David Blunkett – 2016 Speech on Britain in the EU


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the former Labour Home Secretary, on 26 May 2016.

The 23 June referendum could be and still might be, the opportunity to demonstrate the gritty grasp of reality which is surely the hallmark of the British people. A reality which has been displayed time and time again, in the glories and the tragedies of the past. In creating and developing alliances, in making sacrifices on behalf of others and yes, calling on others to rally to our defence in times of need.

Forty years ago I voted ‘No’ to staying in the European Union. So what has changed? The simple answer is “the world”. The dramatic change of the last four decades can be summed up in one word, “power”. Who exercises it, on whose behalf and how those without wealth and influence can use democratic politics to have their voices heard, their needs met and their rights and wellbeing protected.

From the school playground through to international negotiations, strength lies in numbers. From the emergence of the United Kingdom, to the development of the Trade Union movement, men and women understood that combining together provided power that individuals could never exercise alone.

In today’s world this has never been more apparent. Global companies exercise enormous power over the world economy; the lives, the jobs and the wellbeing of individuals and families across the world. From finance to modern communication, it is the global giants who exercise sway over our lives.

Some have compared the Googles and Amazons to the Roman Empire, and the collection of tribute and the exercise of cultural hegemony, whatever and wherever the nation state they touch.

Why is it that these giants, including companies like Apple, are prepared to do entirely different deals with China than other parts of the world, including on issues such as personal privacy? The answer is of course simple – 1.2 billion people provide a market which any international company would wish to get its hand on.

This is an example of a highly populated and increasingly powerful nation-state being able to “do a deal” with extraordinarily powerful forces in the private sector. It is about the reality of political power confronting market forces.

In or out of the European Union we are affected by decisions taken collectively by other European nations. In or out of the European Union we are directly affected by how the rest of the world perceive the United Kingdom, its economy, its potential trade, its standing in relation to influence in international affairs and decision making outside its own boundaries.

Hence the announcements of the International Monetary Fund, the view of the Credit Rating agencies, the opinion of the President of the United States, senior statesmen and women past and present really do matter. They matter because we are in a global economy, affected by decisions made collectively in relation to trade, to the handling of the threat and insecurity posed by terrorism, and of mass people movements across the world.

None of this can be dealt with or understood sensibly, with belligerence and bluster. The buffoonery of Boris Johnson is no substitute for rational thought or an assessment of and counterweight to, the reality of power. I have over recent weeks come to wonder whether the BBC should be renamed the Boris Broadcasting Corporation. Not a day goes by without some mention made by our main broadcaster of the increasingly irrational and almost irrelevant remarks of this newly converted politician, to leaving the European Union.

But this decision is not about individuals, it’s not about a contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party, it is not about the Conservative Party. This is a decision about the future of the United Kingdom, the future of our children and grandchildren, and above all facing the reality of life in a very changed landscape.

So, let me address two central issues that the Out campaign constantly say are upper most in people’s minds. Namely, security and immigration.

As Home Secretary in the period covering the attack on the World Trade Centre on the 11 September 2001, and at a time of enormous upheaval and instability leading to large scale people movements across the world at that time, I think I can claim to have some understanding of how decisions are made, and the impact that collaboration offers to achieving a successful outcome.

Fifteen years ago, I was in partnership with the then Interior Minister of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, later to become President. He and I got to know each other precisely because we were working together on what was then the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union. Both of us were opponents of the grinding bureaucracy that we sought to change. Yes, there is bureaucracy, there is enormous need for continuing reform but I make the point entirely to demonstrate that we are not the only people within the European Union, who believe in progressive change. The notion that only the plucky Brits are against bureaucracy, against overbearing centralism and the top down edicts of the Commission is frankly insulting to the rest of the democratic world!

We worked together with other partners including the then Interior Minister of Germany Otto Schilly, to get the right decisions made and to ensure that they were practical, workable and relevant to the key threats that existed at the time.

The benefits arising from enhanced co-operation and collaboration within Europe – rather than on a bilateral basis – apply equally to countering the threat of terror and dealing with the major challenge of the movement of people across the world.

In both cases we are talking about a global threat, not solely a breach of our own borders. On the one hand, the perverted ideology and interpretation of the world which leads to a threat to our life and economic wellbeing is nurtured and propagated on a global scale. Whilst it is true that the European Union is only one part of a multiplicity of collaborative processes for information gathering, data collation and sharing, it is an important element in ensuring common cause.

This is not simply (and this is true of so much of what we are dealing with in relation to our future in Europe), a matter of what we can “get out of” other countries including the European Union machinery. It is about what we are able to contribute in both helping and improving the ability to collaborate, with other countries. In other words, being part of the process is essential both in terms of workable practical measures but also the overall direction, relevance and competence of what is done by all those in a position to contribute. We should be asking ‘what can we do for you’, as well as ‘what can we gain from you?’

Yes, we are in a fortunate position that we are trusted by and able to work extremely closely with the United States on intelligence gathering, analysis and action. But it is extremely silly and beneath those who should know better to suggest that this somehow “trumps” if I dare use such expression these days, wider co-operation against terrorism on our doorstep.

The meetings we held at the Justice and Affairs Council, at a Europe-wide level after 11 September, were illustrative of the importance of the ability to work quickly and effectively with all those who were then part of the Union.

The European Arrest Warrant, the data sharing improvements, the use of biometrics and yes, improved collaboration on the wider European border all demonstrate the importance of what we call the European Union. In simple terms, if we had not had the EU, we would, on these issues, have had to invent it.

Suggesting that this amounts to some conspiracy for a “European State” and analogies with the intent of Hitler are not only dangerous and risible but illustrate the lengths to which the Out campaign will now go to distort reality in attempting to frighten people in a way that they claim to be a hallmark of the In campaign.

Actually, it is collaboration across Europe, building alliances with both historic friends and neighbours with the United Kingdom and new entrants from the East that ensure a balance of power within the Union. Power being one theme of my contribution to this debate, should to any intelligent human being, equal ensuring that no one nation or two nations working together can dominate not just the structures and decision-making processes of the European Union but of Europe as a whole. Remembering that in or out, decisions taken in Europe, the balance of power within Europe, the economic, social, cultural and wider influences, all impact on this, our nation off the geographic coast of mainland Europe.

We understood this in relation to the debate as to why it was important that Scotland remained within the United Kingdom. The same argument apply equally to the debate about the future of Britain in Europe. For it is about the future of Europe as a whole and not just the future of Britain, that should determine our vote on 23June.

Which brings me to immigration. The agreement that Nicolas Sarkozy and I reached in 2002, which saw the closure of the Sangatte camp outside Calais in 2003 was mutually beneficial. Both of us recognised that this was not a matter that either nation on their own could deal with nor for that matter was solely about France and the United Kingdom. This was about people being trafficked by organised criminals across the world, attracted by both a better life as well as in many cases, escaping from death and torture.

To reach the United Kingdom by land and water, involved having arrived in the European Union through its outer borders. The Out campaign talk as though what we are dealing with is “fortress Britain” where we erect on our own soil mechanisms to stop people actually arriving, touching our soil and therefore becoming entitled under international – not European – treaties, to claim asylum. Or, to disappear into the sub-economy to work and operate below the radar. This is frankly nonsense. The best way of illustrating why collective action can be effective and is important in terms of dealing with global displacement is the agreement, temporary or otherwise, between the bulk of the European Union and Turkey. The dramatic stemming of those breaching the European borders and flowing across Europe is a remarkable example of how you have to negotiate together. We are as much beneficiaries of the agreement and the steps taken as those who initiated these measures.

But as Nicolas Sarkozy and I recognised 14 years ago, you have to ensure that those seeking a better life realise exactly what will happen when they make their way across the European continent, and that this will impact on countries in the pipeline as well as those countries to whom the migrants aim to settle.

That is why in closing the camp, it was necessary to reach agreement on immigration, security and customs personnel, to be located on French soil. Effectively and for the French, counter-intuitively, to move the UK border to northern France.

I am absolutely clear that this agreement could not have been reached had we not built an understanding, worked together as part of and understood that our future was in, the European Union. Why would the French in other circumstances wish to prevent people reaching Britain? What measures do the Out campaign believe they could implement that would return those reaching our soil were we not to have this zone on French soil, which would enable them to return such individuals to France? Eurostar checks in Paris and Brussels, the double-lock of both French and UK officials on French soil dramatically reducing illegal entry into Britain is possible because we are part of the European Union.

Let me be clear. The fact is that having our security service representatives on French soil in Calais, at Paris Gard de Nord and Brussels Midi is a major safeguard that we have grossly underestimated in recent years. Were the French to decide to revoke the agreement, which leading French spokespeople have indicated, it would be a calamity for robust and rational border controls. This in practice means that we couldn’t use these immigration and security controls to stop people reaching our country. This would lead to an increase in asylum claims from people who came to our shores and the disappearance of tens of thousands of people into the illegal economy.

And to illustrate the point still further, and to lay aside the misunderstanding about “free movement”, it is worth just recalling that 40 per cent of those who declared themselves as applicants for the right to work when the E8 countries fully joined the EU in May 2004 were already in the country. I repeat, they were already here.

I have heard no one of any stature suggest that we would prevent people coming on holiday to the United Kingdom.

Once people are here they can so easily disappear into the sub-economy, as I have already illustrated. Our current mechanisms for electronic data processing, does not allow us to ensure accuracy in terms of those who leave our borders (embarkation) as well as those arriving. As the Home Secretary who initiated the E-borders programme, I am as frustrated as anyone else that over a decade has past and we are still not in a position to fully implement a secure and reliable system scheme.

It is in no way to dismiss the genuine fear that many people have in this country about too rapid and large scale immigration, to indicate that working together to tackle the causes, to reduce the flow and to manage what is inevitable, must be the only rational way of proceeding in a world which cannot be wished away, and where global events have to be dealt with on a global scale.

When the coalition government in 2010 abolished the Migrant Impact Fund, they undermined the proper preparation for and investment in new arrivals and the communities bearing the biggest challenge. With the introduction of net migration targets, which included full time graduate and post-graduate legitimate students, the Government set an impossible hurdle. Failing to reach it added to the sense that we were not in control of our borders. We are!

And here’s a thought. Were we to be Italy or Greece, or in the past Spain, finding 100,000’s of migrants seeking to enter the European Union through our shores, would we not expect and wish for help from the European Union as a whole? Would we quite rightly point out that we were carrying an enormous burden in circumstances where those entering our country wished to settle elsewhere? Germany and Sweden in particular, have taken decisions over the last three years to welcome extraordinarily large numbers of those fleeing from death and torture.

So, whether on countering terror and improving our security, or rational policies to reduce unmanageable immigration inside or from outside the European Union, we are able to use appropriate opt-out mechanisms when it is right for Britain to do so. This places us in a highly favourable situation in terms of cooperation and collaboration when needed, and separate national policies when required.

In a world of global markets, people movements and global blocks, we need each other more than ever before. In terms of finance and business, in terms of the nation state and democratic politics, the challenge in front of us is blindingly obvious. To have power, we need to be able to work together.

To gain that power, you need critical mass. The capacity and the clout go with scale, and with understanding the nature of globalisation.

That is why the strength, the innovation, and the talent present in the United Kingdom provides leverage beyond our capacity to deliver in isolation. By joining instead with others of like mind who want a better Europe, a less bureaucratic and corporatist Europe, but who also understand that we can only achieve this and our wider goals, by working together, a vote to stay in on 23 June is self-evidently the right thing for our future.

David Blunkett – 2002 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, to the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool on 7 October 2002.

I thought for a moment that Tony was going to walk straight forward, down the steps, out of the Conference, and say “You’ve got the most difficult job, good luck!”.

I want to thank colleagues across the country, nationally and locally, for the support they have given to the members of the Policy Commission and, of course, to the front bench team for what they have been doing. This has been a joint task, working together, committed together.

Some of you will know that I am deeply committed to what is called ‘intelligence-based policing’. I am particularly keen on this due to an incident that occurred 30 years ago. It’s alright, I wasn’t actually arrested at the time!

A Superintendent came to my house on a Sunday evening. He knocked on the door and I said “Come in”. I was a young councillor and he said to me “Do you drive a mini?” (I only got a Superintendent because I was a councillor).

I said “You know I own a guide dog?” He said “Yes, that’s the reason for my visit. You have been reported driving through the Ecclesfield district of Sheffield in a mini”.

I said “And I suppose the dog barked every time we got to traffic lights?” And gospel as I stand here he said “I don’t think that is very funny.”

I said “You know what day it is today don’t you?” and he said “No”. I said “It’s the 1st of April”. He said “What is the significance of that?”

Anyway I have restored relations with the police since and we are all working closely together.

Conference, there is no equivalent for crime of the Socialist Health Association or the Socialist Education Association. There is no equivalent in any political party. But our Party is returning to its roots in taking seriously the impact of crime. The importance of good policing for those most vulnerable, for those in the least affluent areas, no longer the silly nonsense of seeing crime and justice as an issue for the political right; no longer the delusion that stability and order are secondary to equality and justice – because they go hand in hand with equality and justice. It is a simple, historical fact that for progressive politics to flourish, for liberal ideas to be listened to, we have to have stability and order.

From the Spanish Republic to the Weimar Republic, to less obvious incidents in our own history where the more insecure and unstable people feel the more frightened they are, the more likely they are to turn to right wing solutions. That is why I am pursuing the line I am on stability and order. On tackling anti-social behaviour. On ensuring that our Party is seen to be on the side of those who are most threatened by the anti-social behaviour in our neighbourhoods, the actions that put people at most risk. Those who Tony talked about yesterday, who turn to us for solutions.

Our values, this Party, our Government, will meet that challenge. Not by Government alone, but in partnership with all those who have a role to play.

We accept our own responsibilities. We will invest the resources necessary. Resources gained by the economic success led by Gordon Brown. Resources made available because of the stability in the economy that we seek to replicate in our social policy.

We will work with those on the ground to take on those who destroy the lives and the livelihoods of others. Equality, opportunity, and justice mean nothing if people cannot live in peace and free from fear in their own home or down their own street.

We are aiming at nothing short of a change in culture. Self-respect and respect for others. The engagement of family and parents, of the wider community. And a new ‘can do’ attitude by the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the courts.

You are one and a half times as likely to experience crime in the top 80% of disadvantaged areas in our country, as the country as a whole. Five times as likely in those areas than in leafy suburbs. Over four fifths of street crime is perpetrated in just 10 police force areas.

So opportunity and security go hand in hand. Urban or rural. Rich or poor. We are all in this together. Subject on the streets and in our homes to the same attacks and the same challenges. Strong communities, working with a strong and determined Government, can make a difference.

So what are we doing?

Our policy was set in the White Paper published last December. We set out an end to end reform of policing and crime reduction. We then negotiated and achieved an unprecedented change in modernising and reforming the police service. We have passed the Police Reform Act. Slimming down the bureaucracy around Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. Ensuring that vehicles can be seized on or off the street when they are being used to terrorise others.

Record recruitment of police officers. 129,600 officers now available to us; 4,000 more than a year ago. That is something for all of us to be proud of.

And 4,500 extra civilian staff – twice the annual number ever recruited before.

The first 1,000 Community Support Officers coming onto the streets. 1,200 Street Wardens recruited through Neighbourhood Renewal and the work of John Prescott and his team.

Record investment coming in from a multitude of directions to begin to tackle the scourge of crime in those most deprived areas.

The upward trend in street crime is now just gradually being reversed. The commitment that Tony and I gave on robbery and mugging is coming round whatever the newspapers tell you. A 14% reduction already since the target was set back in the Spring.

And yes of course we know that unless people feel differently, unless they experience improvement for themselves, they will not believe the statistics. So the task is to change what is happening in their lives, making them feel different about the streets they walk on.

Tony mentioned yesterday the need to avoid scepticism turning into cynicism, the most corrosive way of undermining not simply the achievements of those working to bring about change, but democracy itself. The feeling that nothing can make a difference. That whatever we do, whoever we vote for, it doesn’t change a thing. That is what we need to take head on in developing not simply announcements as I am making today about more police, or civilians, or CSOs, but actually about the engagement of people in their own lives to make a difference.

Today I can announce a new target for policing. We will reach, by next Spring, 130,000. By the year after we will reach 132,500 police men and women and we will ensure that they are on the beat, doing the job, out there, visible, available, for everyone to see the results of a Labour Government investing in a police service that is reformed and is working.

And with 4,000 Community Support Officers by 2005, working with the police alongside them in the community. With up to 3,000 forensic scientists working with us using the new DNA testing. And with the Crime Reduction Partnerships, the Community Safety Partnerships at local level, investing in CCTV and in target hardening of people’s homes, we can tackle crime together. It is down by over a fifth. Under the Tories it doubled.

And yes of course there will be reform across the piece. An end to end reform of the Criminal Justice System. Balancing the rights of the victim, of the community, with those accused.

Wrongful conviction of the innocent is an affront to justice. But so is the criminal, the perpetrator of misery, walking free from the dock to commit their crimes again and terrorise the community.

The rights of the accused and the rights of the community must be balanced together. This is not a zero sum total as many writers and speakers talk about. You do not erode the rights of the honest, of the innocent, by increasing the rights of victims and the protection of witnesses. You do not diminish one by improving the other. This is not a see-saw. The debate needs to be about how we join together. Everyone working in and committed to a better system ensures that victims and witnesses are properly protected. That delays and adjournments are cut out. That faster justice means fairer justice for all.

And it can be done. Thanks to the street crime initiative we have already seen the changes that can be brought about by partnership working across the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, probation, prisons, and many others.

And thanks to Jack Straw and his team, we have seen already the work of the Youth Justice Board and the Home Office coming to fruition. The youth justice pledge that we would halve the time from arrest to conviction of young offenders has been more than met by this Government, but you never hear a word about it.

For this is reform and modernisation hand in hand in practice. Prevention, policing, and prosecution. But prevention surely has to be the most valuable of all. The Police Act will help with that. A new role for local commanders at divisional level. Priority payments for police who are at the front line, seeing the action on the ground. A reduction in bureaucracy.

