It’s the people who will decide

I’m in Brighton, in the bubble of a party conference, where the party is in good heart, the weather’s been glorious and the real sun has been shining.

What I tried to show in my speech was what’s happened in Blackburn these last 12 years.

No government’s record is perfect. It is true, for example, that there’s still too much anti-social behaviour. But it’s also true that the police, the council and the courts have more effective measures for dealing with this than ever they did – and that, across Lancashire, crime is down. It just is.

Which leads me on to that other Sun, the newspaper and its announcement in yesterday’s paper that it’s fallen out of love with Labour. We have a free press in this country, thank God, so it’s entirely their decision.

What does however surprise me is how thin are the Sun’s arguments.

I am not talking of their criticism of our support for our troops in Afghanistan. We have worked very hard to ensure that they are properly equipped and supported and I know from family experience what it’s like if a loved one is in harm’s way.

But since troops are fighting and dying to keep us safe, we’ve a duty to respond to criticism, and we do.

But let’s take their other claims. That Labour’s “FAILED” on law and order, schools, health. Not true. Who says? The Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council for a start. It’s now a Conservative, Lib Dem and Darwen First coalition.

Go to the council’s website and find a report called “Self Assessment for September 2008 Corporate Assessment”. It hails a 6.8 per cent decrease in crime since 2000, It talks of having exceeded targets to have at least 55 per cent of pupils achieving 5 or more GCSEs grades A*-C. And it sets out an impressive record on health, including a 15 per cent reduction in premature deaths from coronary disease, strokes and related diseases and a 14% reduction in people dying prematurely from cancers.

It’s hardly a record of failure.

Then there’s immigration – where, allegedly, we “opened our borders without any regard to the consequences”. No we didn’t.

We did vote for the eastern European countries to come in the European Union, that’s true. But so, actively, did the Tories (and the Lib Dems). As for “illegal migrants and bogus asylum seekers” the system is now much tougher and better organised than the one we inherited from the Tories,.

The Sun’s most spurious claim is about CCTV cameras. They complain that we have 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV cameras, for 1 per cent of the population, “snooping” on decent people. Wrong.

I’ve never had a single decent person ask me to get CCTV cameras taken down – but scores of requests to have them put up.

Why? Because they are an essential tool in fighting crime, improving law and order.

I’ve been glad to have the Sun’s support in three previous elections and whilst I regret their decision to switch sides, I don’t complain.

That’s their privilege. In any event it’s the British people who decide elections in the secrecy of the ballot.

And what I’ll be doing is showing the difference we have made, ask challenging our critics to where and how they could or would have done better.

Author: Jack Straw

Jack Straw was elected as the MP for Blackburn in 1979 and is currently the Secretary of State for Justice.

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