So then, Charles Clarke. Appropriately enough, he looks like a copper of a particular sort. While others in his class are out on the streets burnishing their reputation as thief takers, sitting on committees or brushing up on forensics, our Charlie stays in the canteen, eating chips.
Eventually he gets too fat to chase villains so he’s put on community liaison duty, introducing primary school children to Sabre the police dog. One fine day, Charlie fails to notice that some of the kiddies are pulling Sabre’s tail. An unfortunate incident ensues, resulting in all of class 5b going to hospital for rabies shots.
There’s a grand kerfuffle. Angry letters from compensation seeking lawyers flit about like bats at twilight. Senior cops dress in comic opera uniforms to say how very, very sorry they are. The local Happy Shopper paper has a field day.
An object of cruel mockery at the local nick, Charlie is forced to don the costume of Welliephant the safety elephant. So attired, he sits in the corner of the canteen, eating chips.
Pollard always insists on describing himself as left of centre and a Labour party member. But what left-wing opinions does he hold nowadays, apart from despising the Tories? (Which is a pretty mainstream opinion judging by the polls). He describes himself as a blood thirsty warmonger, he writes for the Express, Times, Daily Mail and he is a senior fellow at the Brussels based free market think tank the Centre for the New Europe. Last time Guido bumped into him was at the Adam Smith Institute bloggers shindig, where he seemed amongst friends.
He is positively cackling about having stuck the knife into Blunkett with great finesse. So how is he left wing?
Well, why not? Aside from being an ignorant git, Pollard has also described himself as a libertarian. He’s actually a freelance blimp given the chance to push his considerable weight about inside the Labour Party by the Blairoids decision to out-demagogue the Tories on law’n’order issues, as chronicled by Nick Cohen over the years. Party and policy don’t much matter to the likes of Fat Steve and Crazy Mel. The point is to shove the political agenda generally towards reaction and to orchestrate a bidding war by both major parties to that end. Blunkett was pretty much a creature of the Daily Mail by the end of his tenure, yet it was the Mail that really did for him. This is confidence at work. Chosen instruments can be picked up and discarded at will.
So now Labour are in the position where they can’t take the credit for the fact that crime levels are lower than they have been for decades. And the Tories are damaged by the fact that they have to keep up. All the debates within the Tories about whether they should make themselves into a nice rather than nasty party miss the point, which is that they need to stop being a movement and become a tendency again.
Here’s a for instance. It’s a conservative instinct to regard people as dangerous agitators. It’s also a conservative instinct to regard people as national treasures. In the matter of Peter Tatchell, popular conservative sentiment has changed from the first to the second instinct over the past few years, and if they had their old pure power lust, the Tories would be there to meet it.
What’s all this got to do with ID cards? New Labour are hopeless. They’re a Microsoft for mind viruses*, an echo chamber for moral flatulence. Having said that, Charlie the safety elephant doesn’t seem to share Blunkett’s berserk sense of self-regard, and may be liable to influence. Yet he succeeds Blunkett just as Michael Howard agrees to go along with ID cards. When was the last time any Tory spokesman got on his hind legs in parliament and said that no legislation at all was necessary? For Christ’s sake, this is what Tories are for.
*stolen, with thanks, from Ken MacLeod