The introduction of the Proceeds of Crime Act to tackle head on the internationally organised criminals who devour the benefits that people have accrued for themselves through the most sophisticated methods imaginable.

A drive against hard drug dealing. The establishment of the National Treatment Agency was only 18 months ago. With the Agency we need to develop treatment and support, and rehabilitation. We need an education programme that actually seeks both to prevent and to develop as part of our harm minimisation drive a system that works in the interests of everyone.

It was for that reason that I’ve recommended the reclassification of cannabis. To make sense of education, of policing priorities, and of the drive to tackle the scourge of our era which is crack, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. The drugs that kill, that put communities at risk, that undermine families and destroy the very fabric of our society.

So, testing and treatment of prisoners, new regimes in our prison and probation service. No – not seeking a target for how many people we will have in jail – but a drive to ensure that we minimise the number of people that we have to send to jail in the first place. That is the task we are setting ourselves.

To prevent re-offending, to make sense of sentencing, to use prison and community sentencing hand in hand. To develop the new intensive supervision and tagging system. But to ensure that dangerous and sex offenders are locked away as long as is necessary.

Our hearts went out to the parents of Holly and Jessica, and now to the parents and family of Milly. At this Conference Sarah Payne’s Mum, Sara, is present. We know we have a task to ensure that our children are safe. We have already promised to legislate this Winter for sex offenders and sex offences to be dealt with by a new common-sense approach.

Parliament must be able to act on behalf of the people. Democracy and legitimacy of politics itself depends not on protecting people from the will of Parliament, but protecting people from the actions of dangerous criminals on our streets.

Compassion is only really possible when people believe that common-sense prevails. That is why we will toughen still further the law on dangerous sex offenders. We have already taken measures, we have already committed ourselves in the Bill to tackling the scourge of chat-room abuse of the Internet, of toughening up in relation to the sentences that are handed out. But it is why also we need to clamp down on the evil around us of those who should be, or are not registered.

That is why today I am going to announce a new programme. Sex offenders will have to register annually. Using biometrics in the future may ensure that we do not only confirm who they are, but we also use technology to know where they are. We will ensure that those coming in from abroad have to register. We will work with countries abroad to ensure that they do, and anyone who breaks this provision will leave our country immediately.

Adequate sentencing, proper supervision, a register that has a check by the community – we have put on the multi-agency panels for the first time a representative of the community – will and should do the job. But I do want to say quietly to those who are campaigning: we cannot open the register to the vigilantes who do not understand the difference between “paediatrician” and “paedophile”..

We will do everything we can, but we must maintain the stability I talked about, the order imposed by us.

That is why the end to end review of the criminal justice system is so important; why the reform and modernisation must take place. Allowing our Parliament to protect the public, making sure that we do debate and understand that there is a public interest that needs to be balanced with individual rights, both of them upheld, isn’t in any way to undermine civil liberties. It is simply to secure common-sense and the confidence of the public, who at the moment by 74% do not believe that the criminal justice system works in their interest.

It is true of our task of building a civil society. Tony talked yesterday of an enabling Government; of working with and alongside people, not just for them; creating a sense of belonging, of shared responsibility, of citizenship that engages people in being part of the solution and not just passing it to someone else.

It is true of our task of balancing managed immigration and nationality and our asylum policy. Policies need to work, they need to build trust and confidence in the population as a whole. On 7 February in our policy paper, Secure Borders, Safe Haven, I spelt out how we intended to ensure that new routes for economic migration, for new channels of coming into our country, would be developed. We have already started to do it. As Gordon said on Monday, I have put in place that we will have a doubling of the number of visas for work permits given in the year ahead to 175,000 – the largest number in Europe, six times the number of work permits granted in Germany this year.

I promised to listen last year at Conference to calls to abolish vouchers. On 8 April I abolished the voucher system and I invite you to join with me in listening, but also in contributing, to find solutions to much more difficult problems than the one that seemed insuperable just 12 months ago.

So let me explain briefly why I have sought to secure our borders. Television programmes night after night last year showing people coming through the Channel Tunnel, far from encouraging people to provide a warm welcome, frightened people into believing that we were being overwhelmed. We were not. I have argued, as part of the economic migration programme, that we needed to ensure that people felt secure that we had got a grip of the problem. Eight hundred people from Coquelles depot alone came through a year ago. Last month it was one.

I went to Calais and Frethun and to Belgium last week. I secured in three months with Nicholas Sarkosy, the Minister for the Interior in France, agreement which means that at each French port there will be equipment that will ensure that we have properly organised immigration controls. We secured the fencing and security at the depots. Not because this is anti-asylum, but because it is anti the organised traffickers who are exploiting the exploitable across the world; getting their families to pay for children as well as adults to be trafficked across Europe, to be dumped in Sangatte, and then to try and make their way in containers or under trains across to Britain. It is a scandal that needs to be stopped and we should be the first to say so.

It is about demonstrating competence. It is fairness balanced by common-sense. Building trust and confidence, and building it in order to reject racism wherever it occurs. The Race Relations Amendment Act came in in April. We have set in train new recruitment from outside our Department for the Race Equality Unit. We have established a new social cohesion programme. We are actually putting in place the practical measures, and we are building trust so that we can welcome inward migration to our country.

The real task for all of us – and I say it to those who criticise me – is to take on those who are building up a campaign now (read the papers to see it) against any inward migration to our country whatsoever. They are arguing that we cannot take more citizens from across the world. I argue that we cannot afford not to take them from across the world to build our economy, to contribute to our wellbeing.

In the Bill we will toughen up on those who are clandestinely in our country, working illegally, and those who seek to exploit the most generous provisions for asylum seekers in the world. We will do so because undermining the Minimum Wage, destroying what the trade union movement has fought for in terms of conditions of work, isn’t all that clever, allowing people to work clandestinely at £2.00 an hour in our community.

I am interested in a fair, open Britain, and I am interested in breaking down the barriers of fear that stop those who are true supporters of our Party believing that we have got it right. That is the task ahead of us. For when I wrote a detailed essay in a book of essays, just a few weeks ago, and argued that as well as the mother tongue, English mattered in the home of Asian families, when I argue for an understanding of citizenship and our democracy, I do so not to dictate, but because through speaking English, through an understanding of citizenship, the opportunity for education and employment is opened up. It is an equality agenda. The mother or grandmother trapped in the home, the child acting as the interpreter, the host community unsure of how to break down those barriers on which racists feed. And of course language is one of those key barriers. That isn’t linguistic colonialism, it is just good common-sense.

Conference, by building trust we can put right historic wrongs. In the 1968 Immigration Act and again in 1981, those British overseas citizens, those protected persons, those British subjects who were given British passports, had no rights of residence in our country. They had no right to settle, to become citizens of our country. This week I have laid an amendment to the Nationality and Immigration Act to put right that wrong, to give them the right to sit, to stand, to work equally alongside us in this country, and we should be proud of it.

Conference, yesterday Tony said that I had a challenging job. Well he put it slightly stronger than that, but one or two Cabinet colleagues have taken offence. It comes and it goes. There aren’t many laughs, there aren’t many cheers, but there is a lot of satisfaction. For what we are doing from the Home Office team really does matter. It can transform our communities. That is why we work together, that is why you deliver the leaflets and argue the case.

Next year I will have been in the Party for 40 years – it ages me! I believe in our values. I fight for a better life for the people we represent, that you and I seek to speak for day in and day out. I say to those who criticise us, please do so, with solidarity as part of our mutuality. But please read what is said. Please listen to the words. Please let’s have a dialogue of friends. And let’s answer the questions together, because only together can we hold on to this majority in our Parliament, win back seats in local government; and above all to win people to the belief that this, our Party, is on their side.

David Blunkett – 2002 Speech to Social Market Foundation


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, to the Social Market Foundation in London on 26 June 2002.

Well firstly my appreciation for organising this evening and to all of you for coming. I’m going to have a go tonight to look more thoughtfully at some of the larger issues, not in order to pick out a single issue and make it the theme but to try and look at where we are in terms of race, race equality, its relationship to economic migration, the modernisation agenda and what it means in the 21st century. And I hope that people will bear with me in doing that.

The first thing to say is that I think we’ve made the most enormous progress over a 40-50 year period. For very many younger people, the memories of the 1960s will be non-existent. But it is worth just reminding ourselves that in 1965 a by-election was fought on race in Smethwick. That the inflamed passions in the West Midlands at the time particularly, centred on Wolverhampton and Enoch Powell – one of the constituency MPs as well as being a very clever, very intellectual Cabinet Minister who became obsessed with the notion that a flow of people whose skin colour, whose race, whose religion was different, posed a major problem to social cohesion and to the integration of our society.

And it’s worth just reflecting now that – Raj Paul, Lord Paul, is the Chancellor of Wolverhampton University as he was reminding me yesterday – that the most overt indications of racism, the “no blacks”, “no Asians”, “no Irish” outside hotels has thankfully gone mainly because of the 1976 Race Relations Act as well as a change in attitude and perception; that there are new and very different challenges that are not as obvious but nevertheless can be as assiduous and dangerous to people as those more overt racist indications.

And perhaps, even, if you go back to before even I was born, all those ancient years ago, to hear the story of Satchmo, Louis Armstrong, who spent a whole afternoon and evening trying to find a London hotel who would take him because he was black. Now that’s the reality of the world as it was, and I want to just reflect just a little on the world as it is today.

The world today still poses major challenges to us as a nation, not simply in examining our own conscience and what we do. I went through the mid 80s fighting a whole industry that grew up, an anti-racist industry where people were almost put through psychotherapy. They had to admit they were racist before they could truly be saved. And we had the most bizarre incidents when I was leader of Sheffield where we were trying to build a non-racist society, where we were the only major city in the country that did not have riots in 1981, because people actually did work from the beginning together to try and overcome difficulties, where we didn’t actually say “look, we’ll do this for you” but we actually engaged and provided the resource for the Afro-Caribbean community to build their own major centre and activity inside it. But where we still had gesturism writ large. For instance it came to my attention from a local journalist that one of the Sub-Committees was about to take an official report that suggested that the Council banned the term “black” on the grounds that it was racist and offensive. So black was going to be taken out of “blackboard” or “blackball” or just about anything. I don’t know how they were going to take it out of Blackburn but they were going to take the word “black”.

I rang a number of Afro-Caribbean colleagues of mine and said to them “I’m about to denounce this as a piece of arrant liberal middle-class nonsense. What do you feel?” and they said “Well thank God, because if you don’t, the ridicule, the disdain, the misunderstanding, the ability of racists to misuse it, will make our lives a misery” and I took immediate action. This was before the election of Executive Mayors you understand, but in those days you could get away with some things so long as they were common sense, and withdrew the report and the action. And the letters I got from a vast number of black and Asian residents, citizens in Sheffield, saying “Thank God you were able to take that action” encouraged me to believe that what we actually need to do is to address real issues, to tackle racism head on, to be prepared to open up transparently difficult questions but to try and do so in a way that makes progress, that takes us forward rather than backwards and that in the end is seen as changing people’s attitudes and perspectives. And that’s what I’m trying to do as Home Secretary.

Now I don’t pretend for a moment that I don’t make mistakes. I don’t pretend for a moment that some of the things that I say and do can be misinterpreted. But I would claim that progress is made by addressing, not ducking, issues and that if we can balance what we’re doing in a way that makes sense to the majority of people, we can take them with us.

The first thing I want to say, therefore, this evening, really is – that I don’t believe the majority of people in Britain are racist. Nor do I believe that it is helpful to offload personal responsibility onto institutions and organisations. There is no question whatsoever that historic structures and built-in prejudice reflects itself in the operation of institutions in a way that has to be challenged. No question about that. And the Lawrence Report – the third Annual Report on the Steering Group’s activities is published today – has made a very critical contribution to challenging how those structures have developed and how the way in which people operate and work, their attitudes and actions often reflect what has been structured and built in, to their work.

But unless individuals at every level, including Senior Managers, accept that it is their responsibility to do something dramatic about what they find, then we offload the responsibility into some sort of amorphous hole – “it’s the system that does it”. Now the number of times I used to hear that in the past when revolution was just around the corner where, if only we could overturn the system the world would be a wonderful place. If I could have had the number of hot dinners I heard that in the 1970s and 80s, I’d have been even fatter than Ministers get today! And the truth is, that we all, all of us, have to accept responsibility for our actions, for our attitudes, and for what we do about it.

So the message this evening is that there is a clear set of responsibilities on everyone, to share the problem and to be part of the solution. And that is true of different communities within our society. It’s of course true of, what, just for the sake of ease I will call a host community, where people have been settled for a very large period of time in terms of attitudes, in terms of actions, in terms of the way they see the world around them. But it’s also true of those coming into a country, accepting and developing their sense of belonging and identity and developing nationhood.

One of the encouraging things over the last few weeks, I don’t wish to exaggerate it, is that the flags – Union and St George’s – have actually been seen as a unifying force in terms of people during the Jubilee and the World Cup actually being able to come together and celebrate in a non-racist, non-jingoistic fashion and we need to get a hold of that very quickly and be able to build on it. It sets aside the use of the flag by the BNP and the National Front and jingoists in a deeply unhelpful and both racist and prejudiced way. It’s only a small signal but I think it’s something that we should build on.

The way in which, although there was fear developed from the 11 September, particularly by the Islamic Community, the coming together of leaders, opinion callers, in communities across the country, has actually helped in bridging the gap between racial groups, between Hindu and Islam – as I’ve seen again in the last few weeks in meetings with them over the issue of Kashmir – that can actually build greater trust and understanding and bring people together. It’s been true in the areas that experienced the disturbances last summer, particularly in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, but elsewhere as well.

And what we now need to do is to be able to build on the goodwill that has developed rather than let it go, rather than believe that once an incident is over, eventually things will just right themselves. Well they don’t need to right themselves because there was so much wrong going on that we need to be able to claim back that territory on an ongoing basis. And I want to illustrate that by picking up some of what emerged from the disturbances.

It’s not fashionable and it’s certainly gone out of the political culture to talk about class, but I want to do that tonight, very briefly. Very many of the isolationist tendencies, many of the problems that have separated communities are reflected in the issue of socio-economic disadvantage – of class. If you live in a poor area in poor housing, and you find that the education provision is less than satisfactory, the chances are that you’re there because your income or opportunity is low, that the standard of living you’re experiencing doesn’t allow you to literally escape from those circumstances. And that’s true whether you are white, black or Asian.

And because socio-economic class disadvantage is reinforced by racism and prejudice, it is very likely, in fact it is statistically the truth, that very many people with a black or Asian cultural background, find themselves experiencing that disadvantage. 70% of ethnic minority citizens in this country, resident in this country, actually live in the 88 most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Britain as defined through the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and the definitions that have been drawn up for investment by Government.

So, we need to tackle the inherent problems and we need to do so in a way that unites black and white, Asian and working class traditional communities, so that they know that they face a common problem and they need common solutions. And that is of course to have a decent job, to be paid well, to actually have their kids in schools that are functioning, as Estelle Morris was describing earlier this week, and to be able to see a physical improvement in their housing and their environment. That’s just a simple fact.

However, merely to stop there is to miss the crucial difference between 40 years ago and now because the overt racism that I was describing a moment ago is often now replaced by covert racism – the glass ceiling, the way in which people find themselves disadvantaged in wholly new ways. People whose children have actually experienced the opportunity and have taken it, of a decent education, and have found that disadvantage still faces them head on, that they’re being faced with prejudice in being able to use the talent and the experience they have. That they’ve found themselves in positions of moderate success only to be blocked in terms of being able to use that education, that experience, that professionalism in exactly the same way as their white counterparts.

Now it does vary, I mean it varies between ethnic groups as people know in education. There are enormous differences in terms of levels of success and there are in terms of job opportunity and earnings. But the surveys that have been undertaken, and they are slightly out of date, we’re talking about 2-3 or more years ago – and we need as part of the programme of bringing our Race Equality Unit and our work up to date, to actually do much more focused work on this – but the statistics are pretty stark in terms of what you can expect from one community as opposed to another.

So, I want to just say tonight that I think the Government have got a role in terms, firstly of acknowledging the problem themselves. That is, with public service action. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act came in this Spring and each Government department has a clear action plan which has to be then co-ordinated by us into a cross Government illustration of how people intend to overcome problems internally and how to then develop that plan into an annual programme of update. But secondly, to develop this in the private and business sector so that this is setting example in the public service but then not pretending that it is the public service alone that has the essential commitment to do the job.

So we need to work with the CBI and the TUC much more effectively. And the re-vamped and re-directed CRE needs to take on a new focus in terms of being able to make those essential changes. Because the way in which we develop not only what we know to be wrong, but the way in which we don’t know what we essentially know to be necessary to put it right, will make the difference between scepticism or enthusiasm from all sections of the community to actually be part of the solution.

I shall just reinforce again that we don’t want people to pass it across to someone else, always somebody should do something about it, but actually do something about it themselves.

To just illustrate that, I just want to give some statistics. If you take out the educational profile, the age and the geography, and you take the statistics – this applies to men only, I’m afraid, because that’s the way they were drawn up – we see that those from the broad black community have one third of the chance compared with their white equivalents of a professional job. For those from an Indian background it’s three fifths of the chance, from Pakistani and Bangladeshi it’s half the chance. In terms of earnings, those from an Afro-Caribbean background are likely to get £81 a week less than the equivalent white male with the same education opportunity, from an African background £132 less, from an Indian background it drops to £23, it rises again for Pakistani men to £129. The source of the Labour force surveys and the work that the Performance and Innovation Unit are just undertaking, which we will publish shortly, which will deal more broadly with some of these economic and educational issues and the factors that actually go in to demonstrating the difficulties, the gap, that exists.

But there’s no point in having good statistics. There’s no point in updating them, unless we are able to take pretty drastic steps to do something about it. And I think that is an illustration of the new nature of the challenge, of the way in which we need to deal with this.

I also want to just illustrate the importance of how we deal with social cohesion and matching the class issue, the socio-economic change with the new covert hidden glass ceilings and attitudinal, and institutional changes, with that social cohesion agenda. Partly because if you can bring communities together, at least in terms of their perceptions and perspective on change, and you can challenge some of the underlying difficulties that make bringing them together more difficult, then social cohesion isn’t an alternative to providing race equality but it underpins it and helps with it. Let me give just one or two examples.

