One of new Labour's greatest achievements has been to create an unprecedented cynicism about the political process among British people.
Never have I seen this contempt demonstrated more plainly than last Sunday night, when I turned up at the BBC's Birmingham studios to do a radio talk show. The donation of o100,000 to the Labour Party by Richard Desmond, owner of the Express -- which preceded Stephen Byers's surprise decision not to refer the sale of the newspaper group to the Competition Commission -- had been wiped off as the lead news item by Peter Ham, the minister for Europe.
The claim by Ham that a minority of British Muslims were isolationist and therefore vulnerable to extremists sparked a predictable race row, which then led the news agenda.
"It's what they do all the time," said the young, Labour-supporting BBC researcher. "If the government's in a mess, as it is over Byers and the Express donation, they just stir up a race row.
Whether this is true or not -- and there are certainly plenty of precedents -- the cynicism with which even young, well-educated, well-intentioned Labour supporters view this government and its media management is striking.
It appears that if it can't bury bad news beneath a real funeral, a la Jo Moore, this government is perfectly prepared to create its own cadaver.
A race row is the ideal diversionary tactic because it flares up, then dies down just as quickly, starved of the oxygen of honest discussion. Few politicians in this country have the guts or the integrity to talk truthfully about the race issues facing Britain and Europe today.
What a tragedy for us all that our politicians -- left and right -- can't find the courage to take part in the discussion.
As I discovered that night, there is a debate taking place in this country about asylum, immigration and cultural isolationism -- but it is taking place in our communities and on the radio. I was half expecting a barrage of racist comments when we chose Ham's charge as the subject of the phone-in, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
At last, a role has been found for the millionaire Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward, now Labour MP for St Helens South. Enter the self-styled defender of the government's decision to house asylum-seekers in what the Labour Party described as "concentration …