Prime Minister's Questions in the last couple of weeks has been dominated by law and order so Channel Four have a timely report comparing the main parties voting records on these issues.
In the vote on the Criminal Justice Act at its third reading on 20 May 2003 Labour voted for and the Liberal Democrats and the Tories voted against. But what were the reasons. It introduced a range of measures including indeterminate sentences for anyone committing a serious sexual or violent offence, and an early removal scheme to allow foreign nationals to be deported at the halfway point in their sentence.
The reason that the Lib Dems voted against was that it introduced a measure that allowed automatic parole at half of their sentence for anybody with being sentenced to over four years. The Lib Dems believed this should be the decision for a parole board on a case to case basis. The Tories did not give a reason for their opposition.
The Lib Dems voted against the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill at its third reading on 24 June 2003. However, we had voted in favour of their introduction in the Crime and Disorder act 1998. The reason that the vote changed in 5 years is that Lib Dem Councils had introduced Anti-Social Behaviour Contracts which have proven to be such a good idea that they are now being taken on by the Home Office. Both Labour and the Tories back ASBOs which may not be around much longer following the Home Offices new consideration of ABCs.
The view of Channel Four on all this is that the Lib Dem and Tory vote against Labour policy is either because they seek to introduce tougher policy or because they have seen fundamental flaws in the legislation that labour has introduced.
Therefore Mr Blair is not so tough on crime and muddled on how to legislate on crime. So next time you hear the alternative New Labour sound bit rolled out remember the facts.