When I recently interviewed Australian Prime Minister John Howard for 18 Doughty Street Talk TV he was clear that the issues of ‘prosperity and security’ would be the two most important issues at his country’s next election and at future elections. We should listen to the world’s most successful conservative leader.
As Labour plan their next General Election campaign – and it looks increasingly likely that Gordon Brown will be Tony Blair’s successor – they will be emphasising the same issues. British prosperity continues to give Labour its base popularity (despite declining global competitiveness) and a blitz on crime will be at the heart of next week’s Queen’s Speech. Another ingredient of Labour’s security message will be the idea that the Tories are weak on homeland security. Labour are convinced that the British people are more concerned about fighting terrorism than civil liberties and Blair-Blunkett-Reid are prepared to compromise those liberties in the process.
The Conservative Party must act more purposefully to demonstrate that Labour’s homeland security credentials are weak. In an excellent article for today’s Platform Patrick Mercer MP outlines some of Labour’s failures on homeland security and he outlines a four-fold alternative strategy. David Cameron has made some encouraging interventions on homeland security but probably needs to do more. In our age of terror it is vital that the Conservative Party does not allow Gordon Brown to style himself as the great protector of the British people. Conservatives must be mindful of ancient liberties but we must not give the impression that we are more fearful of the British state than al-Qaeda.
The dangers of terrorism are on all of today’s frontpages again. Today’s Sun Says sums up the very real threats facing Britain and other western democracies:
"The head of MI5 emerged from the shadows yesterday to warn us all about the threat from al-Qaeda. Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller rarely speaks in public. Which is all the more reason why we should listen carefully to what she had to say. In a chilling lecture, she predicted waves of terrorist bombings, some involving chemical and biological devices, for perhaps generations to come. At this moment, at least 30 attacks are being actively planned and 1,600 suicidal young terrorists are under surveillance. Round-the-clock vigilance by security services has thwarted five major conspiracies and saved countless lives. But there are plenty more outrages being planned. This week’s shocking revelations about Dhiren Barot’s fiendish plot to slaughter thousands here and in America leave few illusions about the risk to our way of life. But we also need to understand this menace did not begin on 9/11 or with the invasion of Iraq — or even in the Middle East. Barot was being trained to massacre innocent civilians long before the attack on New York. The first plot against the UK was discovered and disrupted in 2000 — a year before the Twin Towers catastrophe. The intelligence services are fighting a huge and elusive enemy on many fronts. They are working at full stretch against an increasingly sophisticated and dangerous foe. Sometimes they make mistakes. But whatever hand-wringing liberals have to say, we need to remember two important things. They are on OUR side . . . and they deserve ALL the support they can get."