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Last Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Martha Kearney's week
By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's The World at One

On Monday David Cameron came back from holiday.

Pepped up by the salty Brittany air, he said he was picking a "bare-knuckle fight" with Gordon Brown.

David Cameron
Mr Cameron did not had an easy week after his return

I do wonder how that macho language goes down with Worcester Woman, the soccer mums or whatever label pollsters are now using to describe floating female voters.

First there was Labour's "big clunking fist" description of Gordon Brown, now this. Where will it all lead?

Will we need ABCs at PMQs? (Those are Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, if you're not up to speed on all the Asbo-style acronyms to tackle anti-social behaviour.)

The Conservative leader talked on the Today programme about "anarchy in the UK".

I wondered at the time if that had been a slip of the tongue, after some iPod holiday listening to Punk Classics You Have Loved.

But then a press release popped up in my email with the same title, so it was clearly deliberate.


David Cameron's campaign about a broken society seems to be resonating and certainly after the terrible murder of Rhys Jones there has been considerable soul-searching about what might lie behind the gang culture which has led to recent deaths of teenagers in London and Manchester, as well as an 11-year-old in Liverpool.

On Thursday's programme Iain Duncan Smith made the point that although there has been a recent focus on the Afro-Caribbean community, gang violence isn't rooted in race but a kind of culture where the gang is a substitute for the family.

Professor Peter Squires, who has been studying this violence, told us that the success of police operations with drug dealers means that younger and younger kids are being given guns to hold and drugs to sell.

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown has ruled out a referendum on the EU treaty

The political focus earlier in the week was on the health service and the Conservative campaign to call a halt on closures of A&E units and maternity units in English hospitals.

This seemed a clever ploy, especially as Labour ministers have been involved in local campaigns to save services in their own constituencies.

On Tuesday came a report from emergency service experts which said that lives were put at risk by travelling longer distances to A& E.

Labour was on the back foot until stories emerged that not all the units on the Conservative list were at risk and an apology had to be issued. Echoes of Jennifer's Ear in the 1992 campaign, one of our producers remarked.

This hasn't been the easiest week for Labour either.

From the US came criticism that Britain was losing in the south of Iraq. There's been continued speculation about when the remaining troops will move to "overwatch", handing over Basra province to Iraqi control.


The government's position has been that the policy is conditions-based withdrawal.

On Tuesday's programme we looked at one of those conditions in detail - getting the Iraqi police able to operate on their own, making them "fit for purpose" in the words of Mike Colbourne, the assistant chief constable of Bedfordshire police who is the chief UK adviser to the Iraqi police.

He is spending a year in Basra and told us how 90% of police stations are now functioning well.

He did however admit that there was corruption ranging from financial to murder and kidnap.

It seems one of the conditions for withdrawal may take a while to complete.

Gordon Brown's other foreign affairs dilemma is over the EU treaty. We reported this week on the new pressures from his own side to hold a referendum. At least six trade unions, including four of the biggest, are now calling for a referendum.

They are angry over Britain's opt out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the EU Reform Treaty.

There will be a motion at the TUC conference and probably one at Labour too.

We learned that ministers are in talks with the unions over the Charter, eager no doubt to avoid the issue dominating the conference season.

Downing Street was coy about whether the treaty had been discussed at Wednesday's meeting between the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown.

The body language seemed good between the two leaders. What had they bonded over?

Not the football at Wembley, surely.

My guess is that the productivity gap or asymmetric inflation targets were more likely to set those technocratic hearts beating a little faster. I wonder if M. Sarkozy will be jealous.

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