"Yet again, Tony Blair has made an error of taste by seeking to trivialise grave failings by his colleagues. "Nine days' headlines," he told a union conference yesterday, "should not obscure nine years of achievements." Today's headline - about the link between undeported dangerous criminals and the murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky - shows why he cannot play down these mistakes.
"Yesterday was, indeed, the ninth anniversary of his entry into Downing Street, immediately after a campaign in which he had pledged his administration would be "whiter than white, purer than pure" after years of "Tory sleaze". Enter Prescott, stage left: sic transit gloria mundi.
- The burden of taxation has increased on everybody since then.
- The public services for which this is paying have not markedly improved.
- Our schools continue to turn out school-leavers who are functionally innumerate and illiterate after 11 years of full-time education.
- Young people pass examinations at school - and even at some universities - only because the pass mark has been lowered to insulting levels.
- The NHS is laying off doctors and nurses, and hospitals are threatened with closure.
- Britain is in the grip of a crime wave.
- The prisons are overflowing.
- There are scant controls on immigration.
- The last two points are linked in the 1,000 or so serious criminals at large in this country who should be facing deportation.
- Devolution has broken up the United Kingdom, put new burdens on taxpayers, undermined the national identity and done nothing to improve government.
- Our foreign policy is incoherent and impotent.
- Our armed forces are underfunded and overstretched, and put in lethal danger in a war from which there is still no obvious exit.
- As well as more than 100 servicemen and women, at least one distinguished public servant - Dr David Kelly - has died as a result of the Government's shabby handling of this issue.
- Our farming industry is near to collapse, not least because the system of paying subsidies to our farmers is a shambles.
- Many months of parliamentary time were wasted abolishing foxhunting, which continues anyway.
- The House of Lords has suffered an incomplete reform, losing many of its best people, and is in the process of being turned into a rubber-stamp for the fiats of the executive.
- A police investigation is under way to establish whether places in the Upper House have in effect been sold to willing customers to benefit Labour Party funds.
- Attempts to reform local government have expensively failed.
- Several cabinet ministers have already departed because of sexual or financial improprieties: more seem certain to follow.
"Nine years of achievement? Unfair headlines? We think not, Prime Minister."