When fascism comes to Britain, it will be a genuine intellectual debate about the nature of liberty in a modern developed society such as our own:
Speech by Tony Blair, Jan. 10, 2006
The important thing about debating ASB [antisocial behavior], and the measures we are proposing, is not to debate it at the crude level of 'tough' or 'not tough'; populist or not. But, instead, to regard it as a genuine intellectual debate about the nature of liberty in a modern developed society such as our own. [...]
Let us start from two propositions we all agree with. An innocent person should be protected from wrongful accusation. The public at large should be protected from crime.
Until we began the new crime measures of recent years, these two principles existed in a very simple theoretical construct of the criminal justice system. The police would charge the accused of whatever crime, that was appropriate. The CPS would prosecute. A magistrates court or judge and jury would decide guilt. [...]
In theory, in each case the police charge, the prosecutor prosecutes and the court decides.
In theory there is no need therefore to change these criminal law processes. Except that, in practice, its not what happens. [...]
In practice, to prove that person X with £10,000 on them in cash in the middle of the city at 2am got this money through specific acts of drug dealing is too hard. You may know it. But how do you prove it? So it doesn't happen.
In practice, the months and years of a court process, with a jury utterly bemused and the legal aid bills rising - spending is very unevenly distributed between case types, with over 50% of legal aid for crown court cases spent on 1 per cent of cases - to prove serious financial fraud or conspiracy means they rarely happen and if they do, often collapse.
The theory is basically treating Britain as if it were in the 19th or early 20th centuries. The practice however takes place in a post-war, modern, culturally and socially diverse, globalised society and economy at the beginning of the 21st century. The old civic and family bonds have been loosened. The scale, organisation, nature of modern crime makes the traditional processes simply too cumbersome, too remote from reality to be effective.
The result is that whatever the theory behind the two principles - protection of the accused, protection of the public - in practice the second has not been realised.
Since the self reinforcing bonds of traditional community life do not exist in the same way, we need a radical new approach if we are to restore the liberty of the law-abiding citizen. My view is very clear: their freedom to be safe from fear has to come first. Yes, in theory, that is what is supposed to happen through the traditional court processes. In practice it doesn't. We are fighting 21st crime with 19th century methods. [...]
A few years ago, we began to change this. The Proceeds of Crime Act gave the police the power to seize the cash of suspected drug dealers. ASB law imposed FPN fines, instant on-the-spot (usually down at the police station, in fact). ASBOs came into being where general behaviour not specific individual offences was criminalised.
This has, bluntly reversed the burden of proof. The person who spits at the old lady is given an £80 fine. If they want to challenge it, they have to appeal. The suspected drug dealer loses the cash. He has to come to court and show how he got it lawfully.
Now, as I shall say later, we want to take these powers further. Today I focus on ASB. Shortly we will do the same on serious and organised crime.
But the principle is the same. To get on top of 21st century crime, we need to accept that what works in practice is a measure of summary power with right of appeal, alongside the traditional court process.
Anything else is the theory, loved by much of the political and legal establishment but utterly useless to the ordinary citizen on the street.
[Blair goes on to describe in more detail the measures he's proposing. For example, he wants to give the government the power to seize and barricade the homes of "problem" neighbors for three months, even if privately-owned, and send their inhabitants to live in relocation centers ("sin bins") where they'll be taught appropriate social behavior. And the parents of children who misbehave in school will be sent to mandatory parenting classes.]
This is not a debate between those who value liberty and those who don't. Critics need to answer the following question: if the criminal justice system was failing people, as it clearly was, what ought we to have done? To do nothing is one option. But surely it is to do better by the British people to devise relevant powers, limited by the right of appeal, to ensure that communities do not have to live with unacceptable levels of fear and intimidation.
No liberal democracy can countenance the tyranny of a minority in any of its communities. We, as government, will discharge our duties. We will attempt to create the conditions in which respect can flourish. I believe in the innate decency of the British people and I believe that, together, we will eradicate the scourge of anti-social behaviour and restore Respect to the communities of Britain.