Yeah, I know: 4,500 words of Brown’s rhetoric is too much for most CoffeeHousers to bear. So I thought I’d read his "speech on crime and anti-social behaviour" on your behalf, and highlight three things which jumped out at me. Here goes:
1. Taking on the Tories over DNA retention. Paul Waugh has already blogged on what may turn out to be the most significant passage of Brown’s speech – at least so far as the cut ‘n’ thrust of the election campaign is concerned. In it, Brown highlights the case of Jeremiah Sheridan, who raped a woman some 19 years ago, but was caught last year thanks to DNA evidence retained after Sheridan was arrested – but not convicted – for an offence in 2005. Brown ends his story thus:
"The next time you hear somebody question the value of retaining DNA profiles from those who have been arrested but not convicted, remember Jeremiah Sheridan. And most of all remember the innocent woman he attacked."
The heavy implication is that Sheridan would still be walking the streets if the Tories had their way on DNA retention. Hm. As Alex of this parish* points out, it’s far from edifying politics. But you can expect Labour to repeat that dubious charge over the next few weeks, nonetheless.
2. The "us and them" mentality. Downing Street may have toned down the worst of Brown’s class war excesses, but the PM is still keen to paint a picture of a Labour party on the side of a "hard-working majority," and a Tory party on the side of privilege. I mean, how about this:
"Because I know that the hard working majority will never be able to afford to live in a gated community or hire a private security firm, I am committed to a strong, modern police service for all – more visible in your community and more responsive to your needs and concerns."
"There are of course some who think CCTV is ‘excessive.’ but they probably don’t have to walk home or take the night bus on their own at the end of a night out. For the rest of us, for ordinary hard working, decent people, the evidence is clear: CCTV reduces the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour."
If you were feeling petty, you might point out that Brown himself lives in a gated community, with plenty of security, and it’s probably some time since he took the night bus on his own at the end of a night out. But I suppose that doesn’t stop him from being one of the "hard working, decent people"…
3. Brown’s conversion to computers. Credit where it’s partially due – Brown actually makes some convincing points about data transparency, and holding the police to account via online crime maps and the like. I know there’s a lot of controversy about the crime statistics which sit behind all that. But it’s still striking to hear this analogue politician promoting tools which are very much of the digital age. Throw in his work with Tim Berners-Lee, and there are signs that Brown is catching on to the Tories’ post-bureaucratic agenda – and that the conversion isn’t completely superficial.
* Alex is, incidentally, guest-blogging over at Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish for the next week or so. Do pop over there.