‘What is your greatest weakness’? – an idiotic interview question in my view, but nevertheless apparently a popular one. Suggestions for answering it include ‘I’m just too much of a perfectionist/workaholic’ and other lies. Despite the possibility of this question, preparation for a job interview should involve quite a lot of combing through our CVs to find ways to demonstrate our strengths and to show how suitable we are for the job in question. Is anyone likely to appoint you if you spend most of the interview apologising for just how terrible you’ve been in all your other jobs?
One way of looking at the months up to May 2015 is as a big interview for the job of running the country. There are still too many people who seem hung up on answering the ‘weakness’ question rather than identifying the convincing strengths in our record.
Given that New Labour – and Tony Blair – won three general elections and led a government that undoubtedly changed this country for the better, I am not convinced that the message ‘we’re making a break with New Labour’ is necessarily a winner.
Equally, if we do not defend our record in government as a pointer to our ability to govern again, you can be damn sure no one else will. Despite working in Jordan this week, I made the mistake of listening to the Today programme this morning. John Humphrys blithely announced ‘Asbos – it’s generally agreed they didn’t work’. Er John … that is just not true.
Without Labour’s action on anti-social behaviour in government, there would not even have been recognition that many people (and usually those without the wherewithal to move house) were having their lives and communities blighted by the actions of a few. There would not have been successful joint working by councils, housing providers and the police to cut down on vandalism, crack houses and the general terrorising of law-abiding neighbourhoods. There would not have been the other interventions with individuals – drug treatment; education and training opportunities; job support – which only came about because someone was focussed on their behaviour and putting it right. There would not have been an increase in community confidence that comes with the belief that the police and others were taking crime and anti-social behaviour seriously and listening to what local people said they were most concerned about.
In May 2012, I took on some of the common criticisms of Asbos in an article for Progress. The fact that action on anti-social behaviour is withering on the vine now is not the fault of the Labour government. It is the fault of this one: shutting down joint community safety work; withdrawing policing from neighbourhoods; putting in stiffer requirements for the new orders the government are introducing – these are the things that are causing the good work of police, councils and local people to be undermined.
Come on – don’t let John Humphrys get away with it. It is time to get off our knees and stop trashing our own record – there are plenty of others out there willing to do that.
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.