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Roger Warren Evans
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878 25 November 2003
Sir John Stevens is Chief of the London Metropolitan Police, the country's top policeman. Yet I have no confidence in his judgment, his loyalty, or even his basic decency.
Darcus Howe, writing in the New Statesman with experience and authority, remains deeply critical of the Metropolitan Police and its racism. And don't buy the flawed and evasive concept of "institutional racism". Racism is a matter of personal prejudice, of flawed personal values.
My concerns about the calibre of our senior police officers are heightened by the Government's seeming determination to introduce a whole raft of new on-the-spot fines, traditionally rejected by the conventions of English justice. Such fines enormously increase two risks -
This is another example of the nasty authoritarianism which has come to characterize Labour's Home Office, under Blair and Blunkett. For my part, I do not wish to "trust the Police" with these extended powers. Particularly with men like Sir John Stevens at the helm...
Human Rights YES... Equality No
The task of renewing Labour's political momentum is powering ahead. New Wave Labour is but one example. The TU movement, through the new Tribune, is seeking to play its part. But all these alternative manifestos sound old-fashioned to me, harking back to earlier political styles, earlier forms of political expression.
I find no interest, among the young, in "equality", or
indeed in "social justice" as a freestanding value. Liberty and
personal freedom are more important, to our children, than any systemic
"equality". The language of individual perception is paramount - and
that is not the same as selfishness.
Aneurin Bevan had the focus right, in coining the memorable phrase
It remains true that all socialism proceeds from a visceral personal belief in the equality of all humankind, without discrimination. That "fundamental" sense of equality remains a religious or near-religious value for most of us. I explored this thinking eighteen-months ago, in trying to formulate my own socialism. But it no longer translates directly into practical politics: the language it generates is awkward, tendentious, ambiguous. Since its glittering articulation two centuries ago - the Egalite, Liberte, Fraternite of the French Revolution - the word has lost much of its power.
Indeed, the essence of "equality" has passed to the human rights agenda. That is because equality is acollective concept, meaningful only in the context of a convincing whole-society critique. "Human rights", on the other hand, assert the equal entitlement of every individual to enjoy the security of the law, in the assertion of individual freedoms. Although the same sense of equality animates the two formulae, the latter is individualist in character, and therefore now carries the greater political clout.
My preference would be to write a Labour third-term manifesto in which the work "equality" did not appear, not even in mealy-mouthed version of equality of opportunity. I would focus on measures to reduce anxiety and enhance electors' sense of security. That is what is needed, in an increasingly worrying world. By turning down the cul-de-sac of a domestic agenda (health, education) Labour has limited the political space available to raise electors' eyes towards the wider horizons of personal experience. Labour has made politics pedestrian, humdrum, boring, restricted to nose-to-grindstone bread-and-butter issues. That was a mistake. Man does not live by bedpans or league tables.