The memory is very selective. In reflecting on 10 years of Labour rule in today’s Eastern Daily Press, Norwich South MP Charles Clarke fails to mention any achievements from the Home Office and how he was sacked as Secretary for his gross failings.
In case he has forgotten, there are more than 1,000 foreign prisoners on the run, including rapists and murderers, and our prisons are overflowing. Drug offences and robberies are on the increase. Norwich Prison has recently had to reopen a condemned wing.
Norfolk PCT is in crisis, with some vulnerable patients forced to pay for their treatment And a local judge has complained to the Government at the lack of provisions for mental health patients. There are also 26 areas of Norfolk ranked among the most deprived 10% in England.
Here are some of Clarke’s reflections:
“Labour’s victory in May 1997 made an enormous difference. It directly created many of these improvements and indirectly encouraged the strong economy which has encouraged so much investment in the City. This progress would not have been achieved without both Tony Blair’s leadership and Gordon Brown’s stewardship of the economy.
“It is certainly true that Labour could have done better if we had been more ambitious; we were insufficiently courageous, for example in promoting environmental sustainability and in strengthening our relationship with the European Union; we were too indecisive in some public service reforms; we should have reformed the constitution more urgently. And internationally our commitment to development in Africa and addressing climate change, combined with successful intervention to defend human rights in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, has been tarnished by the failure to secure peace in Iraq.
“These are important qualifications in the narrative of Labour success. But they are as nothing in comparison with what would have happened had Labour not won in 1997. Conservative economic and social decay would have become chronic and cities like Norwich would have slipped into long-term decline.
“I am sad that Tony Blair is leaving office reaping the media consequences of positive changes that he has sown. Labour rightly legislated for the first time to require publication of political donations, to permit Freedom of Information and to guarantee Human Rights. All of these now offer weapons which enable the prime minister’s critics to make their case, often dishonestly.”
Regarding Freedom of Information, the Government recently failed in its bid to severely restrict access to this. Knowledge is power, the public has a right to know how authorities are working on its behalf. The only dishonesty is preventing the truth from reaching the public, like these questions it has refused to answer. No wonder Charles Clarke wants new laws to control our media and stifle freedom of speech.