The architects of Labour's 1997 election campaign considered the target so important that they made it one of the five promises written on the famous pocket-sized red-pledge cards that party activists handed out to the electorate.
Labour promised to halve the average time between the arrest and sentence of a persistent young offender, from 142 days to 71 days by 2002.
In the first four years the target proved rather elusive and a number of confidential Whitehall reports predicted failure unless ministers got a grip of the criminal justice agencies responsible for delivering the pledge.
In 2001 a joint assessment by Lord Warner, the then chairman of the Youth Justice Board, and a management consultancy, concluded that in the previous four months "there has been no improvement at all" in the national averages of the time between arrest and sentencing of a young offender.
It noted that the general trend of improvement "has appeared to have gone into reverse for cases sentenced in the Crown Courts". At the end of 2000 the Government was still 24 days short of the pledge target.
But by September 2001 the Government had sent ministers to all the criminal justice areas with the worst records where they banged heads together and got themselves and the relevant criminal justice agencies back on track. And in 2002 the average time to process a persistent young offender through the courts was cut to just 68 days.
The key target on law and order had been reached but there was little fanfare or trumpeting of this success. Many commentators wondered why.
Since then, the story of the pledge has been one of ups and downs and the latest figures, for December last year, show that the Government is now …