The creepy world of Charles Clarke

Posted by Alexander Hay

A recent article by the former Home Secretary proves New Labour's dark side is still waiting in the wings

Imagine a gormless home secretary, stamping on your rights, forever...

We are under threat. We need discipline. Control. We cannot be allowed egoism or unfettered freedom. We are a threat to ourselves. We must be controlled. Safety, always safety...

So former Home Secretary Charles Clarke all but said in his article published in yesterday's London Evening Standard.

Written in the sort of unyieldingly 'the ministry knows best' doggerel that did the rounds in the mid noughties, it also shows that the Clarkes of this world have forgotten nothing and learned nothing:

...High quality intelligence-gathering (central to modern policing) was strengthened by extending CCTV, improving communications and analysis...

Apart from sounding like it's out of a hi-fi manual, this sentence neglects to mention that the 'high quality information-gathering' failed to stop the 7/7 bomb attacks, didn't do a thing to stop the rise of anti-social behaviour and certainly didn't stop the police shooting a Brazilian electrician to death by mistake.

CCTV is also problematic. It might've come up with 'iconic' images in the last week (usually involving a 14 year old stealing teabags from a looted Aldi store), but even the police were expressing doubts over its deterrent effect during Labour's tenure, with only 3% of crimes in 2008 being solved by footage from the all-seeing eyes.

...and by establishing the national DNA database. We legislated for identity cards, which would have helped the police fight serious and organised crime - including in recent days…

Clarke neglects to remind us how that national DNA database was being established – in as sneaky a way as possible, by taking DNA from anyone who was arrested by the police, and keeping it regardless of whether they were found innocent.

The ID card scheme, meanwhile, was just a front for the even more sinister National Identity Register, which would have stored vast amounts of personal data - updated under pain of fines. Nor does Clarke explain how the NIR would have stopped the riots, but that's besides the point. The scheme was always about keeping tabs on everyone and not just the criminals.

This is the key fact to remember – whereas the Conservatives always act with their own best interests at heart, and to hell with everyone else, Blair and post-Blair Labour always acted with the presumption that people cannot be trusted and a worst case scenario is always just around the corner.

The first mindset is fundamentally callous – the areas hit worst by the end of UK heavy industry (and, soon, by the cuts) didn't and will in any case never cost the Tories votes. But the second mindset is that that hides behind every authoritarian and totalitarian state in history: The certain knowledge that not only do those in charge know best but that the ends always justify the means:

...The Conservatives must now abandon this hazardous approach. Effective policing should be given priority in the difficult balance with ideological civil liberties. Police officers should know where they stand and be given the support they need while they face the most difficult problems. The continuous stream of Tory criticism from the Prime Minister downwards should stop...

Because the police are always right, and Ian Tomlinson was just a blip. The state is never wrong. Never...

Perhaps it's down to the fact that many New Labour ministers were moulded by their links to radical left wing thought. Clarke was no Trotskyite, but he gladly shared his student Broad Left platform with the Communist Party. Another even more extreme Home Secretary, the very discredited David Blunkett, cut his teeth as the head of Sheffield Borough Council, then also known as the People's Republic of South Yorkshire. Tyranny is a hard habit to break.

But as befits the secret policeman's friend, Clarke has a hidden agenda. As a loyal Blairite, he has never forgiven the Brown camp for usurping his faction from No 10. Articles like this will both pander to Daily Mail readers and simply remind liberal and left-leaning voters of how they could not respect their own liberty and vote Labour at the same time. Both might hurt Ed Miliband, who is both more liberal (relatively speaking) and, of course, a Brownite. It's not just old habits that die hard, but old hatreds.

What is clear, however, is that ever more laws and ever more intrusion don't equate with ever more control. The past week has proven that beyond doubt. What is clear is that the New Labour belief that we are all guilty until found innocent remains alive and alarmingly well...

[SOURCE: London Evening Standard]

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Alexander Hay

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