If people believe that both the community that is seen as pulling together those from an Asian background with those from a traditional white background, are addressing common cause in terms of things that damage their life chances, then of course self evidently it will help them come together. But so, in my view, will addressing some of the difficult issues – because it prevents racists from being able to use those issues to make mischief. And it also demonstrates that we are one nation. We belong together. We’re not, as some people tried to say last December when I was raising these issues, to leave it to individual communities of interest to sort, what they called, “our” problem. It isn’t “our” problem, it’s “all our” problem.

The black women who are working through an agency called the Agency for Culture and Change Management are facing down the most enormous opposition within their community to stopping female genital mutilation. We in the Home Office are giving them a grant. I went to visit them. I was horrified at things they told me, that they illustrated to me, that I knew nothing about. Not just from one community, the Somali community, but right across many countries in Africa. The disappearance of youngsters in their teens back to those communities for what is an obscenity. And we should thank those women in facing within their own community, hostility to that change, because they’d recognised that this wasn’t some issue of culture, let alone of religion – which is what some of the older members were telling their teenage daughters – but was an unacceptable hangover from a bygone era.

And unless all of us are engaged with that, and we’re big enough to say so, then we separate out our communities and of course before anybody says it, of course, that is a two way street the other way. That people who find the way we keep our elders, that the way we deal with our youngsters, that the discipline that we would expect in our family and on our street need to be debated as well. This is not just a modernity issue, that was raised so vividly in the build up to the Netherlands election, but this is a two way process of challenging what is unacceptable but welcoming cultural diversity and difference. And unless we do the two, we miss the point of that balance.

In December, when I raised the issue of learning of the English language, citizenship, a welcome in terms of a ceremony for those who choose to become British nationals, one or two people called me a linguistic colonial and all sorts of garbage. When the Bill was debated in the House of Commons over the last six weeks, no one raised it, there’s been no opposition to it internally and all the opinion polling shows that the black and Asian community welcome it – in fact the figure is 76% actually on the Mori Poll welcome it – and believe it is a contribution both to developing social integration and cohesion and to a greater commitment and sense of belonging.

So let me just say for a moment how I intend, therefore, to develop the other strand of the work that I have responsibility for, which is about asylum and economic migration. It is very easy to misunderstand what I am doing on this, as it was on the speech in December and on the challenge of a two way street on integration and belonging.

What I’m trying to do is to develop a trusted, confident, workable asylum system with the help of the United Nations to actually be able to develop new gateways for people who are threatened with death and torture to be able to seek asylum in this country externally rather than coming in clandestinely under trains or in freight carriers. It’s taking time because the UNHCR are used to haranguing countries rather than actually working with them to find new solutions but they are doing with other nations and they can with us. They can, for instance, stop the 6,000 youngsters here at the moment, under the age of 18, who have been clandestinely trafficked across the world, singly, supposedly, with someone having paid the traffickers to get them here so that we can deal with the flow and the criminality as well as with the outcome. And of course we need to be able to deal with that by providing a different outlook from the Embassies and High Commissions across the world as well as working with the UNHCR itself.

We need, when people are here, to be able to deal with their claim effectively and quickly, and to be able to integrate those who justify their claim in a way that we’ve not done effectively before. But we also need to be aware that that isn’t the way in which those who seek economic migration should come. If 90% fail their claim with another 20% receiving exceptional leave to remain which allows them at the moment to work because we can’t send them back, then we have a situation where even the most enthusiastic opponent of myself, would actually acknowledge that most people would seek economic migration.

So why not facilitate that economic migration? Why not open up in greater degree the opportunity of people to come here, to work here, to develop their family here openly and legally. I’ve doubled the number of work permits this year to 150,000. We’ve opened up new migration routes in terms of skilled workers and in terms of those who are coming for short stay or for the seasonal work. We need, in Government, to get agreement on service sector, low skill, no skill work, to be able to do the same. So that we can open up those opportunities rather than literally hundreds of thousands of people working illegally in London and the South East, not paid the minimum wage with no rights and conditions, with their children no right of future abode, with exploitation at every turn, often with underpinning sexual exploitation by traffickers bringing in girls and women for that purpose.

In other words, there is a massive social as well as an economic agenda. But to sell it to the British people and to avoid the fear of change and flux which always creates tension and the danger of racists exploiting it, we need to do that effectively and legally. We need to have integration programmes that work. We need to deal with the consequent pressures on housing, particularly in the high employment, low unemployment areas. And we need to be able to support other services more effectively. That, I say, is the way in which properly managed migration should, and will, work in the future. And if we do that, then we can set aside some of the arguments which get off to the wrong foot immediately by misunderstanding those who are here to seek settlement as opposed to those who are granted settlement and welcome.

Two and a half billion pounds is the annual uplift in the economy of this country from migration. Over the years we have benefited enormously from those coming from around the world to work and settle in this country. We will need it even more in the future as the demographics change the balance of ageing. In fact, over 50%, within ten years, of those coming into the labour market as those of working age will be from those of either current or past ethnic minority communities. So there is an economic as well as a social imperative. And I believe there is a cultural one too in terms of the diversity, the literal colour of our community, the way in which we can live and work in wholly new ways.

That is a Britain of the future in a modern setting. That is a 21st century programme in which vigorous and determined anti-racism is matched by common sense, by dealing openly with issues that would otherwise fester and create the problem. And by providing a warm and lasting welcome to people who then become part of the country, have a sense of belonging, take on citizenship and work as we all should to ensure that that citizenship leads to mutuality and inter dependence. If we can get it right as the change we have been able to achieve since those days of the 1960s and all of us will be proud to be British.

Thank you very much.

David Blunkett – 2003 Speech to the Police Federation


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, to the Police Federation in May 2003.

Thank you very much indeed for an invitation to sunny Blackpool, the home of the tower – the Operation Tower, which is all about dealing with drug addicts and repeat offenders and is doing an extremely good job, and I commend the police here in Blackpool for what they have been doing.

So here I am again – a repeat offender. It’s only my second offence, so no doubt the Lord Chief Justice would give me a sentence in the community rather than in custody. But this year, I don’t have another cousin to pull out of the hat to give me protection. This year there is only one David Blunkett. So, you’ve got me.

I have, however, got some very special Harry Potter cufflinks – it says on them “No guts, no glory”. So I have got the guts and I want you to get the glory!

I want you to get the glory because we have come an enormous way over the past 12 months. We have reached agreement on a whole range of areas. We have seen – despite ugly rumours to the contrary – that crime is down by 7% over the last year, and 27% over the last half decade.

People disparage that – they pour cold water on it, they confuse it in terms of the national recording standards and the changes that have been brought about, and we need to do something to clarify the messages and the robust nature and credibility of the statistics that are used.

We need to do so not just because it is good for the survival of Home Secretaries, which is always a dodgy business, but actually because your morale and that of your force, of the people you work with, the ability to sell the job, to get across the effectiveness of the force, is materially affected by whether people really do believe that the police force in our country is doing the job that you know it is doing and I know it is doing.

I thank you for it because, day in day out, on the streets, in the neighbourhood, investigating major offences, and yes in bringing about social cohesion, you have been doing that job over the last 12 months. Remarkable work, throughout the Iraq conflict, including policing demonstrations.

And, Jan [Berry] – I am quite prepared to update the National Policing Plan in terms of the recognition of counter-terror, of the resilience function that the police are doing and will in the future be asked to do. I am prepared to listen and respond to the Police Federation, who are themselves prepared to look at reform and improvement.

The police force of the future is about all of us working together and listening together, and building pride from within the force, and pride within the community.

Look – as the Prime Minister would say – over the past 12 months we have had an enormous change in terms of continuing recruitment. We have had the target that I set – yes I did set a target because I thought it was crucial in terms of what Chief Constables would do if we didn’t – to get 132,500 police officers in place by next March (March 2004). By last September we had actually made 131,500. We will announce the figures through to the end of March shortly, but it is clear that there has been the most enormous change both in the attitude towards joining the police force and the ability to recruit really good new probationers into the service.

I say this with some temerity because I viewed the video of what happened to my predecessor when he talked about police numbers and recruits just two years ago. There has been a massive change. 4,300 officers recruited in the 12 month period to September. The largest ever recruitment since 1976. And again, for the second year, a massive change in the numbers actually applying and therefore the quality to be drawn on.

I think we can all take pride in that in terms of the message that you have put out, the work that you have done, and the ability to get a year on year improvement in police numbers, which is what I promised last year, and which the Government will fulfill.

There has been a rumour as well that I am not all that pleased with the judges. Now, as you can gather, this is completely untrue. I just like judges that live in the same real world as the rest of us. I just want judges that help us and help you to do the job.

I heard an ex judge on Radio 4 this morning. You could tell that we weren’t going to have too big a row today because Radio 4 weren’t interested in interviewing me. You can always tell when there is something sensible to be said and there is a dialogue to be had, because they are not interested – only in rows, only in controversy.

So they had the retiring judge, Sir Oliver Popplewell, on this morning. He told all about his new book where he learnt how football supporters shouted swear words at matches. How he had discovered that the community that he had been judging for all those years was actually quite different to the one he thought about, the one he had presumably met at school and at university and in chambers.

I am not intending to attack him. I know that when he said that he understood there was real concern about multiple child murderers, that he meant it. But what I want are judges who, when they mean it, ensure that the sentences are such that the perpetrators know that we mean it and the victims know that we are going to protect them. That is why I announced that life will at last mean life – no remission, no supervision, no having to join the register because they will remain in jail for the rest of their lives.

Do you know what Judge Popplewell said about that this morning? He said that it was popularism. Well I am going to say this, this morning – I have been prepared over the last two years to take head on tabloid newspapers when I have disagreed with them in a way that previous high profile politicians in this job have not necessarily been able to do. I have been prepared on a number of occasions to receive leader columns that have attacked me for taking them on. But I don’t think that responding to the needs of the public, I don’t think listening to the people that you serve and I represent, is popularism. I think it is decent common-sense in a democracy that works.

People are sick and tired of politicians that talk a good story and don’t do it. They are sick and tired of politics and Parliament excusing itself for not being able to do things rather than doing them. They are sick and tired of constant prevarication and delay within the political system. That is why fewer and fewer people vote. It is why people turn to extreme parties. It is why they are fed up with a system that doesn’t respond to their needs.

I give you a pledge this morning. It is not worth me being in the job – and I want the job, I want it through to the general election (that’s just a message to the Prime Minister for the reshuffle!) – and I have said to him the sooner the better because I am worn out doing the Police Minister’s job as well as my own. All of us want to be in our jobs to make a difference. We don’t just want to be there for the sake of holding the job. You don’t – you want to respond in terms of the community. I will speak in a moment about the things we have been trying to do to make that easier. I want to be in the job to change the world around me.

If every time I do that it is described as a gimmick, or if every time I do that I am described as an anti civil libertarian, we are going to get nowhere. I believe in civil liberties – I believe in the liberty of the individual to walk freely on the streets, and to be safe in their homes. So do you and we will do it together because that is what you are in it for.

But yes, Jan, we do have to sort out those things on which there is disquiet and on which we disagree. I didn’t come here today to be a populist, I came to try and address some of the issues.

And of course, the issue of special priority payments is one which is exercising you at the conference, and should exercise us because a disquieted police force is not one which will engage readily with other reforms and changes. And change will always be around us and I want the Federation, as you have offered today, to be part of that process, to be a driving force for change, not a resistor to it.

Not a single word of criticism has passed my lips, or those of my Ministers, of the police service over the last 12 months. I wonder, Jan, whether that is a record in terms of Home Secretaries and Ministers in the Home Office in history? I want to keep it up.

So let me talk about special priority payments just for 30 seconds and I will happily answer questions on it. Yes we did have a package. It did include the £400 uplift, the speeding up of the incremental scales, and the extra point at the top. It did include the competency payments that are going through. And yes it did include special priority payments and they are controversial.

So two things. Firstly, there isn’t a service or industry in the world that actually plays everybody exactly the same. We don’t in terms of our increments for experience as you go up the scale. We don’t in other walks of life in terms of what people are paid differentially for the type of job. But if we are going to get it right then I have got to be prepared to listen.

I am asking the PNB to take another look at the way in which special priority payments are operating. I will engage the Federation in discussions about how it can work better, including the management training needed, as all managers have to do as they actually manage the service rather than simply oversee it.

If we can do that, I think we can make the adjustments that will take anomalies out of the system, we can take some of the difficulty out of the process that you have experienced over recent months, but we will not – and I make this clear – we will not go backwards to where we pretend that everybody is paid exactly the same for doing very different jobs in very different circumstances.

That, in my view, is a balanced approach to the future, where you get the change that you believe is necessary and we get the continuing reform in putting alongside what is happening in the rest of the world, for the police service as a whole.

It may not be exactly what you want this morning, but I think we do need to listen and we do need to respond.

If we can move forward together, if we can actually take some of the difficulties that you are facing day in day out, and we can build into them the way in which we listen and learn – for instance, on ring-fenced funding coming into the service from outside and the issue of overtime – then we will get somewhere.

I don’t want the efforts on overtime reduction to have counted in them very specific ring-fenced money, including from other agencies, for a particular job to be done at a particular time.

So let’s look at a whole range of things that can make sense of good intentions and pick up what Jan Berry said this morning, which is to be prepared to sit down and listen to and respond to the Police Federation. In partnership we can do so much more than we can separately.

Today I want to address very briefly what I call the “3 Ps”. The reduction in paperwork and bureaucracy, the power to do the job, and a prosecution and court system that actually works in practice.

You know and I know that the O’Dowd report has not yet been properly implemented in terms of the objectives set and the way in which we can ensure that we reduce paperwork. Everybody in this country, including you, wants to ensure that the increased numbers in policing and the police family, increased visibility, availability, and accessibility, the ability of you to do your job – that isn’t in dispute.

I was the one who was writing about what had happened in New York before anyone else appeared to have discovered it. I was talking about ensuring that we linked intelligence based community policing with intelligence based investigation – the two aren’t contrary, they are hand in hand.

I want the reduction in bureaucracy to be the fuel for freeing people to do the job sensibly. In six forces, 2,000 local forms have been eliminated. If we can get that across the country we are in business.

The video ID parades have massively cut the amount of time spent on setting up and organising ID parades in those forces that have implemented it.

We have seen the change in live-scan, in terms of the way in which finger-printing is done – 45 minutes per accused – actually transforming the way in which people can do the job.
We have seen a whole range of technology used to allow people to contact the station without having to return.

And of course we have seen the street bail, which is both a power and a reducer of bureaucracy in terms of working where it has.

It can be done, but there is so much more to be done in driving it through. And Jan, you don’t want gimmicks, you want us to actually work with the Federation taking up the O’Dowd report and much more, and driving it forward. I will do what I am doing in the Home Office – I am asking staff in the Home Office to come forward with ideas on how we can transform the way we do business inside the Department. I would like that to be true of rank and file officers in the force as well.

So if we set up a system with the Fed, for you to come forward with ideas on driving out bureaucracy and paperwork, and we provide some reward for you to designate a local victims charity, to which we could contribute cash for the most successful ideas that come forward, I don’t think that is a gimmick. I think that would be an incentive and a way in which we could engage people at local level. It would also have the advantage of ensuring that my Department had to do it and engage with it, because from this morning I am asking Jan and her colleagues, on your behalf, to set up such a programme with us.

Of course these things are only small contributors. Of course they are not the be all and end all. There is a much broader programme.

The second “P” is about powers for you to be able to do the job more quickly. The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill is bringing in a whole range of new powers. The Criminal Justice Bill that I shall be leading on the debate next Monday and Tuesday, as it returns from Committee to the House of Commons. The way in which we need to drive forward powers that already exist, but people are not aware of. The Fixed Penalty Notices piloted in four areas – over 3,000 notices issued. And yes they need to be followed up. And yes when we fine people we need to make sure that the Lord Chancellor’s Department and the court system make sure that those fines stick.

As I mentioned a moment ago with street bail, we need to make sure that it works effectively.

The dispersal powers in the new Anti-Social Behaviour Bill need to be used effectively. These are powers where you know that there is continuing nuisance, that there are groups of youths and adults who are causing mayhem, but you don’t even have the old power that used to exist to disperse them.

You don’t have the power to declare within that immediate zone a curfew for anyone of any age.

These are powers that are now in the new Bill to close crack houses overnight, to have them boarded up within 24 hours, to take new DNA and fingerprinting tests without the kind of nonsense that we have had, to be able to hold those who are threatening us by terrorism for 14 days rather than 7 – the whole range of powers that we intend and will give you to do the job.

And as we have seen highlighted by local press this week, the power to confiscate vehicles off the road – a power that I find very little has been disseminated to officers to use. The power has not been spoken about or communicated.

We need to allow you to respond effectively to what you need,

I hope the coughing means that you agree with what I am saying, otherwise there has been a terrible outburst of SARS, which would be unfortunate.

And what about prosecution? I think we are all sick and tired of a situation where you do your job and you find yourself fighting the system rather than fighting the criminals. We need to take that bureaucracy out of the system to get the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts working with you. We need to do so in simple things, like improved disclosure, like changing the rules of evidence. Like ensuring that people who wait until the very last minute to plead guilty don’t actually get remission of their sentence, but also those who have enabled them to continue through the system to the point where they plead guilty, having wasted your time and that of the system as a whole, actually face a penalty themselves.

I spoke at a Law Society dinner in February. The solicitors were very nice to me. There was a table of barristers and when I announced that we were all sick and tired of the cost of late guilty pleas, they booed me. That is an indication of where we are at in terms of just some parts of the criminal justice system.

And I have a message this morning for Mathias Kelly who runs the Bar Council. If you think your job is to take me on, to take on the police service, to take on the victims, to take on the community, you’ve lost the plot. Your job is to protect the innocent and convict the guilty.

