the opposition to claim that Labour is up to its old tricks of nicking all its policies before the general election.

Street drunks

The prime minister will undoubtedly argue that this is a "personal crusade" and he has always allied his "tough on crime" message with policies to be "tough on the causes of crime" like social deprivation.

But he also knows that the problem of anti-social behaviour is a constant plague for some communities and they want to see a government committed to tackling it.

They want the street drunks, junkies, car thieves, mobile phone snatchers, graffiti "artists", litterers, vandals, obnoxious neighbours and aggressive and violent yobs - to name just a very few - dealt with.

So do Tony Blair and David Blunkett - and now they are promising to do just that. So, without any doubt, will Michael Howard.

So, once again, the two big parties will be sitting on the same ground come the general election.

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12 Jul 04 |  Politics


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