Tony Says

I'm just watching the Sky News interview with Tony Blair as I prepare to catch my midnight flight back to a very different-looking seaside town in Thanet, from the view over the beach here in Muscat.

Why I wonder, is there so little crime, is everything so neat and tidy, the people astonishingly polite and I can let my small daughter roam away from sight at will, knowing that she's safer here than anywhere in Europe?

In 2001, on the evening before a visit to the region, representing the Cabinet Office, one of the Prime Minister's advisors called me at home asking what I was up to. He told me that "We have nothing to learn from a bunch of Arabs", when I explained there were some useful lessons to learn from the experiences of some of the smaller Gulf States. I disagreed quite strongly with this rather jaded view because I believed there were all kinds of things we learn. Among them of course, is a stong sense of national identity and pride, very little alcohol of course and a very powerful institution of marriage. Every country has its problems but in most, if not all the countries adjacent to where I'm sitting, the very things that escape us in Britain, are accepted as the norm.

Of course, there is no convention on human rights to follow and justice is swift and frequently uncertain but then there are no ASBOs or evidence of drugs-related or alcohol-fuelled crime. education and teachers are held in the highest esteem and there's no snow to stop the trains in Winter.

OK.. some of this may be a little tongue in cheek because I'm not advocating that we all move to Oman but what I am saying is that in terms of the most basic demands that we make of our own politicians, they seem to have solved the problems here, that make it a nice safe and tidy place to live. Where did we go so wrong in Britain I wonder?

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