New Year Message

Happy New Year to each and every one of you.

For me, 2006 has been a year unlike any other. Becoming leader of a political party is both a privilege and a great responsibility. I am determined to make the very best of our Party’s opportunities and I believe that we have made a good start.

I want to take this opportunity to draw your attention to a serious matter. It makes me angry when I meet people up and down the country who have had their lives ruined by crime. We all want to live in a safe and secure environment. I am determined that our Party should use next year as an opportunity to show how we can make that happen.

But we need your help.

I want you to join our New Year campaign: We Can Cut Crime. It will set out our ideas about how to make Britain safer for everyone.

Liberal Democrats are already working at a local level to cut crime. Through positive and pragmatic measures, our Party has had great success in cutting crime.

In Liverpool, we have slashed domestic burglary by 24% through such practical policies as gating off back alleys between homes, and in Newcastle violent crime has fallen by 12%, after a rise of 54% in 2002-04, when its Council was under Labour control.

By contrast our opponents talk tough, but Labour has presided over the wholesale degeneration of our criminal justice system: overcrowded prisons; one of the highest reoffending rates in the western world; falling conviction rates for serious violent crimes like rape; high levels of public fear of crime and antisocial behaviour; a demoralised probation service; and constant attacks by the government on judges. Making matters worse, Tony Blair has put more than 3,000 new criminal offences on to the statute book since coming to power. His legacy is clear: tough talk, headline-grabbing gimmicks and poor performance.

As for the Conservatives, who knows what they think? One day David Cameron wants to hug a hoodie, the next he is calling for ever-larger prison numbers.

By contrast, we have effective ideas for cutting crime. Together, we can put these into action with concrete results.

Ours is a party that is liberal in principle, but more effective in cutting crime than our opponents.

The Party is currently considering a policy document entitled Crime in the Community and I have asked our Shadow Home Secretary, Nick Clegg to do some radical and innovative thinking about the best and most practical ways to cut crime.

This will include a new approach to sentencing, the reform of our over-crowded prison system, tackling town centre violence and closing the revolving door of repeat offending.

That thinking will form the basis of the We Can Cut Crime campaign.

Our campaign is aptly named. We know that crime can be reduced and we know that we are the party to do it. I am determined to show that the Liberal Democrats are the only party that can tackle crime both honestly and effectively.

We can and should be seen as the party that will cut crime.

But we need your help to ensure that this message reaches the public.

So I want to set you a challenge for the New Year. I am asking you to consider how you think the Party can sharpen its message on crime and make clear our priorities. Below are five questions on crime. Please consider them carefully and let me know your views. Your experiences and opinions will be crucial to informing this vital campaign.

  1. Have you ever been the victim of crime and, if so, would you be prepared to share your experiences?
  2. How do you think that we can make prison, and other aspects of the criminal justice system, work better?
  3. What are the crime issues of most concern to people in your area?
  4. What have been the most successful local initiatives for cutting crime in your area?
  5. Are you, or any other Liberal Democrat member or supporter in your area, involved in any part of the criminal justice system?

This year began with some challenges for the Liberal Democrats. But our stunning victory over Labour in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, our outstanding by-election performance in the Tory stronghold of Bromley and Chislehurst, and a strong and consistent position in the opinion polls have shown that this is a party heading in the right direction.

But our continued success depends upon having a strong and motivated team working together. That team includes each and every one of you: the party’s members and supporters.

Please do send me your responses to the questions above and help us to ensure that we reach our full potential in 2007.

With every best wish for the year ahead.

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5 Responses to New Year Message

  1. euan cameron says:

    in answer to the questions

    1. yes assault(`happy slapping`) and attempted robbery. yes happy to discuss

    2. Prison needs to be more rehabilitative,offering real offender retraining and education programmes,custodial sentencing needs to be targeted at those offenders that need to be incarcerated,more emphasis needs to be placed on preparing inmated for release and supporting and supervising them once discharged.

