Speaking in Manchester today at the Conservative Spring Forum, Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said:
"A while ago, a couple of my friends were berating me for being too tough on Charles Clarke.
"After all," one said," if you went on the street and sold 6 ounces of cannabis, you would still be arrested."
"Maybe," the other one replied, "but not for selling cannabis - just for selling it in ounces."
It may be a joke, but it reflects only too well this Government's upside down sense of priorities on crime.
Just over 10 years ago Tony Blair promised to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime."
So just listen to this.
"We intervene too late. We spend without asking how effective the spending is. There are children who are the clients of many agencies of government but the charges of no one, prey to drugs, into crime and antisocial behaviour, lacking in self-belief, lacking a basic stake in the society into which they are born. It isn't good enough… It isn't right and we can't afford it."
Those are the words of Tony Blair after 9 years of his own government.
His confession of his own failure.
Now, he expects us to believe in his latest headline-grabbing initiative, his so-called 'Respect Agenda'.
I don't know about you, but I find it pretty hard to respect this Government when gun crime is up, drugs offences are up and violent crime alone has gone up by almost 600,000.
How has this happened?
Well, let's start with Labour being" tough on crime."
Labour - tough on crime?
In 2003, I told you the story of Marion Bates, the lady who was murdered by a criminal on Labour's early release scheme. We attacked the scheme and demanded its repeal.
David Blunkett said it would never happen again.
But what has happened since?
John Monckton, a banker, murdered in his home by a man on parole from prison.
Robert Symons, a teacher, stabbed through the heart by a crack addict released early from prison.
Mary Ann Leneghan - raped, tortured, and murdered by men on probation.
And these are just the high profile cases that we actually know about.
Had those men been in prison, where they should have been, John Monckton, Robert Symons and Mary-Ann Leneghan would -without doubt- be alive today.
But they were not in prison because there was no space in prison for them.
Gordon Brown would not let the Home Office have the money to build the prisons.
Instead of fighting crime, what is the Government doing?
Telling police forces to let burglars escape without punishment.
Under new government instructions, more than 60 different offences could be punished with a mere caution.
Possession of Class A drugs - caution?
Actual bodily harm - caution?
Threatening to kill - caution?
So much for tough on crime, when the Government can't even achieve the most basic task of protecting the public.
Labour - tough on the causes of crime?
What about tough on the causes of crime?
What are the causes of crime?
Alcohol is a cause of crime - a factor in half of violent crime. Yet 10,000 fewer drunks have been prosecuted each year.
And the Government's answer to binge drinking? 24-hour drinking in our towns and cities.
Drugs can cause crime - they destroy communities and fuel other crime from petty theft to murder. Over a million people are now dependent on hard drugs and Cocaine use by school children has doubled in the last twelve months!
And the Government's answer for worried parents? To soften the law on cannabis and ignore our porous borders which let these drugs flow into our streets and playgrounds.
Broken families can cause of crime. 60,000 children are in care homes - up almost 10,000 since Labour came to power.
Lack of school discipline can cause of crime. Assaults on teachers, errant children and truancies running at well over a million a year, up over 400,000 since Labour came to power.
Even the environment of our communities contributes to crime.
In rundown estates, in Labour-dominated cities, dark alleyways shield muggers and isolated car parks provide easy pickings, while communal spaces and stairwells are littered with hypodermic needles.
And this bad design is actually encouraged by this government's own planning guidance - as John Prescott does for law and order what he has already done for the English language.
Alcohol. Drugs. Family breakdown. School discipline. Badly designed living environments. All causes of crime. And all worse under this Government.
And Labour's response is even more of the failed strategy, central control, more spending without reform, more micromanagement.
That's why they want to merge our county forces into remote, unaccountable regional forces, closer to Whitehall but further from the people and the communities they serve.
Our approach is different. We recognise we have a shared responsibility as a society to fight crime and to build safer communities.
Instead of Gordon Brown's belief in 'empowering government', we believe in empowering local people.
We believe in giving local communities control over local policing; in cutting bureaucracy; and in giving Chief Constables more, not less, control of their own force.
But we understand that to be tough on crime you have to be tough on criminals. We won't flinch from that.
That means police spending more of their time on the streets, free to do their jobs and catch criminals.
It means that, when we catch the criminals, they should be punished.
Justice should be tough, justice should be honest and, where necessary, justice should mean prison.
But being tough on crime isn't just about tough sentences. It's about the way we prepare offenders to re-enter society from conviction through to release and beyond.
That means providing intensive rehabilitation for young drug addicts, to break them free of their spiral of decline before it destroys their whole life.
It means reinforcing stable families, to give children a chance at a decent life.
And it means rebuilding our cities to allow families a life free of risk and fear.
We have already taken the first steps.
Conservative councils, from Bradford to Wandsworth are designing crime out of council estates, taking out the abandoned car parks littered with deserted cars and closing dangerous alleyways.
From CCTV schemes to community wardens, up and down the country, Conservative councils are making life better for everyone - which is why people will return those Conservative councils with bigger majorities in May.
Walk on by society
But there is something else we need to sort out.
We all know the parable of the Good Samaritan. He crossed the road to help the man beaten half to death by vagabonds and thieves.
He did not worry about falling foul of the Judean equivalent of the Health and Safety Executive. He did not check to see if his first aid certificate was up-to-date. He didn't hesitate for fear of a subsequent compensation claim. He just got on with it and saved the traveller's life.
I know that neither this party, nor the British people, want to walk on by when they see someone in trouble. This Party believes in common decency. They want to help - and they want to help straight away.
But the trouble is, we are becoming on walk on by society.
A walk on by society where we are all scared to intervene to help a child in case we are accused of abuse…
Where we are scared to stand up for an old lady who is being attacked in case we're charged with assault…
Where we hesitate to confront young yobs in case we are the ones interrogated by police…
Where teachers are told it is 'inappropriate' to comfort a hurt child…
Where parents may not take pictures of the school play because that's 'inappropriate' too…
We end up with the terrible story of Abby Rae - a little girl who drowned in a garden pond after wandering off from school. Shortly before she fell into the pond she was seen by a builder - he did not dare to approach her for fear that he might be suspected of abducting her.
A mixture of political correctness and public hysteria, is fast turning us into a "walk on by" society.
When we return to government, we are going to have to put this right.
As David Cameron said a few months ago "there is such a thing as society, it is just not the same thing as the State."
Doesn't that just characterise the difference between us and Labour?
When Labour see the state we're in, what they want is a bigger State.
When Conservatives see the state we're in, what we want is a stronger society.
To Conservatives, the 'walk on by society' is abhorrent.
What Conservatives want is a decent society.
A compassionate society.
A society where people feel safe on their streets, secure in their homes, and confident in themselves.
A society that is built to last."