So the message this morning is very clear. You are on the side of the victim and the community and we are on your side in doing it. We are going to tackle violent crime and gun crime. 40,000 weapons were handed in in April – that is almost twice as many as the number handed in post the Dunblane tragedy 7 years ago. Almost a million rounds of ammunition. Not all the guns were going to be used by criminals, but some of them would have been, and they are no longer available.

And we are going to change the gun law so that there is a minimum five year sentence which I shall be moving in Parliament next week.

New powers, new determination, new partnership with you to do the job from the anti-social behaviour legislation through to tackling the most heinous crimes.

And yes we will listen about targets. But no-one would thank me if we hadn’t had the drive against robbery and street crime. No-one would thank you if we weren’t driving down burglary. No-one would believe us if we didn’t say that we had a joint job to do together, where reform and partnership go hand in hand to enable you to do the job you want, to overcome cynicism that abounds around us and to provide those safer homes and those safer streets that each and every one of us want our children to walk on in safety.

That is the task. We have started over the last year to build a new foundation together, between you and between us. I want to build on it in the next two years and I would like to go out not by being remembered as the man who nearly did it, but the person who worked with you, alongside you, to really make it happen.

David Blunkett – 2003 Speech on Multi-Faith Britain


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, on 30 October 2003.

I am pleased to be part of reinventing this lecture series after a break of several years – and pleased to be talking in my home county of Yorkshire about the opportunities and challenges of multi-faith Britain.

York itself may not be the most diverse community in the UK, but it has an interesting mix of thriving faith communities, especially here in the university – and of course the city has a long and famous religious history. But as well as the positives in that history there is also a reminder of the negative aspects which are part of the background to my contribution today – the anti-Jewish pogroms of the 12th Century.

The question I want to raise today is how much does faith matter in the 21st century – and I want to go beyond the obvious contribution to the identity and spirit of the individual. The further question is how, and to what extent, the interface between faith and politics, between faith and social interaction, is still important to us now.

Self-evidently faith is still important: locally, nationally and internationally. In Britain, 35 million in the 2001 census whilst not necessarily regular attenders declared themselves Christians; there are 1.5m Muslims, half a million Hindus, and hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, and people of other faiths.

Understanding the role faith plays in people’s lives is vital to community cohesion and race relations – and I know Charles Clarke is working with the faith communities on the future of religious education in schools. Faith plays a role at crucial points in people’s lives – times of great triumph but also sorrow – birth, marriage, death. It affects the foundation, the framework of our lives. This was true for me, as a Methodist – indeed, it still is. But all of us, even those who are not overtly religious, our basic values, our sense of right and wrong, our consciences, are shaped by our community and its religious heritage.

And of course from this foundation in the individual and the family springs the framework and structure of community – faith provides the building blocks, but also the glue, for many communities.

I have seen this in practice as Home Secretary. Take the visit I made to the Hindu ‘Mandir’ in Southall. Reaching out to the community, providing facilities like health screening, doing practical things which benefit everyone like cleaning up the local canal, as well as being the focal point of their own faith community. In nearby Edmonton, the Bible Study Network – a black-led Christian organisation – provides job-seeking assistance, which is especially important for young people finding their way in an area of high unemployment. Also in London, in Stamford Hill, the Jewish community is playing a big role in driving forward the local Sure Start programme – again open to the whole community. Up here in Yorkshire there are mosques in Bradford which offer creches and other facilities to the whole community, including Jewish residents. In Highfields in Leicester the Pakistani community runs a youth and community association, again open to, and used by, all local residents. And right across the country I know that Sikh Gurdwaras provide food to all who need it regardless of faith.

There is of course a rigorous debate between those who see the purpose of religion as saving souls and individual spirituality and those who see this as indivisible from the contribution we make through our lives and actions to the wellbeing of others. Ironically in the far south of the US the evangelical right, even though in their own lives they practice giving, in public life embrace the individualist route, rejecting the political process – unless that is to get their own man in the key post! Perversely they end up frustrating attempts to change the very circumstances that in their own giving they would want to change.

I think this is wrong: faith communities should not turn away from the political process. They have an important role not just in building strong communities, but in building active communities – communities which are actively engaged in solving their own problems. Any government which is interested in connecting with, mobilising, and empowering communities – and we are – is going to be interested in engaging with faith communities. That is why I have set up the Faith Communities Unit in the Home Office.

Faith communities provide people, commitment, drive, and sustainability – springing from inner conviction and strength. But they also have the very thing which makes activity and mutuality practical – namely, buildings in the community, leaders in the community, teachers and other support mechanisms. They have vicars, Ministers, Imams, Brahmins, Rabbis out there in the communities – the Catholic church, for example, had eyes and ears and an internet back in Medieval times, the kind of network which any political party today would give their eye for.

But here is the rub – we want people to gain strength and we want them to contribute, but is there not a danger in channeling this soley through their faith? When we want people both to participate through their faith community, but also to be part of and active beyond it – and sometimes despite it – this is the real challenge. The challenge for faith communities is to develop the skills and confidence of their members to play an active role in civil society – speaking and acting not just on behalf of their faith, but also on behalf of the local community as a whole. For example I have been hugely impressed by the contribution that the Harringey Peace Alliance are making with the police tackling gun crime and creating a safer community for people of all faiths and those of none.

Government has a role to play here, which is to facilitate interaction between the different faith communities, and between them and the wider community. We need to build on the spontaneous efforts faith groups are making themselves in this direction – for example the Institute for Social Cohesion, a Baha’i initiative bringing faith, community, business and government groups together to discuss how to improve community cohesion. We need to remember that in the UK we are lucky to be able to have this debate in a political context where faith and politics remain distinct spheres. In the international arena faith and politics are often directly mixed, and then they become not a liberator, channeling strength through faith into wider goals, but actually constrain political engagement and restrict freedom. The will of God or Allah becomes the will of the political state – and as such unchallenged and unchallengeable, and therefore non-pluralistic.

11 September placed the debate in the wrong context – but it focused all of us on disentangling religious commitment from the kind of religious ‘fundamentalism’ which can lead to extremism. Across the world people are addressing this issue. Where they don’t, they are forced to do so. We have to understand what is happening in a world where young men and women can be enjoined by their religious leaders to take their own lives and the lives of others as suicide bombers.

Let me accord absolute credit to those standing up to this within world religions. But it is important for all of us to join them in resisting and isolating the challenge of extremism, because it is not about to go away. There is a lot of talk these days about us living in a post-ideological world. The great twentieth century ideologies – communism and extreme nationalism – have been seen to fail. But the hunger for simple answers remains, and there is the danger that another form of extremism, religious extremism, will fill the gap.

Of course, it is crude to suggest that religion is essentially about simple answers. Signing up to Islam or Judaism or Christianity should mark the beginning of a lifelong journey of moral reflection and self-examination, rather than instant moral certainty. But there will always be those ready to distort religious teachings to satisfy the hunger for simple answers – encouraging their followers to define their faith and their identity in terms of their opposition to outsiders, rather than in positive terms, in terms of self-improvement and contribution to the community.

It is a worrying trend that young, second-generation British Muslims are more likely than their parents to feel they have to choose between feeling part of the UK and feeling part of their faith – when in fact as citizens of the United Kingdom and adherents of a major faith they should feel part of wider, overlapping communities. There may be a number of reasons for this including islamaphobia and religiously motivated attacks. It is religious extremism which forces them to choose, separating them from their citizenship and demanding the impossible. Again, the issue here is identity: whether people are able to identify with the actual world in which they live, or with another world they are taught about, which offers the absolute certainties which day-to-day interaction can never offer. We need to work together to resist this – by ‘we’ I mean government and faith leaders working together. Otherwise there is a real risk that instead of religion helping to build civic society and a sense of belonging among those who might otherwise become alienated, religion could actually increase that alienation. This risk is not confined to Islam: we see it also in some forms of Hindu nationalism, and as already mentioned it is writ large in some extremes of Christian evangelicalism.

The clash of cultures, within individual lives as well as within communities, the uncertainty of the second and third generation, these are all political issues – but they are also issues in which teaching and community attitudes can make or break the direction in which young people in particular choose to go. Teaching in religious communities whether evangelical, Christian, or Islam, is rarely spoken about, but it is vital.

This is not just a problem for Britain; our European partners are wrestling with the same questions. In France, which has 5 million Muslims, a real debate is under way. At the moment in France, 60% of Muslim preachers do not speak French. We should be working together with the Muslim community in Britain to ensure we are not going down the same road. It is crucial that those who have this key role in shaping the world view of our young people should be in a position to help them relate to the world in which they live, rather than turning them away from it. This is absolutely central for the development of the Muslim community itself and for the life chances of young Muslims, but also has a wider impact on social cohesion and race relations.

It is important that we work together and pool ideas – across countries and governments, across faith communities, and across the academic community as well. This weekend Fiona MacTaggart, the Home Office minister responsible for race and community cohesion, is participating in a European conference in Rome, with other government ministers and faith leaders, looking at precisely these questions – how governments should be engaging with moderate elements across faith communities to isolate extremism and promote social cohesion.

A large part of the answer has to be to teach and practise tolerance and respect. Britain can be proud of its tradition of tolerance and pluralism. Up until recently this has been about tolerating different versions of the Christian faith. We shouldn’t play down how difficult this was: the bitterest feuds are often between people who are close. But now we face a new challenge – living together with people of radically different faiths who often do not understand one another.

So we need to work harder at this. But we should never pretend that understanding will bring full agreement – that dialogue between faiths is a kind of search for ‘the lowest common denominator’. Tolerance is about accepting and respecting difference – the true test of tolerance and respect only comes when you disagree with someone. It is about agreeing to work out your disagreements within a legal and democratic framework.

At the same time, there are limits to where we can agree to disagree. We cannot tolerate the intolerable. Female genital mutilation is one example. Like September 11, this is not about East versus West, or Islam versus Christianity – it is about extremism versus modernity. It is an affront to modern values of equality, equal respect and respect for human life and suffering.

In fact, we think of these as modern values, but they lie at the heart of all the major religions. Secular thinkers mock believers for being more interested in saving the soul than the body. But religion has never just been about making promises for the afterlife. It is about making a difference now, to the actual reality of people’s lives. All the major religions teach us that in the end our lives will be judged on how much we have helped others.

Of course, in all the major religions there have also been, and will continue to be, times and places where these central values are obscured by upsurges in religious extremism. That is the challenge of a world where different peoples are at different stages of development. Oppression on the basis of religious difference – which in Europe was probably at its most vivid in the work of the Inquisition, but continues through to the Taleban in much more recent times – is a strand in human affairs which has to be faced up to. It places a duty on all of us not to turn away, but to redouble our efforts to connect with those who continue to fight for openness, tolerance, and respect. And it imposes on Government a duty to address the concerns of faith leaders. If we don’t do this – if we don’t show how moderate faith leaders are listened to, can really have an input into policy discussion – then we play into the hands of the extremists and rabble-rousers.

That’s why we committed ourselves in the manifesto for the last election to look at the government’s interface with the faith communities; that’s why we have followed through on that by establishing a steering group to look at ways of giving faith groups an input into policymaking and delivery. The steering group reports in December, and we hope its recommendations will enable us to make real progress in harnessing the energy and depth of commitment of faith communities. At the same time of course we will continue to support more immediate, practical projects on the ground, especially those projects which aim to build not just strong, tightly-knit communities but active outreach communities – communities in which deeply held faith is a springboard for individuals and groups to play an active role in civic society.

Let me finish by making it clear that while I believe faith communities are crucial to the working of civil society, I am not seeking to impose a duty on them to engage with the formal political arena. I simply want us all to recognise that in an increasingly complex, connected world we all share the challenge to finding solutions to our common problems. In that task we should do all we can to engage people of goodwill – both those of faith and those of no faith. Together we need to be clear that in the world we hold in common we need to work together to preserve and enhance what we value most – that is, our common humanity.

David Blunkett – 2003 Speech to the Association of Police Authorities


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, on 4 November 2003.

Don’t worry, I have come to praise not to bury Caesar. So thank you, Ruth, for what you are doing.

Thank you to all of those who are giving enormous time and energy to what must sometimes feel like a thankless task. I do sometimes have the same feeling, but I get paid reasonably well for it! Many of you don’t, so you have my appreciation for what you are doing.

Today I want to be able to spell out not only where we are at, but the process that we are about as well. We are launching a consultation paper today, along with the new National Policing Plan, which I will come to in a moment.

We do so on the basis that there will be a consultation period. We will then produce another document with more firm proposals and we will consult on that as well. We won’t move towards any change or legislative alterations until this time next year.

So there will be 12 months for people to engage in a genuine dialogue, to listen and learn, and to firm up on those things that we can gain consensus on in terms of how we can bring about improvement.

There is only one agenda and it is the same as yours. That is to ensure that we serve the people that we do serve better, and to ensure that the forces we oversee in one way or another are actually able to do so and achieve that as well.

It is very good to be in Manchester. It is not widely known, given the publicity that has just occurred, that the force has been at the forefront over recent months of addressing its own problems, under the leadership of Mike Todd, taking on the real challenges.

One of the ironies of the two year undercover investigation by the BBC was that it was precisely because a previous Chief Constable had actually admitted that the force did have a problem, that the BBC thought they might go in and prove it. Now they certainly did with a vengeance and as a consequence of the enormity of what was found, the Crown Prosecution Service will not be taking action against the individual, Mark Daly, who actually undertook that work.

But I do want to make it clear that we can’t for the public have those who take on responsibility and who are absolutely crucial to trust, emerging as not being police officers at all but working for someone else. I do appeal to the media that although there will be times – and this was clearly one of them – when undercover operation will reveal things that ought to have been revealed through normal management practices, we do need a code of conduct in this if we are not to have a free for all.

After all, who might emerge some day as being the real Greg Dyke rather than the one we have actually got?! Probably with the same accent.

Now, Ruth mentioned that Oliver – who is a good friend of mine actually (as you know, we get on far too well – too well for him and perhaps too well for me) – is speaking on Guy Fawkes day tomorrow. He will explain the multiplicity of options available to a Conservative Home Secretary if one still exists when the next Conservative government is elected. Ranging from sheriffs through to fantasy islands for asylum seekers.

Now I just thought I would let you know that I did once have a phone call with Oliver when he was riding a horse. I just envisaged him as the gun-slinging, gum-chewing, Sheriff of Westminster. A frightening prospect for you if not for Chief Constables! He is here tomorrow to tell you a little bit about the kind of reforms that he is envisaging.

I am interested that we are now all on stream in terms of actually wanting to see some change. It makes your life, Ruth, a lot easier because you ride a tiger – a tiger with no political majority, with a consensus that by its very nature is crucial to the police authorities’ voice being heard and taken seriously.

And yet a consensus that can only be gained if we in government and our main opposition parties are sensitive to knowing that many of the things you are doing at the moment are misunderstood, are not known about, are not heard about, and therefore raising the temperature is about raising the profile.

It’s about actually getting across what needs to be done and what could be done.

I am comforted in my role to know that there is possibly life after death as being Home Secretary. After all, Michael Howard has re-emerged as the leader of the Conservative Party. I gather that I will have to give it a year or two and re-invent myself, which I am very happy to do! At the moment you have got me as I am.

I just want to say today that the easy life is to leave things alone. I think it was Margaret Thatcher who said that no change was not an option. And clearly if you want to improve your standing publicly, but more importantly your ability to influence and to bring about change at local level, you will want to join with us in looking at what might be done over the next year to re-examine that.

With the Chief Constables, with ACPO, and with yourselves, I am up for looking at what we really mean by operational responsibility. I said so on the Today programme this morning. Not in terms of breaking the tripartite approach – I think we need to reinforce it by being much clearer about the different elements (the role, the responsibility, the levels of accountability) that should exist in the three part approach – but actually be able to define it much more clearly.

Simply shouting ‘operational responsibility’ does nobody anybody good. Of course Chiefs and Commanders at divisional level have to have day to day hands on responsibility. Nobody in their right mind, let alone a Home Secretary in or out of their right mind, would attempt to direct policing from the centre. You wouldn’t, as police authority members, either want to, or have the capacity to, get engaged in doing that.

So there is no surreptitious agenda of taking away the right of those in the service to manage the service. After all, I don’t have the power of hire and fire in the civil service for historic reasons and to avoid politicisation. Because of the Nolan changes, we don’t now have the power in terms of the appointment of those representing outside organisations and the community.
We have moved from politicians determining who serves, who chairs, who is on all of these outside bodies, to civil servants, with at least one outside observer helping them do it.

You have a situation where you have to exercise influence through the relationship and goodwill that exists between you and those operating the service. We need to examine how that might work better and what those influences might be. But above all, we need to examine how we enable you to do the job better.

Hazel Blears will be talking tomorrow about the new slimmed down National Policing Plan – from 51 requirements to five key priorities. The five obviously relate, I think, to the commonsense things that all of us would agree on.

Incidentally, they don’t include targets on chasing motorists and speed cameras. I mention it because you mentioned it, Ruth. But I did read an article in the Daily Telegraph a week or two ago that actually presumed that the government had laid down targets for police forces on catching motorists with speed cameras.

Well you suffer, we suffer, from both misunderstanding and sometimes malign intent because it makes a good story and people can do a knocking job.

But actually what we are about in this debate is changing performance. It is all about lifting the game. It is about comparability between what is achieved – not just between one force or another, but within one force and another, and the reasons why.

I think that the job of the Home Secretary – apart from resourcing (and I will come to that at the end, so that I go out on a low note!) and the legislative power to enable the police to be able to do their job better (as well as their partners – environmental health, housing, the whole panoply of organisations that make up crime reduction partnerships) – has to be the role in terms of having the information and disseminating the information that makes it possible for people to actually be able to make those comparisons at local level.

For you to be able to determine what is happening with genuinely comparable police force areas, because you have to compare like with like. To be able to do so in terms of different elements of the command units in your own force areas. They vary from forces that only have two or three command units to areas like Greater Manchester with eleven, and of course the Metropolitan Police with borough-wide command unit areas. We need to be able to look at the data and work out why there is such inconsistency.

So my first point is that consistency is absolutely crucial. When people move house they expect the quality of policing to be the same across England and Wales. We live in the same community, we pay the same taxes, we expect some form of accountability. Accountability to you in terms of police authorities, remaining the same or revamped, or slightly reshaped, or to the community that is served in new ways.