    3. Islington,anti social behaviour,vehicle crime alcohol related violence

    4. Safer neighbourhood teams funded by local authority in every ward

    5. Yes, I am a panel member of a borough multi agency public protection panel (mappa),a cross doscipline body managing,supervising ,supporting and assessing the risk of the most dangerous violent and sexual offenders

  2. I have just taken on chairmanship of our Neighbourhood Watch in Bletchingley, Surrey. We have 30 local street coordinators in a relatively small village.

    An emphasis of my tenure will be crime prevention. We have just had a bogus plumber calling on an old lady and taking £400 which she should not have had in the house of course and a burglary through the back dooe when the elderly couple were watching television in the fron room. The elderly are the most vulnerable.

    I’m interested in the proposal of the police in Nottingham that the NHS should provide drugs for drug addicts as part of a programme to get them off using them

  3. Felicity Sturt says:

    Little experience of crime, though having suffered house burglarly once I know how violating this feels. Police and victim support on that occasion were excellent.
    My concern for society is prison practice,overcrowding,recidivism and the affect on families of endeavouring to keep in touch with inmates who may be moved from prison to prison without notice on account of pressing ‘bed blocking’ type problems. Inmates education programmes are also very difficult to implement often for the same reason. Some research has shown that diet has an affect on behaviour especially of children and young people in contributing to hyperactivity and even forms of aggression. Is prison diet helping behaviour ? Children need fathers and Dads need to be helped in the role of parenting. Often inmates so I was once told by an assistant prison governor may not themselves have had adequate parenting and certainly often lack a role model as fathers.
    Disrupted or chequered education both for opportunities or because special education needs may not have been recognised or met contribute to young men especially being drawn into crime.
    My limited experience at a local prison has been in seeking as a volunteer helper (over 6 years) to provide support for children when they accompany relatives in visiting inmates so that adults have time to talk as well as enjoy the child’s company. Through space pressure that facility is currently not available within the visits area, and has been withdrawn.
    Prevention of crime should be higher on the agenda. Education and support of parents; nursery education properly resourced, special needs identified and early intervention given.
    Poverty, of parental time, money and opportunity including opportunity for play and recreation contribute to young people’s alienation.
    Of alcohol abuse I see only the the results as youngsters progress homewards from the town centre, and I read reports in the local papers, and notice the supermarkets open 6.0am to 11.0pm. stacked with drink and often with loitering groups of lads alongside.
    Fear of crime is more likely than not to be greater than its actual experience. Nevertheless abuse of the elderly in their own homes is totally unacceptable, especially when bungalows designated for the elderly are seen to be targets.
    (A once upon a time L/D borough councillor perhaps should not comment)
    F.Sturt

  4. Michael Stephen Nolan says:

    I emigrated from England to Eire in September 2006 and found that the Liberal Party are a big disappointment. Unfortunately, so are Labour and the Tories. I was born in England aanf find that the Scots discriminate against the English. My policy suggestion is to go back to unpaid MP’s and whilst things will not get better, it will be less costly.
    When I left school I went into Public Sevice in Local Governments. Today these people do not serve well or are even polite. I lived in Loughborough, Leicestershire before leaving England. My father was born in Killarney, Eire, which is where I am at present for a few days.

  5. Norm Peterson says:

    1. Have you ever been the victim of crime and, if so, would you be prepared to share your experiences?
    Yes, and yes. I’ve been assulted 4 times, had my car window smashed and have had two bikes stolen. The police were effectively useless in all but one of the assults – incidentally in this single case of being useful, its was mostly because the criminal was rather stupid.

    2. How do you think that we can make prison, and other aspects of the criminal justice system, work better?
    Open to suggestions.

    3. What are the crime issues of most concern to people in your area?
    Don’t know, for me though, its violent and property crimes.

    4. What have been the most successful local initiatives for cutting crime in your area?
    Don’t know.

    5. Are you, or any other Liberal Democrat member or supporter in your area, involved in any part of the criminal justice system?
    Not as far as I know.

    On the other hand, I have recently been pulled over by a police officer in an unmarked car who called me a f****** idiot and told me to “drive at 30 like everyone else,” but it was a 40mph limit. Perhaps we should recruit some intelligent police officers before we tamper with the criminal justice system?

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