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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Cameron courts controversy
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Tony Blair had "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

Hood wearing youths
Hoodies need more love, says Cameron
Tory leader David Cameron seems to have come up with "Hug a hoodie, power to the police".

In a brace of speeches on law and order, Mr Cameron suggests hood wearing youngsters are often the product of their social and family backgrounds.

While anti-social youngsters should feel "painful" consequences of their actions, there is still a need to "show a lot more love".

And, in what is seen as an attempt to balance the message, he also insists the public want the police to be "crime fighters, not form fillers. A force as well as a service".

The comments are being interpreted as the latest attempt by Mr Cameron to re-position his party along more socially liberal lines by, according to his critics, again aping the early Tony Blair.

The central messages from the two leaders are indeed essentially the same. Tackling crime, violence and anti-social behaviour is all well and good, but it is only dealing with the symptoms, not the causes which continue to produce the behaviour.

Wash and go

Former leader Iain Duncan Smith, who set up the Centre for Social Justice where Mr Cameron is to make his remarks, explained: "What we are looking at are the root causes.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron has also called for tough policing
"We can't run away from the fact that the biggest single root cause is the massive levels - the highest in the Western world - of family breakdown and poor education for most of these kids".

Mr Cameron has certainly worried some in his party who supported former leader John Major's call to "condemn a little more and understand a little less".

It is also being pointed out that he is not yet announcing specific policies in this area. And that has led to ministers claiming he is simply seeking headlines with "wash and go" politics.

But these speeches are part of a strategy by Mr Cameron to appeal to a wider electorate.

He has dropped the last election campaign's dog whistle approach, which sent out coded messages on controversial areas that would only be heard by those looking for action in those areas.

Instead, he appears to have picked up the megaphone to broadcast his messages loud and clear.

Bill of Rights

They have included apparently minor, off-the-cuff remarks on the sexualisation of young children and shops that use special offers to encourage customers to buy chocolate.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith has led policy calls
More controversially, he has also suggested he might scrap the much-criticised Human Rights Act in favour of a new British Bill of Rights, and deny Scottish MPs votes on English-only legislation.

None of these have yet been translated into fully-formed policies. But each have appealed to specific groups or hit issues commanding the headlines.

His critics claim much of this is purely symbolic, that Mr Cameron wants to re-paint the Tories' popular image in a way that will take root in voters' minds but without committing himself to specific policies.

Inevitably, however, they have also brought opposition from some quarters - with former Tory Home Secretary Ken Clarke branding the Bill or Rights suggestion "xenophobic and legal nonsense", for example.

What policy does eventually flow from these announcements, and whether Mr Cameron can re-align the party without losing core Tory voters remains to be seen.


Cameron defends 'hoodie' speech
10 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Archbishop woos hoodie generation
02 May 06 |  Bradford
Hoodie goodie for first minister
26 Nov 05 |  Scotland
Are the hoodies the goodies?
01 Jul 05 |  Magazine

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