So part of the reform agenda isn’t simply about the shape of police authorities, but how neighbourhood panels can work better, how this fits in with the reforms that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is engaged with – with what is called new localism. I am not entirely sure about the title. Some of us were involved with this a long time ago. I remember writing a pamphlet 21 years ago called ‘Building from the Bottom’. I still believe it and I think that we need to examine that area.

The third, of course, is the visibility and the accessibility, because part of influencing what takes place in the neighbourhood and at local level is very much about the connection that people have with their force. The citizen in uniform was, of course, the emergence of the police force of old, where people felt close to, and able to engage with and get a response from people they saw and understood.

All of this, of course, relates then to how you develop police forces in the 21st century – with forensics, with technology, and of course with the tremendous challenge of organised crime and global criminality. Force level, neighbourhood, command level operations, are interfered with on a daily basis now by the diversion of resources to meet entirely new challenges.

We need to address that and I welcome your views in terms of any restructuring. Not some big bang restructure, not structure changes for their own sake, but sometimes just modest thinking about lead force areas in terms of a particular region taking on particular tasks that expertise can be developed in. Or some form of regional structure dealing with particular areas of criminality that require that focus.

These are all part of the consultation and the reform agenda in which you have an absolutely crucial voice. Firstly, because you know it well. Secondly, because you have the capacity to put together alternatives to the ones that we just tentatively touch on in what is a very green edged Green Paper, but in order to ensure that we face those challenges together.

There is no point in saying to a Chief or a Divisional Commander that we want to ensure that there is continuity of employment of community beat officers if, of course by necessity, those officers have to be pulled off for major murder inquiries or something similar.

They had this experiment with research funded by Rowntree in North Yorkshire, which frankly tells us nothing. It was in a neighbourhood where there was a particular individual employed who was pulled off so often from the community, that in the end the community were less certain, less secure, than they were before the experiment began.

That just tells us the blindingly obvious – that if you are going to have good community policing you need continuity of the people being there. That is why Community Support Officers have very rapidly become so popular, because people can see them and on the whole they don’t get pulled off for other duties.

Also because people do need to know that the intelligence-led approach is not simply about macro intelligence and technology-led activity, but it is about people who know their community, who understand it, who can relate to it, who are respected by the community.

So these things go hand in hand and that is why accountability is of course about performance and the spreading of best practice, but it is also about re-engagement with the community at a level that people can understand.

So I don’t think there is anything to fear from this. I think all of this fits in with the five priorities that we have laid out for the National Policing Plan. The people, citizen-centred focus, for the service. Tackling the anti-social behaviour and disorder that completely bedevils the community and undermines trust and confidence. Reducing volume crime – even the best Chief Constables who are community orientated are still aggravated about having targets on burglary and vehicle crime.
I understand why, but if we are going to have a debate leading up to the general election – when not the British Crime Survey, but tit-for-tat who-reduced-recorded-crime-the-most is going to be the issue – you will forgive Home Secretaries if they actually want to reduce volume crime.

So do the public because when they hear that crime has gone up a certain percentage, certain numbers, in the end that undermines all the good work that is going on in tackling the underlying causes and the things that really get to people most. After all, it wasn’t the Home Office who introduced the new National Crime Recording Standard. We have got it now and we have got to live with it.

Transparency is a wonderful idea, except that, when we published the figures in July, one Deputy Chief Constable in the North East had the audacity to tell his local paper that it was nothing to do with him – that it was the Home Secretary who had introduced the new NCRS. Thank God the neighbouring authority had a Chief Constable who actually contradicted it. It’s a bit odd though isn’t it when a Deputy Chief doesn’t know who introduced the new National Recording Standard? So a bit of accountability there wouldn’t come amiss. I just thought I would get that off my chest!

I have mentioned tackling organised and serious crime and we are engaged at national level with looking at revamping the services – the organisations, that are actually engaged with organised crime and border controls. The Prime Minister has established a new Cabinet Committee, which I chair, and we will be engaging rapidly with how we can make the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, the Customs element, the intelligence element of the immigration service, and many more (including Special Branch and those who are engaged along our coastal borders), more accountable and work more effectively together.

And of course bringing more offenders to justice is a key and absolutely critical element. But if we are going to do that then we need to ensure that everyone gets credit for what they do. There is no point in having more transparent, and therefore more recorded crime, with more police to report crime to and therefore more confidence and more acknowledgement by the public that they have trust and faith (and reporting of crime goes up), if as the police actually catch more of those people, the press (as they did a few weeks ago) then denigrate the police for not having caught a higher percentage of a higher recorded level of reporting.

The level of understanding in this country about crime, criminality, and recording, is so poor that we all have a task together to try and bring a bit of light into the darkness, so that people do get credit where credit is due.

So in launching the pamphlet it is precisely to open up these issues. To engage with the neighbourhood, with the command and divisional level as most of us know it, with the shaping of those who have a role in terms of holding the police to account in a way that is positive for the future that we’re engaged in.

And you naturally and understandably commented heavily on the idea of direct election. I made it only one of six possible changes that we outline in the document. I am deeply mindful of the danger of rabble rousers or racists becoming elected. It would be very easy indeed – which is why we are sceptical about sheriffs – to find that one person, for instance, had greater power than ever before.

But in the end, you are right. Whether it is Merseyside or Baltimore, unless people actually have an understanding of who to hold to account and for what, and how the police authority could work to be engaged more and to have greater influence, then obviously we would be wasting our time. We would be deluding people into believing that you had power you didn’t have, and that you were to be held to account in a way that missed the point – the point being that those who claim to have the power, who wish to hold the power, should therefore be accountable for the power.

I need to clarify over the next year what the role of the Home Secretary would be in the future. Oliver and Mark can set out what they believe to be right. If they believe that we should denude the Home Secretary of any levers of power then let’s have that debate. I don’t mind standing up at the dispatch box and blaming everybody else but myself, that would be a very easy role – gun-slinging Home Secretary without any bullets in the gun.

We don’t have all that many bullets in the gun as you may have noticed, but what we do have we must use more judiciously. We need to address, for instance, issues of centrally imposed bureaucracy paperwork and statistical data collection in a way in which I hope the new head of the Standards Unit will assist us.

Paul Evans from Boston in the United States has a tremendous record. A light touch, low key individual who I hope will work with you and with forces across the country to achieve this.

But the other end of the corollary is that if forces believe that bureaucracy is imposing unnecessary burdens, they must say so. If police chiefs believe that there is something that can be done, let them do it. Don’t let us have Chief Superintendents
e-mailing the Radio 5 programme – as I had when I was at my Party Conference – with a whole litany of things for which he, as a very senior manager, should have had responsibility.

It is time for the police service to lead and manage, and not just oversee the operation of the force requirements. Management means manage, difficult as that is. Difficult in terms of the deployment of resources. Difficult in holding their own force members to account. Difficult in terms of demanding why it is that response times are so bad in some areas but not in others.

Why it is that the way in which people are treated when they report crimes are so bad, but not in others? Why it is that Superintendents tell me that they are so frustrated with the call centre which they and their chiefs should be overseeing and changing?

It’s not about passing the buck to someone else, it is time to really get a grip. So that when the public tell us through the opinion polling and the focus groups, which have been done carefully and quietly over the last 12 months, that almost 80% of the public want to know more about the police and believe that they get to know very little; when over two thirds want more say in how the police respond; when 34 out of the 43 force areas are still reliant on the old PCCG consultation mechanism set up in 1984, and every one of the 34 say that they know it is unsatisfactory; then there is room for change.

So alongside genuine fears that you have about what we might or might not do in terms of direct election, there is a much, much bigger agenda. It is about prompting change within the service itself as well as within the operation of the police authorities. Not just so that people know who to grumble to, so that they have somebody else to let off steam to, but actually to change the practice. Because letting off steam and frustration must be something that you feel day in, day out.

If the public feel it, you must feel it. I feel it because thousands of letters come in and when you go on radio programmes and you do phone-ins – I was doing the one on Radio 2 the other day with Jeremy Vine – an avalanche of calls about the very simplest things in police force areas.

Now I made the cardinal mistake of a Home Secretary in believing that I might have some influence. So I asked them to take their details down so that I could take them up with force areas. I do have one advantage over most police authority chairs. If I create a real fuss there is a chance that it might get covered. There is just a chance that I might be able to call in the Chief from the local area. They might recall my first few months as Home Secretary and take me seriously about it.

But there is a bigger chance – if we actually have a better relationship, if we have systems that work rather than relying on muscle – if we are able to deal with people where it matters.

That is why I have put forward the idea of community advocates who would be employed, I hope by you, and working to you, but actually able to engage with the police at local level. Filtering out all the things that cause frustration but are not the job of the new IPCC complaints function. Weeding out things that would otherwise actually pull the police away from doing the job into dealing with constant gripes. Able to be a voice working with you and alongside you. That seems to me to be a positive suggestion. Let’s shape it in another way if you don’t like it.

There are a couple of services – the Met and the West Midlands – looking at engaging people from the community as assessors in terms of appointments. Let’s look at how that is working and whether we could do better with it, including at neighbourhood and local level and how we could engage people so that they are genuinely involved and included. And let’s do so with the optimism that we are genuinely making a difference.

Under the British Crime Survey, which is the only reliable survey because its methodology hasn’t changed, except that it has been slightly broadened, we know that crime is falling. In other words the polling is now broader and therefore more reliable. We know that people are getting a better service. We know that the likelihood of becoming a victim is the lowest for 20 years.

We know from the British Crime Survey that even though the fear of violence is going up because more violence is now counted – violence that was never counted before in recorded crime is now counted as an automatic and regular feature – we know from the BCS that serious violence overall has actually fallen over the last year.

We need to be able to sing about the fact that we have 12,000 more uniformed officers than three years ago. We had some catching up to do, but I think 12,000 more is a pretty good record. I would like to go out of office with an even bigger record of increased police numbers, of the several thousand – it’s 2,000 at the moment – Community Support Officers.

A lot better than going out of office after four years with 1,000 fewer police officers than you came in with, which one of my predecessors (who will remain nameless but is a very prominent individual at the moment) will remember.

And joining together – let me step on dangerous territory – on ensuring that in the spending review next summer there is a very clear understanding that we are all intent on resourcing the police properly. That we know there is a very difficult balance between what you have to raise locally – the £2 billion that you raise locally – and the near £9 billion that we are allocating from the centre. A difficult balance for the very reason, Ruth, that you spelt out. That the gearing effect that the public understandably don’t understand – where for every 1% increase in local spending you have to raise 4% over and above what we are giving you – in those circumstances we need to get it right and we need to know what the demands are.

Over the last three years there has been a 19% increase in real terms over and above inflation. This coming year will be very tight. No authority will get less than inflation, but it will be much tighter for the Police Grant, plus of course the additional resources that come in from the centre which are allocated to the locality, including the 50 current Command Unit divisions who get direct funding of £50 million from the centre. And the drug-related Criminal Justice Intervention Programme which we will be announcing an expansion of in the next few days.

All of these things coming together to make it happen.

If there are precept increases of the magnitude (and I said this to the Chief and to the Chair of the Police Authority in North Yorkshire last week) of 76%, you are going to give me a hell of a job in arguing the case with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor. But reasonable, sensible precept increases that have to take account of gearing, that do recognise that this is an incredibly tight year. But also that local people want more police visible and accessible on the beat, that you need to resource – yes even helicopters seeing as though they are sponsoring your conference – even helicopters surveying the neighbourhood. That they want a police force that can use the best technology and forensics available. And that we want to continue pressing down on crime, raising numbers, and giving confidence to the public.

If all of us can join together on that agenda – difficult as it is to be a popular Home Secretary – it just might be that police authorities of the future and well-known, highly visible Chief Constables and Commanders, will have both the respect of, and the gratitude of, the public for a better police service in this country than we have ever known before.

David Blunkett – 2004 Speech at the New Local Government Network


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, on 22 January 2004.

Thank you very much indeed for the invitation, and David can I just reassure you that Sheffield didn’t plumb the depths while I was there! It certainly is reviving very strongly. It’s reviving with a combination of self-help and government help.

Firstly, I think this is very timely. I think this conference is appropriate in dealing with some very broad and difficult issues. It reminds me that in reflecting on the cross party commitment to localism, which sometimes comes and goes – and which at the moment seems to have come to all political parties – that it has been a long and difficult road from; if I can be mischievous for a moment – from Joseph Chamberlain to Sandy Bruce Lockheart. We have had the commitment of powerful Conservative leaders to de-centralised, regenerated localism, and from Labour Party members like Ken Livingstone and myself we have had a recent history of commitment to innovation and enterprise in local government.

But it is much, much broader. And I don’t want to simply address the issue of local government today – my colleagues the Deputy Prime Minister and Nick Raynsford are responsible for that, but the wider context of how central and local government can facilitate the sense of identity, the sense of commitment, enterprise, and innovation, which comes from localities, from neighbourhoods, from towns and cities and counties.

It seems a long time ago since the days of Joseph Chamberlain, but it was actually at a time when central government was concerned with issues around international order, the British Empire, the issues around the place of Britain in the world. And it is one of those paradoxes that today we are dealing with the issues of security and stability in a new globalised world and a global economy – the challenges of terrorism and cross-boundary issues, the way in which all of us are subject to what is happening across the world in a way that I don’t think was conceived of even 20 years ago.

And how, just as with the days of Empire, it is at the very local level that people identify – that they have a sense of belonging, that the security and stability and order in their own lives can be reinforced. This is how the tremendous change and rapidity of change that is taking place around us – the challenge and sometimes the fears and insecurity that grow from globalisation – can actually be counteracted and counterweighted by providing support – particularly at local level.

I think that this is the challenge for all of us in government, at whatever level, and in terms of governance. It fits with the history which was one of initiative and enterprise and innovation, building from the bottom (which was the title of my own pamphlet with the Fabian Society just over 20 years ago). It is about building from the bottom in the sense that it is in people’s own lives that they experience the day to day challenges, and they turn to governance and government at each level for support, and backing, and enabling in terms of being able to resolve those problems.
It was from the neighbourhood, it was from the early days of communities – with the goose and burial clubs, that from their name were all about savings for Christmas and for dignity in internment – it was the working men’s societies, it was the local education trusts that came together and then demanded that they were supported and helped in broadening what they could do across local, and eventually across national government.

I think that we need to turn to that localism again and to remind ourselves of it in being able to develop new approaches – not simply in terms of shaping how we relate to local communities and local people and neighbourhoods from the centre, but also how we revitalise democracy.

I don’t think there is a single person in this room who wouldn’t accept that we have a major challenge in getting people to feel that they want to engage, that they can engage, and above all that they have confidence in the political process – which, after all, in our country is the essence of democratic change – in a way that doesn’t allow them to turn away, to be alienated from that democratic process; that doesn’t allow them to turn to extremes in terms of those who would delude them into believing that there are simple answers to very complicated questions.

Nor do I think there would be anyone in this room who would seriously believe that government itself could disengage from those issues.

There was a time, when I was heavily involved as Shadow Local Government Minister, and before that as Leader of Sheffield Council, when the late Nicolas Ridley was the Secretary of State for the Environment. I can remember him making a speech that his ideal situation would be for local government to have an annual meeting (he did actually say with a lunch, but I don’t think you would be able to afford it these days) where contracts would be agreed for the year with private providers, and then Councillors could go home and get about their business.

I don’t think any of us are into that. We are into supporting the change which reinforces the good that’s already taking place, the best practice that is already happening, the enabling and facilitating that is already part of the revitalisation of localism. And to build the confidence that drained away – and David Walker is entirely right about this – in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so that I think there was doubt in the minds of those who took on the tremendously difficult mantle of trying to revitalise their communities. Doubt about the role, about the uncertainties, about the relationship of locality to centre.

I think that is why this debate around civil renewal and about regeneration from the neighbourhood is critical.

We have seen put in place over the last few years new forms of relationship between the centre and the locality. It has varied between regeneration programmes driven by the Single Regeneration Budgets, which have seen panels and forums put in place, through the New Deal for Communities. It has seen the reinforcement and revitalisation of a belief in central government – the 2000 Act and the 2003 Act passed by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to providing new opportunities for charging policies, for wellbeing.

The powers that were put in the 2000 Act for the development of local government’s role in terms of local wellbeing are often forgotten and little talked about. The way in which the new business improvement districts, which we will be consulting on from July this year, will enable people through local ballot to decide for themselves whether they want to raise and spend. And how they wish to spend money, including on the areas that I have responsibility for in terms of security, order and stability, and an environment and quality of life which enables enterprise to flourish, tourism to be encouraged, people to go about their business in terms of shopping and leisure without fear.

And therefore this afternoon it is my hope that we could just engage for a moment with those issues around stability and security and order.

It seems to me that over the years the role of the locality has changed. We have seen developed the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships – often described as Community Safety Partnerships. We have seen the gradual amalgamation of the Drug Action Teams into those partnerships. We have seen the engagement by local government itself, but also the local strategic partnerships, and community forums and panels.

It varies across the country but the intent is the same – to engage people in making decisions, and to reinforce the message that they are part of the solution; that mobilising local communities against drug abuse and misuse is a crucial part of that process. That actually engaging people with local policing, with the development of Street Wardens and now with Community Support Officers, is part of ensuring that people at local level are engaged as the solution. That we can actually cross agencies, departments of central and local government, and see it as part of our challenge and our problem.

I therefore hope that from the debate that is now taking place, we can see community safety as much a part of that local governance as leisure and libraries, emptying dustbins and the environment, because they all go together. The ‘broken windows’ theory about the way in which neighbourhoods disintegrate and the way in which once that is allowed to take shape, other forms of criminality and disintegration are reinforced, is just simple commonsense. We all know it is true. The moment that things start to slip, the moment that self-belief in the community disappears, is the moment that those who can afford to do so get out of those neighbourhoods. And when they do, they leave behind less capacity. They reduce the community and social asset base. They actually undermine, therefore, the capability of the community to be part of the solution.

