TONY Blair's respect agenda is admirable in principle but probably unworkable in practice. At one level one has to admire a prime minister who has listened and absorbed the views of the ordinary people he talked to during last year's election campaign; at another, however, one has to regret that after eight years in office he has still not learned the limitations of government intervention to change human behaviour. Mr Blair's government has been responsible for a huge increase in legislation designed to make people better citizens but the result has been disappointing, partly because of the complexity of much of the legislation and partly because those charged with implementing it are not sufficiently well-trained or, as in the case of the police, busy with other priorities. The problems inherent in the government's new programme are perfectly encapsulated in the first of the new measures to be considered, evicting nuisance families from their homes for three months. This might well give the neighbours of such problem families three months of tranquility but what will be done with these families during the time they are evicted? Will local authorities be asked to put them in bed-and-breakfast accomodation? What will happen to the childrens' education if they are moved to a new area? Why is it assumed that making them homeless for three months will make them think better, rather than worse, of the society in which they are supposed to play a more responsible part? There is more sense in the idea that police authorities and local government officers should be required to hold face the people meetings at which problems and dissatisfaction could be aired. But, again, is this not the job that locally elected councillors and MPs should be undertaking? Many of the respect agenda proposals run the risk of doing little but adding another adminstrative layer to existing social services. From this viewpoint there is much to be said for David Cameron's opportunistic intervention yesterday when he argued that voluntary organisations are better placed than bureaucrats to deal with many of the problems that have apparently made Britain such an unpleasant and dangerous place to live in for so many people today. How much of the deterioration in respect is the result of failed government policies in education and social services?
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