Menzies Campbell today called on the Liberal Democrats to "sharpen" their message on law and order and show that the party can be trusted to tackle crime.
In a new year's message at the end of his first nine months as party leader, Sir Menzies said the Lib Dems would be carrying out some "radical and innovative thinking" about the best and most practical ways to cut crime.
The party has traditionally been seen as soft on law and order, but today the Lib Dem leader attacked Labour for being too draconian and the Conservatives for having no policies, and declared: "We can and should be seen as the party that will cut crime."
Sir Menzies said Tony Blair's government had presided over a "wholesale degeneration" of the criminal justice system, citing overcrowded prisons, high reoffending rates, falling conviction rates for crimes such as rape and high levels of public fear of crime.
"Making matters worse, Tony Blair has put more than 3,000 new criminal offences on to the statute book since coming to power. His legacy is clear: tough talk, headline-grabbing gimmicks and poor performance," he said.
"As for the Conservatives, who knows what they think? One day David Cameron wants to hug a hoodie, the next he is calling for ever-larger prison numbers."
Sir Menzies said the Lib Dems were the only party that could tackle crime "both honestly and effectively", and launched a new campaign entitled We can cut crime that would lay out how it would do this.
As part of the campaign, home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg has been charged with looking at reform of the prison system and sentencing, at how town centre violence can be tackled and how the 50 per cent reoffending rate could be cut.
The Lib Dem leader said this work would build on the success his party already had at a local authority level in tackling crime. He pointed to Liverpool, where burglaries had gone down by 24 per cent since the Lib Dem council gated off back alleyways.
"It makes me angry when I meet people up and down the country who have had their lives ruined by crime. We all want to live in a safe and secure environment," he said.
"I am determined that our party should use next year as an opportunity to show how we can make that happen."