It is a downward spiral that was mapped pretty clearly in North America and which I think we have seen some reversal of in terms of Britain. There was a fear at one time that the disintegration of inner city, that the movement out of urban areas, that the despair and disillusionment in those areas facing the greatest disadvantage, would be reinforced and that there would be a spiral downwards. I think that has started to reverse. I think that in our own communities we experience it. We can see community organisations revitalised. We can see people regaining a self-confidence and self-belief that allows them to engage. We can see the organs of government, including local government, warming to and engaging with those activities.

I remember when I was a very new Councillor in the early 1970s being severely told off by some of my older colleagues in my own Party for daring to advocate that we should support local Citizens Advice Bureaux and advice groups, on the grounds that it took away the essential role of Councillors being completely run ragged by every problem going in the community. Those days have long gone.
I remember being taken to task, and in fact given a good telling off, for being in favour of a local community newspaper run in one of our most deprived areas, on the grounds that it challenged the local hierarchy and was a dangerous pre-requisite to community development, which was obviously seen by both major Parties at the time as a dangerous trait.

In fact I remember Margaret Thatcher, when she first came to power, pulling the plug on advice and community development programmes which were seen as an aberration and something that would challenge the bastions of democratic politics.

Well I’ve not changed my mind. I actually think that engaging people in radical politics in their own neighbourhood, ensuring that they know that those who are elected are on their side, but that they inevitably will have to take much more difficult cross-cutting decisions and show leadership, that revitalising democracy by bringing it alive and making it real at local level makes sense.

So as part of my own remit and as part of the ‘big conversation’ that the Labour Party has engaged in, we want to hear how we can make available to the many what is currently only available to the few.

Take the example of gated and secure communities. Not just in London but primarily in London, there are communities of the wealthy – sometimes through the leasing arrangement, sometimes through a levy – where people contribute towards the security and order within the enclave in which they live. Not just security in the crime sense, but also in the quality of the environment.

When I lived just outside Wimbledon I was part of the Wimbledon Common association where, compulsorily, all those within three miles had to contribute – and still do – to the wellbeing of the wider area and the environmental improvement, as well as the patrols on the common. Everybody took that for granted.

Now the legislation that I have referred to – business improvement districts, the charging policies based on best value, the wellbeing provisions of the 2000 Act – give the possibility of being able to develop this concept in a way that would provide greater equity. Of course it means that both central and local government would have to equalise what was readily available. It is easy for those of us who are on reasonable incomes to agree to pay a small extra amount purely into our local area for a very localised product, without fearing that it will somehow be part of the wider debate in relation to Council Tax and precepts, which I will come to in a moment.

It is possible to do that and it is already happening – where Street Wardens have been funded, where (in some cases) local government has topped up Community Support Officers in order to link with the police to provide for a particular local need. For instance, in the experiments that have taken place through English Partnership and in London through the London Development Agency, we have seen night wardens – in Coventry, actually used to provide safety and security in the city centre, which I think is a very good and positive move.

What I am advocating is a debate about how we can build on those experiments and ensure that people know that they will get backing in doing so.

The impact is obviously one of giving people confidence to be able to go about their business, but it is also one of giving confidence in being able to regenerate the area, attract investment, get parents to want to stay and send their children to the local school that is part of the local community, that is part of the regeneration and rebuilding of the area.

Doing it in partnership, which is the absolutely crucial element, so that we are sharing the resourcing and we are sharing the task. Changing the relationship between government and governed, so that people genuinely feel not only that they are being enabled to take decisions, but that government at every level is there to help them do it. Thirdly, to revitalise democracy and strengthen citizenship and civil society, so that people are part of the process of reform and modernisation.

At the beginning of November we published from the Home Office a consultation paper on reform of policing, both in terms of the relationship and accountability of the police to local communities, and the structures to back it up. We have had very substantial and very welcome feedback, and we are still getting that over the next few weeks. We will then publish a more definitive consultation paper which again will be out for people to comment on and to be creative in coming back to us in the way forward.

What is absolutely certain is that this is a two-way process. The police can’t do their job in creating an environment of safety and security if they don’t have the backing and the engagement of local people. But local people aren’t going to warm to, have confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole, if they aren’t listened to, if there isn’t accountability and responsiveness at local level, and therefore the establishment of panels, the decentralisation to Command Unit (or Divisions as some of us call them) in terms of decision making within the police. The way in which this links to regeneration programmes and capacity building, and the development of assets in the community, all makes a difference to whether we are likely to succeed.

So we are in this together: greater accountability; a greater clarification of where responsibility lies is important because there is confusion about this. Confusion and muddle are the great buzz words of the moment. It usually means that someone doesn’t understand what you’re talking about and we all carry responsibility for making sure that we speak plainly and that we are understood. I take that as a key principle for national politicians as well as for those reporting what national politicians are saying and doing.

Take the crime statistics that are out today – the quarterly figures. We have two sets of figures. We have recorded crime which, under the new transparency, is seeing a vast number of crimes that previously weren’t recorded now being recorded by the police – with more police to report them to and so even more recording going on. It is very encouraging that, even with that proviso, vehicle crime, burglary, and robbery have gone down, and I welcome it, albeit that they’re relatively small additional drops on what has already been achieved. But we also have the British Crime Survey – which is a world leader in terms of what it actually samples and what it does – which again shows drops. But one shows a stabilisation in violent crime and the first, the recorded crime, shows an increase.

I don’t think anyone would dispute that people actually perceive that violent crime, particularly low level violent crime, has gone up. Not surprisingly, because of binge drinking and the recording of low level violence on a Friday and Saturday night. Not surprisingly, because we have already spelt it out that there is a real challenge on domestic violence, which is why, with all-Party support, we are legislating to get a grip on it. Not surprisingly, because anti-social behaviour, as we were spelling out earlier this week, is bedevilling our communities. This is why, through housing, environmental health, through the police, through the criminal justice system (including the magistracy and district judges), we need a different step change in terms of what we are doing in tackling anti-social behaviour.

But anybody who thinks that this is the sole responsibility of any single partner would be deluding themselves. So the issue of where accountability and responsibility lie is sometimes very difficult because it lies in a whole range of areas. Actually, usually at Home Office questions, it lies with me, whether it is a partner approach or not. So those who are in favour of operational responsibility and accountability at local level suddenly have an aberration when it comes to making sure that the Home Secretary is responsible for crime across the nation.

It’s a cross I am happy to bear. All I would ask is that the reality – whether I carry final responsibility or not – the reality for making change, lies with us all.

And that is really just the message that I wanted to get across this afternoon. That if we are going to debate revival in the neighbourhood and community, and if we are going to actually address what the causes are, and if we are equally going to take responsibility for being part of it, then we will need to do that together.

It is self-evident that central government has to give leadership – responsible not only for resourcing, but obviously for wider macro-economic issues. Which is why the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor and myself, with Nick Raynsford, the Local Government Minister, are asking for restraint in terms of Council Tax levels. This is why I am going to be engaging heavily with police authorities in terms of their precept levels because they have an impact on the Council Tax. We must be balancing the need to invest in local services and the complexity of local government finance, with genuine responsibility nationally and locally for the impact it has on the wellbeing of others.

And I think that is a sensible debate. I think those who are, as the Deputy Prime Minister and his colleagues are, looking at how to find improvements in the way we raise resources, will need the help of those who, at the moment, understand the difficulty, but aren’t always so ready with answers that would find solutions to difficult problems. I know about this because, when I was Shadow Local Government Minister many moons ago, I was dealing at the time with the demise of the Poll Tax and the creation of the Council Tax. We were debating exactly these issues about the difficulty where you don’t have buoyancy in the system because you have to raise the tax just to equal inflation before you bring about any further investment. The issues of gearing where, if only a quarter of the overall taxes are raised at local level, then for every 1% (you’re familiar with this) of increased spending you are raising 4% in terms of the tax. These are difficult, complex issues.

We are in it together because whether it is a precept or whether it is the direct Council Tax, it all impinges on people’s lives. That dialogue with local people about what they really want and what they can pay for is so vital to the future.

We are asking – and we are working with the Local Government Association on this – that local authorities should come forward as what we are describing as ‘civic pioneers’ in terms of spreading best practice. We will try and ensure that, through the grants that are given to Community Safety Partnerships and the Drug Action Teams, and of course the Criminal Justice Intervention Programme, we reflect support from ourselves at the Home Office in terms of making it possible for people to engage in innovative ideas as to how to engage with greater security and order in their lives. As the foundation for regeneration, for quality of life, for wellbeing and, I have to say, for getting people to hear messages about progressive politics and about wider issues. Because people who are frightened and fearful in their own lives are most likely to disengage.

But there is a wider issue here as well. That is this. If we can engage a sense of identity, a sense of belonging; if we can use the best of local initiatives, like the Balsall Heath Forum, like what is taking place in East London with Bromley-by-Bow, the work on the Royds Estate in Bradford, and work in Newcastle, and many other parts of the country, where people have seen the initiative and enterprise of local people being critical to success and to change; if we can do that, we can have a wider impact on social cohesion, on community and race relations, on people’s confidence in welcoming change, coping with change, and being prepared to welcome and understand and live with difference and diversity.

So there are big gains to be made here right across the piece in terms of the capacity of people to cope with difficulty and change in their own lives, but to be welcoming and embracing of wider changes in the community.

It can’t be a top-down approach – it is going to have to be two-handed. But in the end the challenge at local level is for local government to embrace what is happening in the neighbourhood, to reinforce and welcome it rather than to see it as a threat. For central government to see innovation and change and ideas from the neighbourhood and from local government as a plus not a minus. And for central government to be much clearer about where it stands in terms of its areas of responsibility and where it should be held to account, and where this lies elsewhere.

If we can get it right it’s a plus for all of us, from whatever political stance we take, because at last local people will engage. They are more likely to vote. They are more likely to understand what is happening in their own lives across the piece – whether it is health or education, whether it is the environment they live in, whether it is housing issues, or whether it is anti-social behaviour. And if they do so, we will have a more vigorous, alive, and vibrant democratic system.

I challenge not just you – because you’re here because you believe in it – but everybody across the country to say that they don’t want that to happen. If they think this isn’t the way, or they think as I do that it’s only a part of the solution, then I think they need to be courageous and honest enough to come forward with ideas of their own.

All of us know what we don’t like, all of us know what we are against. Actually what we are in favour of and how we are going to bring it about is a much more challenging and difficult issue to deal with.

I am glad that this conference is taking place and I wish the Network well, and its relationship and work with the Local Government Association and the IDeA will be absolutely crucial.

I hope that we can go from strength to strength in being able to square the circles, deal with the contradictions, and have a damned good row when we genuinely disagree.

David Blunkett – 2004 Speech at Harvard Law School


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, at Harvard Law School in the USA on 8 March 2004.

I am very pleased to be here in this great city and University which are both such powerful symbols of the strength of our shared history and connections. A history which has not – of course – always been harmonious but which has perhaps rarely been closer than it is today. I am reminded of a story about our first Ambassador to the United States – then based here in Boston. A year passed during which time no communication was heard from him. Silence which gave rise to some concern back in Whitehall. So much so that the Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary communicated and agreed that should a further year pass without any word from across the Atlantic they would have to write a letter to him. What a contrast to today when our Governments correspond and speak perhaps on a daily basis.

The Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States are often depicted in their responses to the international terrorist threat as destroying traditional human rights and freedoms. I want this evening to explore and indeed challenge that theme, partly through the prism of history and the development of ideas and partly by reflecting on the reality of the challenges that face us today and indeed with which I engage on a daily basis through my work as Home Secretary.

I take as my starting point the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognises that the most fundamental human rights are those of life, liberty and security of person. This implies for me that people who are killed or maimed, bereaved or put in fear by terrorists are stripped, cruelly and arbitrarily, of their rights and that security and safety is the underpinning raison d’etre of government.

So the dichotomy which some people seek to establish between the rights of people to be protected against terrorists and their right to enjoy traditional liberties is I believe a false one. It is not a question, therefore, of choosing between rights, but achieving a balance which maintains those rights. Our Lord Chief Justice, who doesn’t always take my side, said in a speech to the British Academy in October 2002:

“There are pressures created by the need to protect this country from merciless acts of international terrorism. These pressures will test the Human Rights Act. But the Human Rights Act is not a suicide pact! It does not require this country to tie its hands behind its back in the face of aggression, terrorism or violent crime. It does, however, reduce the risk of our committing an ‘own goal’. In defending democracy, we must not forget the need to observe the values which make democracy worth defending.”

I wonder if Abraham Lincoln in his letter to the Albany Democrats was not making a similar point when he said: “Thoroughly imbued with a reverence the guaranteed rights of individuals” and explained that he had been “slow to adopt strong measures”. He predicted however that “the time was not unlikely to come when I shall be blamed for having made too few arrests rather than too many”.

Any politician with these responsibilities can immediately empathise with the tension that Lincoln is identifying. Someone with a progressive outlook who was faced with extraordinary challenges of the time.

As we confront today the awful prospect of the suicide bomber, we need to continue that crucial and necessary debate – a debate I led in the House of Commons two weeks ago – about how to maintain that vital balance, and the options we have in maintaining our democratic values, whilst protecting our democracy.

The development of our traditional rights

Fortunately we do not come to the task unguided by our history. The insights which help guide us in striking the balance between the security and liberty of the many and the rights of the individuals have been the work of centuries.

Some may argue that some of those blows for liberty were struck in this very city against some of my predecessors in office.

It is often argued that the traditional rights enjoyed by citizens of Britain and the United States can be traced back to Magna Carta – albeit at that stage rights for a rather limited strata of society! I have recently been reading about this very period, the context of the time of King John and so the development of Magna Carta – or its immediate re-write to be more precise. It has certainly been a reference point for the development of these ideas.

With your own founding fathers other rights were added – freedom of religion and speech – building on the protestant tradition of John Locke – freedom of assembly and of the press, rights relating to privacy, which of course brings its own contradictions, and the separation of powers – building on the ideas of the French philosopher Montesquieu.

At the same time, in Europe, Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau were attempting to square the circle in a different way, focusing on democracy and active participation, rather than a fixed constitution, as their preferred way of reconciling individual freedom with society’s need to pursue shared aims and values.

John Stuart Mill too, in his own way, tried to reconcile his belief in individual freedom, passionately set forth in ‘On Liberty’, with his commitment to social progress and rational social choice, which showed through in his writings on government and the utilitarian philosophy.

All these thinkers appreciated the value of the individual, and individual freedom, but also appreciated that extending that freedom more widely – beyond the leisured intellectual class – would not happen automatically, but required some positive action on the part of the state. They disagreed on what form that action should take, of course – but when didn’t philosophers disagree!

It often seems as if modern politics does not leave us with time today to be philosophers but just as our ideas are shaped by the thinking and questions of the past, so I believe that it is important for us more directly to allow the insights of the past to speak to us afresh.

That does not of course mean that we cannot move from the ideas of the past. In our own day we have taken forward this agenda of the development of human rights and made our own distinctive contribution. I would point especially to the legislation we have introduced in both our countries against discrimination and exploitation. For example, the common law provided no general protection against unfair discrimination on racial grounds. That is now enshrined in legislation. In Britain this protection was first introduced by one of my predecessors as a Labour Home Secretary Roy Jenkins in the 1965 Race Relations Act and others have built on that, most substantially in 1976 and recently further changes by my immediate predecessor Jack Straw.

But perhaps the more dramatic challenge for our own day is to protect our freedoms in the far more complex global environment in which we now operate. An environment which means economically, through trade, communication and politics that we have to address these big issues afresh with a world – rather than national – stage in view. A stage in which the additional challenge of balancing collaboration and intervention with pressures for isolation and disengagement brings its own strain.This also has implications for international military action. Our Prime Minister outlined precisely this approach following the Kosovo war and repeated it in a speech last week. He called for a “doctrine of international community, where in certain clear circumstances, we do intervene, even though we are not directly threatened. because in an increasingly interdependent world, our self-interest was allied to the interests of others; and seldom did conflict in one region of the world not contaminate another”.

Isolationism and protectionism may be possible and may bring benefits in the short term but neither will sit with finding a way through the challenges for world stability and justice. And ultimately, we cannot keep the challenges and problems perhaps stemming from other parts of the world entirely from our own shores.

And so there is an added dimension to that evolving process of balancing rights in our own day. And that is balancing the needs and rights not just of our own citizens but of people throughout the world. And in the same as domestically we are now talking much more about rights alongside responsibilities, so we must do the same in the international context. We must not make the mistake of thinking too much about purely individual rights and too little of duty and responsibility.

Of course at national level we have institutions to help us achieve this balance between individuals communities and the State. And in your own country that also means between the different elements of the State. And I am encouraged that what clearly emerges on both sides of the Atlantic is a subtle dynamic, yet highly robust, sharing of power. In both our systems, power does not rest in one place or with one person or organisation, it moves between them, and as it does so it changes to meet the needs of the time. I believe that these are constructive tensions. I have in mind the image of the mechanisms of a clock – the elements are fixed, the cogs provide movement and the weights ensure balance.

But the developing challenge for today is to seek to extend this same idea into the international forum. We will inevitably have differences of view at different stages about how these fora will develop but we all I think recognise the need for this process of international engagement.

The role of the judiciary and our international obligations

I want to turn now to reflect on the role of the judiciary and the whole judicial process in this task of balance our human rights both collective and individual. In your case the Constitution and the Supreme Court provides the anchor. In our case – and interestingly this takes the form of an international treaty – we have the European Convention on Human Rights. Paradoxically, whilst the ECHR offers safeguards and remedies for individuals it does not allow the Government on behalf of the people a right of appeal to the Strasbourg Court.

Some people attack the ECHR for being insufficiently flexible, too much a creature of its time, to meet the challenges of a new age. But I reflect that within its own terms it did allow us after 11 September to derogate from parts of the convention. Article 15 gives us the right to do so if we face “a public emergency threatening the life of the nation” in order to protect other more fundamental rights namely the right to life for those who might otherwise be threatened with terrorism. Surely a practical example of precisely the flexibility that our Lord Chief Justice had in mind in the quotation to which referred a moment ago.

It was of course precisely to block the re-emergence of the pre-war totalitarianism that the Strasbourg Court and the Treaty which it interprets was established.

