Before he answered a higher calling, Tony Blair was a lawyer. Given his much publicised infatuation with cash (cheap holidays at Sir Cliff's Barbados hideaway, nuzzling with billionaires like Italian national joke, Silvio Berlusconi, parading endless celebrities through Number 10) and considering just how much lawyers can earn, you have to think that he must have been bloody rubbish at it or he'd be still in the trade.
When he says things like he wants to 'de-rail the gravy train of legal aid', it conjures the mental image of Deke Thornton in The Wild Bunch hunting down his old friends after they left him for dead. Reading that the Prime Minister was 'called to the Bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1976' makes you wonder if he was actually only summoned to the pub to get a round in.
Evidence of him being something less than a legal eagle trips from his own mouth every time he opens it to pronounce on law and order. Apparently, this week, it's all the Human Rights Act's fault (it's been wrongly accused and imprisoned without trial) that you can't even go to the shops for a pint of milk without being raped to death by a Somali asylum-seeking drug dealer. Just after the General Election last year when he was - as now - facing calls to hand over to Gordon Brown, Blair announced it was teenagers in hoodies who were the harbingers of Armageddon. In fact, it's the Chancellor of the Exchequer who is the greatest threat to civil liberties and public safety in Britain today. Every time he eyes Blair's job greedily, licking his lips like a lion watching a limping wildebeest, the latter announces another distracting crackdown, shutdown or takedown. The sooner Brown is fitted for his orange jump suit and shipped out, the safer we'll all be.
The Human Rights Act isn't at fault here. The reason that so many foreigner prisoners are being released without being deported, or not being monitored properly, or re-offending, is the same reason why people used to warn against buying a British car that was built on a Friday and why you should never order the fish on a Monday. It's because most people are overworked, or poorly trained, or incompetent, or lazy, or loathe their jobs to the point of (in some case, dangerous) apathy.
But why go to all the trouble of addressing the complex issues of why people are people, when a quick fix can be dreamt up in a matter of minutes. In a leaked letter to the Home Secretary ('leaked' in this case meaning Downing Street sent it to tame journalists who obediently printed it), the Prime Minister said: 'We will need to look again at whether... legislation is needed to address the issue of Court rulings which over-rule the Government in a way that is inconsistent with other EU countries interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights.'
What he means here is that in France and elsewhere, judges interpret the European Convention on Human Rights differently to UK judges, and are less squeamish about sending released foreign prisoners and terrorist suspects (*suspects*, mind you) back home where they may face torture or execution. A rancid proposition, but entirely worthy of Blair who has previous form of lobbying for this. He must see himself like James Stewart in 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' - refusing to carry a gun until he's pushed too far and then must sink to his enemy's level. If only someone would say to him in a stern yet fatherly way, 'Now Tony, if France put its hand in the fire, would you?' If nothing else, however, it presents a delicious paradox for racists, the right-wing press and Eurosceptics of every stripe: if they want to get rid of all these asylum seekers, they must be more like the French.
The thing is, logically, if you're the kind of person who wants to send people - who may or may not be innocent - back to countries where they may be killed, why not save on the expense and call for Daily Mail readers to be allowed to hunt them with crossbows? They may or may not be brought down by a crazed, curtain-twitching armchair dictator in the same way that they may or may not be killed on arrival back in Somalia. Morally, where's the difference? If the Prime Minister knows best, and what the people want, why isn't he calling for crossbows for all? When he says, as he did this week, 'I believe people want a society without prejudice but with rules - rules that are fair, that we all play by, and rules that when broken carry a penalty. And the truth is that most people don't think we have sufficiently such a society,' the question has to be: how the hell would *he* know?
We're talking about a man who went from Fettes ('the Eton of the North'), to Oxford, to the Bar, and finally to politics, like John Prescott through a free buffet. How can he speak Jo(e) Bloggs? His public appearances are so carefully orchestrated, in order to avoid contact with the great unwashed who might ask awkward questions, they make Leni Riefenstahl's films of the Nuremberg rallies look like amateur videos of primary school nativity plays. This week's launch of the 'Let's Talk' event, just the latest example, featured a hand-picked audience who were given questions to ask the Prime Minister.
Blair also said: 'The problem of crime can be subject to lurid reporting or undue focus on terrible but exceptional cases.' He's right, of course, but coming from a man who said in 1993 that the murder of two-year old James Bulger by two ten year-old boys had been 'the ugly manifestation of a society that is becoming unworthy of the name', you have to wonder about his motives. (You don't actually, he was trying to make the Tories look soft on crime.) The freakish once-in-a-generation murder of a toddler by other children in 1993, according to Blair, was symptomatic of the dystopian nightmare of Britain under a Tory Government. And yet he says any such horrors occurring nowadays are blown of all proportion by a prurient media, stoking public fears. Fears which, despite Blair's recognition of media overkill, must be addressed by far-right appeasing, headline-monopolising, and fag-packet brainstorming.
To rebuild this shattered society, as well as repatriating all foreigners who look a bit evil, the Government is proposing to have 'British' values taught in our secondary schools. Values such as free speech (how the protest exclusion zone around Parliament works), democracy (how a government can be elected with only one in five of the electorate voting for them), and civil liberties (how much your fine will be if you refuse to carry an ID card) will, or so the thinking goes, pacify our own feral children and those of bestial asylum-seeking fuzzy wuzzies.
Except, that is, in Scotland and Wales, who have responsibility for their own school curriculums and therefore won't be compelled to sign up. Presumably their children will be free to carry on shanking, shagging and swigging, and the Scottish and Welsh Muslim communities can continue to plot our overthrow, or whatever horrors they get up to in the fevered public imagination as channelled by Blair and the right-wing press.
What are 'British' values anyway? If they're anything like those sentiments expressed by the average Londoner in July last year, they're an informed, sceptical refusal to take shit from those who would try to force their values upon us. People had to get up and get on with their lives and refused to let murderers tell them how to live them. As the mighty Warren Ellis once said: 'The lesson of the 1930s is that, in a time of encroaching conservatism and creeping repression, the correct response is not to flush your fucking spine down the toilet.'
Tony Blair, of course, takes the opposite view.