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Hague 'Plays Race Card'
- Neville Lawrence appalled at Tory Leader's anti-Macpherson line

OPPOSITION Tory leader William Hague has responded to the government's determination to make crime the main issue in the next general election by bringing race into the debate.

Hague made an attack on the effects of the Macpherson Report the centrepiece of a keynote speech last night, saying that "political correctness should not be allowed to get in the way of law enforcement." The term 'political correctness' is often thinly disguised code for 'minority rights'.

The Macpherson Report on the bungled investigation into the racist killing of black teenager Stephen Lawrence has long been unpopular in right wing circles for its insistence that the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist, but until now it has not been deemed polite or tactically astute for Tory leaders to say so in public.

Hague's outburst - he blamed the reaction to Macpherson for the decrease in the Met's willingness to use stop and search - drew an outraged response from the father of Stephen Lawrence, Neville, who argued that the Tories had been "trying to find ways of playing the race card for some time."

A spokesperson for Tony Blair also laid into Hague, calling the anti-Macpherson speech "desperate and disreputable." But much of the blame for the rightward drift in debate over crime can be laid at Blair's own door. The Prime Minister and his government last week announced they want to introduce curfews on the under 16s and cut back on those eligible for trial by jury in one of the most authoritarian schemes ever put forward by the left-leaning Labour Party.

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