And the ECHR and for many countries the European Union itself, have been seen as a symbol and practical means of advancing unity, freedom and progress into democracy.

Take Spain. When I first entered politics, Spain was still under a form of fascist rule. And that was true of other European countries too. And the judicial institutions of Strasbourg together with the economic institutions of the European Union have transformed life for all of those countries. We are about to embark another major expansion of the European Union this coming May with the admission of ten new countries to our number.

And so irksome as aspects of it may sometimes seem. We cannot overstate the positive benefits of this form of international economic and legal engagement.

The changing nature of the threat

But just as the world in which our judicial systems must operate has changed so inevitably have the threats to those systems. If the ECHR and the European Union grew up in a world in which the main threat came from a totalitarian state, or a cold war style military power we face today something totally different and far more elusive. I find it helpful to characterise the threat we face as one from ‘franchised’ terror. Groups which have a certain common ideology and set of values, a certain loose chain of command or at least identity, common training perhaps, but often operating independently. Inspired but not controlled by their leaders.

It is an ideology of hate with a target which is the values, the freedom, and the democracy which is seen by our enemies as encapsulating modernity. It is hatred of the very freedoms and communities that are most basic to us. And yet the paradox is that since 11 September more men and women of the Muslim faith have been killed by these people than those of any other, and you see the indiscriminate merciless disregard for human life, rejoicing in the consequences of terror which means that this is declaration of war against humanity rather than against any religion, country, or community.

So let me describe for a moment my reflections as a very new Home Secretary at the time of the attack on the World Trade Centre and the immediate dilemmas I faced. First of course we thought of those most directly caught up in these terrible events. But then and quite properly we thought of when and where was the next attack to come? And in the days that followed working in collaboration with the United States and with our European partners, we quickly saw action which needed to be taken in a number of areas. Both of our two countries introduced new legislation.

But in reflecting now on where we go from here, we have to keep addressing the issue of how best to provide that balanced approach, and as with the quote from Lincoln, what would happen politically if we got the judgement wrong. The debate then would be very different. And in Britain this is a real challenge for the centre left of politics and we will always have in mind the example of Germany where the very weakness of the Weimar Republic was the strengthening of the Nazi cause.

But let me describe for a moment one part of our anti-terrorism, crime and security act perhaps the most controversial part. We were faced with a specific challenge. A challenge from people who had come here often seeking asylum – ironically perhaps from the consequences of their illegal actions in their home countries. Their asylum claims had failed, they were involved in international terrorism. And yet it has not been possible to convict them of criminal offences. Our own adherence to our international obligations meant that we could not remove them to the countries from which they came because of the threat that they would face if returned. I could not justify to the British people a situation in which we simply left these individuals to walk our streets. And so we introduced a new immigration power in the Act which allowed us to detain foreign nationals whom I certified as international terrorists. Because this is an immigration power these individuals are free to leave the UK whenever they chose – as two of the 17 I have certified have chosen to do. The legality of the power and the derogation it required have themselves been tested and upheld in our courts. The individual certifications are all being scrutinised by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission – equivalent to our High Court. Of the 13 cases so far heard, my decision has been upheld in 12. Cases will be reviewed by SIAC every three months thereafter.

But of course we now know more about both the nature of the threat and the potential means of prevention and intervention. In the case of the ACTS Act, the crucial powers of detention I have described are due to lapse in November 2006. That is why I am calling in Britain for a well-informed debate because I want us to find long term solutions which maintain the balance, protect individual rights, and reflect our mutual risk as citizens reliant on democracy for dual protection against terrorism and arbitrary power. I want this to be a public debate too – not just a debate for lawyers. Taking the public with us, whilst listening to the legal experts, makes sense.

Our approach to terrorism

But let me finish by looking at the wider way in which we are seeking to tackle terrorism in the United Kingdom. Our approach has four main pillars to it – prevention, pursuit, protection, and preparedness! Let me take each of these in turn.

Prevention. Perhaps the most important but long term agenda. Domestically it means that we have to engage with the communities most directly being abused by the terrorist cells and their agents. So that they can become our eyes and ears. People themselves being alert, but not alarmed, and helping us.

The same principle applies in reflecting on what feeds the terrorist armoury, but allows them to demonise modernity, namely us. For the hatred which motivates them is often hidden by a cloak which pretends to be concerned about injustice and unjust treatment . So what can we do? We cannot eliminate their threat by removing what they claim to be the causes of their hatred. But tackling injustice would assist us in appealing to the decent, to the thinking, to those looking to take on the terrorist with us but finding themselves in real difficulty. I have recently visited Pakistan and I heard at first hand from people – people basically very well disposed to us – of the extent of the distrust and anger in that country at the way in which Muslim communities, and Muslim suffering throughout the world but especially the Middle-East are perceived to be treated. However much one might disagree with the overall analysis, however much one might explain – as I did – the steps our countries are taking to bring peace to that part of the world, the important thing is to note for these purposes is how powerfully this view held by Muslim communities is believed and felt. In other words it fuels a sense of grievance and injustice which is used by others as a cloak to hide their own more fundamental hatred. We must therefore continue to address these issues and injustices both in our own countries and in the wider world.

Secondly pursuit – again both domestically against known terrorists and their associates but also internationally against the sources of that domestic threat.

I don’t intend to go into the much rehearsed arguments about Iraq beyond the fact that the key issue now for us is the importance of continuing to work together internationally to address the kind of problems I have been describing. It is all the more important that we should do so together and there is a danger that as a result of that conflict countries will feel less inclined to co-operate and work together. This underlines my point that we are in this together, this is all our business, both because we are all the target and so we must have a global response.

Successfully thwarting a terrorist operation requires a co-ordinated international approach. Sharing information, fully engaging with those countries who unwillingly harbour terrorists and themselves are at risk from the network. And I pleased to note that co-operation of this kind is very strong.

This opens for me another key aspect of the debate I have launched back in Britain – namely the balance between the disruption of terrorist activity and its successful prosecution. There is a fundamental challenge here both for Governments and for our police and security services. A challenge made more complex by the fact that often these operations have an international dimension.

The longer you can allow an operation to develop, the longer the surveillance, the more chance you have got of securing conviction, but there is an obvious risk attached to this and those countries like the US which have been subject to an attack will obviously feel that even more keenly than we do. This is a matter of making really fine judgements.

And pursuing terrorists, as we all know, means pursuing money launderers, organised criminals, people traffickers and other smugglers, those exploiting the international banking system, drugs barons and racketeers.

But co-operation, worldwide linkages, and intelligence can work and be effective. This underlines my point about the need for our international systems to develop alongside the way in which our world is becoming more global both in its opportunities for positives such as trade but also negatives such as terrorism.

Thirdly public protection. working together on what you call homeland security. We have, for example, undertaken a major mapping exercise of vulnerable sites in the UK to protect and provide proper advice for those responsible. Again we have had to move on from the cold war mindset and think about other things – food distribution, industrial plants etc. I could talk all night about our work on this but will spare you the details for another occasion.

And finally preparedness. Preparing for the consequences of terrorism. Or course, you could spend half the national income on this and we could still be prepared for the wrong emergency. But public reassurance for political survival and for good operational preparedness is vital. We need to do what makes sense.

This challenge is to corporate responsibility and not just government at every level.

From informed and vigilant individuals through to responsible business this is the challenge to us all.

We are updating our own emergency powers legislation at the moment to provide for a better and more flexible response at regional and local level to any emergencies.

It is a comprehensive but necessary programme of work. It involves us in trying both to master the detail but also to keep sight of the big picture and the challenges which face us. All of which means that the job of Home Secretary has probably changed out of all recognition because we are not simply living with the threat, taking overall responsibility for our response to it, but also weighing up where to place the emphasis, the resources and the expertise in response. Holding your nerve without being complacent. Informing the public without creating fear. Alert but not alarmed. Living with the issues and the danger, but not allowing them to destroy the sense of perspective.

All of us across the world who are close to this face the same difficulties. I reflected with Tom Ridge about this on Boxing Day last year and of course the extent to which we succeed will a matter for the judgement of history. Balancing human rights and the institutions which sustain them with the basic right for life and freedom from fear. Retaining proportionality whilst trying to explain the very real danger and scale of the threat. Doing so when you can only explain part of the case, part of the evidence, and doing so by using the strength of our democracy not undermining it. This is much, much more difficult to achieve in the most open democracies in the world. But we are better for it, with a greater and more worthwhile challenge. That is the nature of the task for us in Britain and the US in the 21st century.

We must and we are taking on that challenge together.

David Blunkett – 2004 Speech on Renewing Democracy


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, in Boston, USA, on 9 March 2004.

I am very pleased to be invited to this celebration for the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

The Institute has become an increasingly influential source of ideas and new approaches in this country and both directly and indirectly in other parts of the world too and has certainly been an important stimulus to my thinking. Over the past 15 years, I have been able to visit some of the programmes growing out of the work of the Institute and its predecessors – including the Compstat system in New York, the Centre for Court Innovation, La Bodega de la Familia and Operation Ceasefire in Boston. I’ve even succeeded intempting one of your distinguished alumni Paul Evans across the Atlantic! And I have had long-standing links with the Kennedy School as a whole through Professor Robert Putnam.

But that is not my theme for today. Instead the issue I want to address (and it’s one which never goes away) is a more fundamental one. Does Government matter, what kind of Government and for what purpose? On our side of the Atlantic we have exactly the same debates and challenges: people call for action on every front one day and demand that we devolve responsibility and downscale resources the next.

I’ll come later to the contradictions of a liberal left who want more Government at home and less abroad and the right preaching no Government at home and big Government abroad.

I start from the premise that Government matters, Government is the alternative to anarchy, to disintegration and to conflict. Government is about resolving differences, determining priorities, allocating resources peacefully and without conflict not to mention its more ancient and fundamental role of providing the basic framework of protection from harm necessary for both communities and individuals. One of the first books I read at University was by Professor Sir Bernard Crick, “In Defence of Politics”. I believe that Bernard’s analysis holds good for today.

But the question is not whether we need politics or Government or even good Government, but what kind of Government, what role Government can play in the 21st century and how democracy can be revitalised and renewed in an era of global capital, the world wide web, mobile phones and multi channel media. And of course this leads us into wider questions. What is the glue that holds society together? How do we build on the family, what should we do to reinforce self-reliance and mutuality?

If we are to answer these questions, we must be very clear about the nature of the challenges that now confront us. Above all it seems clear to me that the challenge is one of the most enormous change both in terms of scale but also rapidity. Change economically, socially and globally. Change which can bring enormous benefits to individuals, communities and countries but which can also be threatening for all of these. In particular change which can undermine the cohesion, the social capital, the networks and support structures which are crucial part of every area of human activity – economic, educational and personal and family life. Old certainties have disappeared – but there is no room for nostalgia, we have to develop a new sense of identity and belonging – and government has to look to build new forms of social capital, new networks and new cohesion which will help us all to thrive in the new world in which we find ourselves.

I want therefore to explore for a moment what it is that determines the level of social capital in a society?

It seems to be affected in a negative way by a number of contemporary trends. Firstly, the breakdown of family in the traditional sense which can undermine our sense of where we belong. Secondly, mobility – if you don’t expect to stay long in one place you are unlikely to invest in the social networks that bind communities together. And thirdly, the decay in people’s sense of community can lead to the disintegration of actual communities – with people leaving, crime rising, drug use, and despair which can become a vicious cycle

But of course Government should not be a purely passive player in this. And the steps we are taking – for example to give people and local communities the powers and the confidence to tackle anti-social behaviour – are I believe helping to turn this round. Perhaps more important still for long term change is our approach to education – which brings not just personal strength, hope, and the capacity to cope with change, but also gives people a stake in society. And finally, ownership, financial and material assets, which of course also gives people a stake in society. Research I commissioned while at the Department of Education, using data from the National Child Development Study, suggests that asset ownership brings wider social and psychological benefits. Having savings appears to be correlated with enjoying better health, and having more interest in politics. This applies to community assets as well as individual assets. When physical capital in a community goes up, so too does social capital.

This suggests for me a new and different role for Government. The challenge for government is, by taking a more enabling, facilitating role, to help individuals and communities see a way forward – not by doing things for them but by doing things with them, as a means to lasting change. Leadership is crucial – not just government, but also schools and colleges, churches, community organisations. But without participation, the difference leadership makes will be temporary not permanent. Let me give you some practical examples of precisely this kind of change in the UK.

In London, the Families in Focus initiative at Ampthill Square, Camden, has clearly shown the benefits of involving residents in working with ‘at risk’ children and young people. Anti-social behaviour has fallen sharply. Caretakers estimate that problems of vandalism, graffiti and litter have been cut by 70%. According to the local Council’s lead on anti-social behaviour, “the area went from being well-known for youth anti-social behaviour to being well-known for the lack of it.”

In Birmingham, Balsall Heath, once a blighted red-light area, has been revived by community activists who engaged local residents through 22 self-help associations. House prices have risen and local people are more satisfied with improvements made to their area than other parts of the City.

I know that Britain does not have a monopoly on these kinds of initiatives. In Dudley, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Boston, and a deteriorating and crime-ridden wasteland in the early 1980s, the area was saved by a civic association that knocked on every door, overcame ethnic differences, and now plays an ongoing role in the neighborhood. At countless community meetings, at multicultural festivals, and through side-by-side labor, organizers helped people in the neighborhood connect and reconnect. A major achievement has been gaining control of unused land, convincing Boston’s city government to give the neighbourhood power of ‘eminent domain’ over various parcels of land. This gave local people greater control of the neighbourhood, and a ‘place at the table’ during discussions surrounding development of their community. More than 300 of the 1,300 abandoned plots of land have been transformed into high quality affordable housing, gardens and public spaces.

This is the kind of control which neighbourhoods should be getting – not the gated, fenced, walled off communities which are a symbol of the importance of security, but also a warning. Once this way of striving for security takes over, society is fractured as those who try to withdraw from perceived danger also withdraw their talents and resources from any attempt to reverse the cycle to which I referred earlier. The flight from the most difficult urban areas denudes the neighbourhood of the capacity to recover and the downward spiral can only be reversed by drastic remedial steps. We end up with a kind of community isolationism.

There are parallels here with the international sphere – where we in the UK, or you here, cannot truly gate-off our countries from terrorism, organised crime and other threats to world stability. Migration, globalisation mean that we need to work together to look for solutions to our common problems. And when the terrorist threat increasingly knows no borders, we have to respond to the threat by reaching out for international solutions rather than retrenching into isolation.

But I want to focus here on the domestic context. Professor Putnam’s work has helped to draw attention to the links between how individuals interact and the wider effects on society. It is essential we continue to refine our understanding of these links and examine more precisely not just the apparent correlations, but the underlying causes. ‘Social capital’ has come to be used to describe a wide range of activities and relationships, from informal volunteering, engagement with civic institutions, to any form of group activities, socialising beyond family members, to community activism. How these are affected by, and in turn affect, other social, economic and political factors require careful but also imaginative thinking. And that’s where we politicians look to the social and political scientists like you for help.

In Britain in the last few weeks, there has been a good deal of controversy about the related issue of whether the left should really believe in diversity, if it makes other progressive values, like redistribution and the welfare state, more difficult to pursue. Here in the US, I know that Professor Putnam – while not questioning the value of diversity – does believe that some on the left underestimate the challenges it presents, in terms of its effects on social capital.

There are those on the left in Britain have reacted in a way which suggests that it is dangerous even to raise these questions. My own view is that we need to be rigorously honest so that the debate is one worth having. The idea that there is a potential tension between supporting diversity and other progressive aims, is not a new one – it goes back at least to Friedrich Engels. And the evidence that diversity is correlated with a decline in social capital is sufficiently powerful – both in the US and in the UK, through work carried out by MORI – that we need to address it. For my part, as I have said, I am convinced that instability through high mobility and therefore turnover of population is a central factor in contributing to the decline in social capital. I have an open mind as to whether diversity of itself has a similar impact but the important thing is that I am convinced that we can combine diversity with integration and therefore with stability, leading to a greater capacity to manage difference. The sense of belonging and identification clearly matters.

In Britain we’ve just introduced a proper ceremony for naturalisation purposes, whereas you have had them for 100 years. The ceremonies will be firmly anchored in the local communities. These symbols are important – but of course they can only support, not replace, hard-edged action at local level. The example I gave earlier, of Balsall Heath, shows how communities with real problems – and also diversity, whether or not that is related – can turn themselves around, with help from government help, and rebuild their social networks, and with that tolerance and ultimately, mutuality. As well as Balsall Heath, parts of London display the same kind of virtuous circle – with minority groups for example often involved in the most active and open church organisations – whilst in other communities elsewhere, for example in the North of England, diversity has taken a different route, with segregation leading ultimately to fracture. We need to understand why. We need to think about how the experiences which have worked can be shared and replicated across other local areas – without losing the vital sense of connection with particular local energy and concerns.

I promised earlier to deal with the contradictions of a liberal left who want more Government at home and less abroad and the right preaching no Government at home and big Government abroad. There is also the paradox that those in favour of no government are usually quick to recognise the potential of government in terms of awarding contracts, when it comes to an election.

But I realise this is a caricature. There are genuine disagreements over the value and scope of government. Instead of choosing between a picture of a government which does everything for us or a government which prides itself on trying not to do anything, we need to move towards a new compact between government and governed. This means responsibilities and duties resting with the individual and community as well as with the Government, the politics of something-for-something, with rights and responsibilities going hand in hand. This is an extension of the family, where mutual help has to be balanced by willingness to self-help. But self-help is impossible in many circumstances without mutual help – and without a more equal distribution of resources and opportunities. We are struggling to address this, not just in re-shaping the relationship between Government and governed but in defining where accountability should lie.

This is about hard-edged policy in capacity-building for civil renewal and for youth engagement – and for making the link between the political and civil aspects of democracy. All the evidence shows that those with assets engage, those who engage also vote, those who vote influence, those who are very wealthy have the most influence. But crucially those who do not engage and do not vote have little or no influence. Their lack of both alienates them from broader engagement with society as well as from the formal decision-making process. And those, including those in the media, who foster cynicism and preach doctrines which alienate are never the ones who disengage themselves, they know better! But when people disengage, especially those who most need help, the public domain is drained of legitimacy.

Which brings me back to my original theme or question – why do we need Government? Well, we invented government because we had to, not just for defending ourselves and guaranteeing our protection and security, but also because we amount to more, we achieve more, if we work in common rather than as isolated individuals. This is why government is still needed today – because left purely to individual choice we will not invest enough in social capital, and not in a co-ordinated enough way, to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

So Government is about making things possible, by sharing resources, including where gross inequality prevents any sense of community, and by fostering a public space which is inhabitable by us all – and here I mean not just the physical space, but also the space of opportunities and life chances, together with the ability to grasp those life chances, the ability to be independent, self-reliant and self-determining.

I believe that this way of understanding what government is about transcends traditional political divides. The choice is not between being “on your own”, or “under the dead hand of Government” – it is whether government, which must exist and will always affect people’s lives, can do so in a way that enables them both as individuals and as communities.

There are areas in our lives where we offer to share sovereignty and invest together because individually we could never realise our goals and values. Not just obvious areas like defence, but also public education, social capital and the settling of differences. In other words, the different ways in which we socialise our civic and democratic sphere. Without that ability to inhabit a shared public space, we have dysfunctional communities and dysfunctional states. With it we have the chance of a civilised democracy which is as much about participation as it is about primaries and Presidential elections.

David Blunkett – 2004 Speech at Victims Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, at Methodist Hall in London on 28 April 2004.

I’m very grateful to all of you for coming. I’d like to welcome those who are participating during the course of the day, and those of you who have come here as victims of crime, and who are prepared to be brave enough to talk about it. I’d also like to welcome all the partners joining together with the criminal justice system. As Patricia has said, this is the first conference of its kind to be held in recent times and I’m very pleased we’re here today. The critical element will be to ensure that at the end of the day we can take on board the ideas and the critique that people bring to this area. We must do this not just nationally, but through the local criminal justice boards and the new partnership arrangements with the community safety partnerships at local level as well. So thank you very much for joining us.

As you know, I’m committed to trying to ensure not only that the victim of crime has a voice, but also that we who have a voice on the public platform, that those of us who have the opportunity to speak out and to be heard actually reflect the feelings of those whose voices are seldom heard. An old sparring partner of mine who is in the House of Lords, recently on a television programme, said that the problem with David Blunkett as Home Secretary is that he brings too much of his background to the job. Well, I’m very proud to do that. I’m proud to reflect the community I came from. I’m proud to be the voice of that community. I’m proud that we have a system where Cabinet Ministers still hold advice surgeries and where, in my case on a Saturday morning, I can hear the cry for help from people who do not get onto Radio 4, who have no access to columns in newspapers, who never have their voice heard or reflected in that way. In my view, those of us who have the temerity to speak on behalf of others also have a duty to speak out on behalf of those who are literally the victims of crime and of a disintegrating society where respect for each other, and common decency has been undermined over the last forty years. Not that it was a halcyon era, because the 1950s wasn’t. I was a youngster at the time, I confess. There was a great deal of prejudice, there was a great deal of inequality, there was a great deal of hypocrisy. But because people at least understood that in their community and in their family they had a key role to play in the type of society that developed around them. The reinforcement of individualism, and the emphasis on purely individual rights – often for perpetrators – has in my view unbalanced not only the criminal justice system, but also the perspective of community and society.

So bringing together the criminal justice system, the partners working with it, and those who have experienced crime and often the bravery of having to be witnesses (because victims and witnesses are so often synonymous), is crucial in what we are describing today as “victim justice” alongside “criminal justice”. Justice to ensure that people are properly and fairly dealt with, that those who are accused have fair trials and those who are innocent are not found guilty. But justice also for those victims who so often walk away from the system disillusioned, feeling that they’ve been let down and that the process rather than the truth has been paramount in peoples’ minds.

So today I want to touch on the way in which our system and our perspective is changing. The fact that types of crime change, the incidence of crime changes, has to be taken on board. We need to reflect those changes on the way that we develop policy and practice at local level. We haven’t solved volume crime, I wish we had. But there’s been the most dramatic drop in more traditional forms of burglary, of vehicle crime and of robbery. On the latter, we’ve been successful over the last 2½ years with the police, with partners at local level, including local authorities, in being able to work together to have a dramatic impact. With target hardening from community safety partnerships, police have made a big difference to the incidence of burglary and opportunistic crime. With the industry and with those working in relation to car parks and others, we’ve reduced vehicle crime. We’re not there yet but there’s been a tremendous drop. And that has meant that the focus of people’s attention understandably has shifted to other forms of crime, such as personal crime, anti-social behaviour and low level thuggery violence and domestic violence, too often associated with alcohol and drugs.

It is the personalised, what some call low level violence and thuggery, it is the intimidation, it is the fear of what is going to happen to you walking down the street, in your neighbourhood, in the shopping centre, or in entertainment venues that now affects people. And therefore the victim is not simply a victim of loss of income or loss of goods or loss of service, but is actually a victim in terms of their own personal physical and emotional wellbeing.

And the reason I mentioned community is my second point. That because of the shift in the nature of crime, it is whole communities, small neighbourhoods that start to feel as though they are the victim. This is not surprising, because so many of the victims live in focus-targeted areas. We know that those who are subject to the incidence of repeat crime, repeat victimisation, by repeat offenders, make up a very high proportion of those who experience crime. To overcome it, we are rapidly building on existing proposals for prolific offenders and priority offenders. But it also means that communities themselves feel as though they are beleaguered, as though nobody will help, and as though the whole life of the people around them is disintegrating. I feel it because I represent a community that has more than its fair share of crime. When people from newspapers or broadcast media ask whether I understand how people feel, I say that I was brought up there, I’m there every weekend, I hold advice surgeries there, I listen to people, and I attend. This last weekend I held a Big Conversation meeting in my own city about crime and the disintegration of normal parlance of community civilised behaviour. And what people say to me is, “Is it hopeless? You’re on our side”. Thank God they say that, if they didn’t I wouldn’t get re-elected! They say, “Is it hopeless, Mr Blunkett? You’re the Home Secretary, can’t you help us? Is it not possible to turn it round? What can we do when at every end and turn, when legislation is passed, when police numbers are increased, when technology is improved, when the community is desperate for help, why is it that we can’t so often see an end result, that we can’t feel that the system as a whole is on our side?” In the Stubbin estate in my own community, where the people themselves are working together and trying to be part of the solution, individuals are in despair. The police are sympathetic. They turn up. But we need to actually get to the causes and send out the signals to those who are perpetrating the violence, the intimidation, the thuggery, the anti-social behaviour. We need to get the messages across to the families who condone it, to the networks of thugs who support it, and to the opinion formers within the community who may doubt the criminal justice system and what we are trying to do. Because unless we can break that, we cannot help the victims of crime. And that is why, whatever it takes, we should join together in sending the message that at last we are going to put victims at the forefront of our service. We are going to put victims where they belong, at the very pinnacle of what we try to do. We must make sure that the criminal justice system provides a balanced, independent and effective way of securing people’s individual rights, and to secure through victim justice the rights of those who have had their independence and civil rights undermined by those who have perpetrated the crime.

We need to get that message across to each element, each strand in the system, from myself and Patricia Scotland, all the way through to the community support officer and street warden, to the environmental health or housing officer. If we can get it through in terms of the way people are treated when they are a victim of crime then we will get a change of culture within our community. It’s nothing short of a change of culture we need.

Now there are those who say this is just a matter of will. I think they’ve been reading too much Harry Potter, they think that if you throw powder on the fire all can disappear in a flash! If only we willed it everything would change. We know better than that. You know better than that. We know that even when things improve, unless people feel the difference they won’t believe the statistics. We have to address the paradox that change has taken place, but the perception of this is not so. Crime has fallen. The statistics bear it out. Statistics which are comparing like with like, taking exactly the same sample, taking the same methodology, show that crime has fallen. And yet if you talk to many people in the community they don’t feel it and they don’t believe it. Until they feel it and believe it, and until their distress and trauma has been overcome, it is absolutely clear that they won’t believe that people are safer. It is true that the chance of being a victim of crime is at the lowest for 20 years. It’s still not good enough. It’s one in four rather than one in three of ten years ago. But it’s still an appalling statistic and it’s one we need to address. And that is why we’re in it together. You see, the other thing, (apart from if we only had will, we would be able to do it), is the view that on the one hand government national and local should be hands off, should be light touch, should be less intrusive and interventionist; and you don’t just get that from the newspapers, you get it from all the vested interests that we have to deal with: “Please leave us alone”. There is nothing new about this, I used to get it when I was Education Secretary. Teachers said give us the money and leave us alone, don’t bother with literacy and numeracy programmes, they interfere with our professionalism. I get it now in terms of “For goodness sake, your job is not to intervene”. The paradox is that the very people who preach loudest, non intervention, government leaving everyone else alone, avoiding the Big Brother, Big Sister state, are the very people who demand most from government. They demand that we take responsibility and they demand that we account for just about everything, and they insist that whatever goes wrong has to be our fault.

I’ll accept our part of this bargain in terms of getting it right for victims and communities. What I want is that every element, strand, part of the programme, system and society actually are prepared to join with us. The first thing is the building block of society which is the family. We want family to take responsibility for building decency and respect into how they teach, prepare and bring up their children. Also, we want the community to be big enough to stand up for the victims and have a voice heard. We’ve therefore got to make sure that people feel confident that as victims and witnesses the system as a whole will protect them. And thirdly, we need the system in all its guises – from policing, housing, courts, the judiciary, probation, through to the Youth Justice Board, the voluntary sector, and the many who are here today to be able to join together in having a clear voice, being able to act decisively in favour of those at the receiving end. And I don’t think it’s too much to ask that each of us play our part, that each of us do our bit.

Last week we launched the anti-social behaviour prosecutors. This is a way of providing a people’s prosecutor who would get alongside people in the community. Who would be there to ensure that when evidence is gathered and people are prepared to be witnesses that it doesn’t fail at the last hurdle on a technicality or a failure to put the case together properly. When the whole Home Office team were in the West Midlands, we found that people warmed to this, just as they’re warming to the Community Justice Centre idea that we are going to experiment with in Merseyside and hopefully that we will be able to expand across the country. It’s worked. I saw it working a year ago in New York where the community was not only part of the process in obtaining victim justice, but also the part of the solution in terms of avoiding people being victims in the first place. This works by everyone being expected to join together and all those engaged in the services being prepared to go down, from the heights of whatever professional status they’d reached and do what Home Secretaries have to do and sit in advice surgeries and sit in community meetings and listen to people, and engage with them in how to provide solutions.

So if anyone from justice’s clerks through to high court judges or politicians tells you that it isn’t possible for the professionals in the service to undermine their independence by attending community forums and engaging with the neighbourhood and with victims, they are talking garbage. It is perfectly possible to do that and in the best parts of our system in this country, people are doing it. From prosecution and probation through to district judges and magistrates. Some of them were there at my meeting this weekend. And I know that to listen, to learn, to feel makes a difference, not just to the attitude of victims and their confidence, but also to those who attend the meetings from professional organisations. It’s time all of us felt. Some may say that working class lads from northern council estates feel too strongly, and that our language sometimes reflects our strength of feeling. I make no apology for that. I think that it’s time we told things as they are. We need to do so with measured words, we need to do so with maturity, and we need to understand the constraints.

But there are other benefits from working together with the Community Justice Centres and the experimental work that is already taking place. It’s not just confidence from the community. It’s not just a new understanding from professionals. It’s the ability of people to feel that someone is on their side. It’s for victims to have confidence in the fact that someone will be there to listen and to help and to avoid repeat victimisation. It’s also for victims to know that someone will be there helping them through the system and supporting them when they need it. Which is why I’m pleased that Rosie Winterton from the Department of Health is going to be here today. I’m pleased that this is not seen as a Home Office matter, but one where, if you’re a victim the system as a whole engages to help you.

You can rely on fast track treatment in the future, particularly in terms of not having to pay people compensation for being off work, but actually enabling them to get back to work. Not paying them for disfiguration but putting the disfiguration right. Not leaving them for months so that emotional trauma worsens, but intervening quickly to provide help to the individual and families. And that is why alongside the tough new powers that we’ve provided in the Criminal Justice and Sentencing Act past last year, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act passed last year, the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill which is before Parliament at the moment, we’re honouring the commitment to legislate for victims’ rights. The package of measures in those three bills puts together the promises we made to speak out, plan and act on behalf of victims. I know that Susan Herman from the US will be opening up these areas later today and I’m very pleased that she’s been able to join us. All of this is building on recent changes and it’s giving, I hope, new aspirations for a different sort of world for the future.

So the ‘No Witness, No Justice’ witness care project that we’ve been undertaking, which has worked so tremendously well is going to now be expanded with £36 million over the next three years, and of course increases in funding for all the services that go alongside it to actually ensure that it happens. Victim Support has over the years had its voice clearly heard and its resourcing increased. Not enough, I know, but more than ever before. We’ve increased the funding available from £11.7 million to £30 million over the last seven years. There was funding made available to Victim Support for the street crime initiative, and as we’ve tackled robbery and street crime I’ve made the decision to switch the money into other Victim Support services in order to maintain the spend. It seems to me that we’ve got to take intelligent logical decisions. Congratulations to Victim Support as an organisation on their 30th anniversary.

I hope that the next 30 will actually be ones that are fruitful, that can join with other partners in the support of victims, and those who are now having their voices heard across the country to make it work even better. And of course we need to increase the development funding through the Victims’ Fund. We also need to look at the very substantial sums that go through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. And we will do so in a way that enhances the rights and the support to victims rather than undermining it.

Patricia Scotland and I have to take difficult decisions in this area to make sure that the funding doesn’t go in administration and in low level gestures rather than in helping to prevent crime and to support victims in a meaningful way. We’re here to listen to people who have got thoughts and views today. Restorative justice and anti-social behaviour are two of the workshops that people will be looking at today. I’d like us to engage in how we can address prevention as well as cure and enforcement. Owning the problem, reshaping for the challenge, engaging as part of the solution, is the wider challenge that all of us face. It’s also the philosophy that we believe in. We are in this together as partners and that at every level we can make it work. Reform requires investment, and investment requires people to examine locally through the local criminal justice board and the community safety partnership where the money is going. It’s inevitable that if you lock people away in jail you spend a lot of money on the perpetrators. That’s just the truth. We need to make sure that the additional resources that are going to support victims across the board – in every area, from every agency and department – are understood and are better put together. We estimate that at least £650 million on services of some kind is going to victims. Again, it’s not enough. But the real question I want to raise this morning is, are people actually feeling it? Where is the £650 million? Do people perceive that support of that sort is available to victims? Can we examine, in what is taking shape and what is available at local level? These issues include separation of the perpetrator and the victim in court, then include the support services when people are arriving in court, or returning home, and then include avoiding cracked trials and the trauma of having to return time after time to the point where disillusionment sets in, the perpetrator gets away with it.

So let’s use new measures. Let’s use the Proceeds of Crime Act. Four hundred and forty five clauses, which actually allow us now to seize the proceeds of crime. We are now able to do so in circumstances where the organiser, the leader, the facilitator hasn’t actually been nailed, but where they live on the proceeds of crime and cannot explain where their lifestyle comes from. That ought to be quite a shock to one or two people across the country. The police can confiscate the flash cars of the drug dealers, and legislation is in place to gradually claw back what has been clawed from us. So putting £4 million into helping victims of sex offenders over the next 18 months may seem very little from the proceeds of crime fund but it’s a beginning. It’s a consistent look at how we can divert what has been stolen from individuals and communities back into supporting those individuals and communities. Increasing counselling services such as those provided by the eight really successful one-stop locations is a key task to us and that is what we will do. So often speedy, supportive help is absolutely critical to ensuring that people feel not only that we’re on their side but that they can be safe for the future, and that they can restore their lives. This is true of domestic violence, where sharing of information, and working together is vital to improve those systems. We have taken this forward with all the measures in the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill, which include fulfilling the promise to turn the Victims Charter into a statutory Victims Code of Practice. We established the Victims Advisory Panel last year, and we are making this a statutory part of the new system under the new Act. This will ensure that there is a clear voice for a whole range of those of you who are working with, and for victims. And thanks to David Goldblatt, who will be speaking in a moment, for his work on that panel and for his perspective this morning as to how it is working and how we can improve it. There isn’t in our system a year zero, where if you haven’t got everything right you’ve failed. There’s a year when people do an audit, take a snapshot of what has been achieved and accord themselves some pleasure. We have to to keep cheerful about what progress has been made and keep honest with each other about what new steps need to be put in place to improve the system.

So from small beginnings oak trees grow. The criminal justice system is changing. The latest evidence we have is that confidence is beginning to be restored. We believe that victims feel that at last people are alongside them from probation through to voluntary sector organisations. We believe that the 22,000 extra victims of violence and sexual offences that were helped by the probation service last year alone is a major step in the right direction. But for the future, we need to ensure that at every stage and at every level the quality of information, the quality of service, the putting together of the new Action Plan will affect the way people are treated and feel. It is not just an Action Plan from national level but an Action Plan in each of the Local Criminal Justice Board areas. To provide protection, to deal with prolific and target priority offenders, to turn the Victims Charter into a new Victims’ Code and to ensure that the voice of victims is heard on those bodies and in those advisory groups in a way that actually does change the practice of professionals.

We’re in it together, it’s a partnership for working together. We can pass the laws, we can put in additional resources, we can encourage and cajole, but in the end, we can’t get there unless people have fire in their belly, unless they really want to change things, unless people are prepared to work together to make it happen and feel it in their everyday lives, and above all, unless society as a whole is prepared to stand up and be counted and to say “we won’t simply pass the buck to someone else, we won’t have a blame culture where it’s always someone else’s fault, and if only they’d done it the world would be a better place”. We must appeal to all those who have the ability to influence the actions, attitudes and culture of our communities around us, to take that opportunity to ensure that victims’ justice alongside criminal justice is the slogan of the years to come. Thank you very much indeed.