The Conservatives have become the party of crime and disorder

·4-min read
The Conservative Party cut our police to the lowest level in a generation (Getty)
The Conservative Party cut our police to the lowest level in a generation (Getty)

The first duty of any government is to keep its people safe. Yet communities up and down our country continue to be blighted by crime after years of Conservative cuts to policing and justice.

Boris Johnson is no stranger to big promises. We’ve had endless tough talk about cracking down on crime. We’ve had promises to reverse police cuts and restore officer numbers – shamelessly ignoring the fact that it was his own party that decimated our police.

But after 11 years under the Conservatives, I’m more interested in their record than their rhetoric. I spent five years as this country’s chief prosecutor. I know what it takes to get criminals off the streets and get victims the justice they deserve.

That’s not just the job of the Crown Prosecution Service. And it’s not just the job of the police. It’s the job of the prime minister, too. And I would step up where Boris Johnson has failed.

The Conservative Party cut our police to the lowest level in a generation. It’s no coincidence that was followed by rising antisocial behaviour, record levels of knife crime, and almost nine in 10 crimes going unsolved.

Now, as our communities continue to suffer from crime and disorder, ministers are in denial. Like contortionists, they twist their own figures to try to show police funding on an upward trajectory. It’s so barefaced that the UK Statistics Authority has had to step in.

Meanwhile, in the real world, victims are waiting years for justice, record levels of drug use drag growing numbers of children into “county lines”, and we are looking at an epidemic of violence against women and girls. More than 98 per cent of reported rape cases don’t result in a charge. Let that sink in.

If funding for our police, courts and preventative services were as healthy as the government claims, would this really be happening? Look beyond the Home Office figures – at the data from police forces themselves – and a different story emerges. The reality is that police in England and Wales are still faced with a £1.6bn shortfall in funding under the Conservatives. The reality is that between 2010 and 2020, we lost 14,500 officers from the frontline.

At its heart, this is about priorities. Too many people feel unsafe in their own communities. Antisocial behaviour has skyrocketed. A generation of young people is growing up with their local youth clubs closed and their youth workers lost – vital positive role models that help divert people from the grips of crime.

Police across the country are warning that we face a summer of violence. We cannot ignore the fact that pent up tension among young people, many of whom have gone unsupported for 18 months, could have tragic consequences. Yet, the government has not put in place a plan to address that risk. In fact, the cross-government serious violence group that was set up in 2019 was later cancelled, having not met for over a year.

Instead, Boris Johnson’s priority has been to pledge hundreds of millions of pounds to his latest vanity project: a pointless “national yacht”.

We’ve seen this all before. Last year, the prime minister dipped into the public purse to redecorate a plane with national branding to “promote the UK overseas”. Yet last week we find out the plane has flown just once in five months. Taxpayers’ money down the drain, the concerns of everyday people ignored.

The Conservatives have become the party of crime and disorder. Labour would do things very differently. We would scrap Boris Johnson’s pointless vanity yacht and spend the money on tackling antisocial behaviour. We would put more police on our beat, restoring neighbourhood policing. We’d bring in new laws to crack down on dangerous driving and high-powered cars. And we’d campaign for services like youth clubs to keep kids away from crime.

And unlike Boris Johnson – who dismissed it as “jabber” – we would take violence against women and girls seriously. We’ve already published a full green paper setting out proposals to reverse the record low convictions for rape and sexual harassment and provide far better support for victims of sexual violence.

I want to live in a country where women and girls are safe to walk the streets alone. A country where parents don’t have to wait anxiously until their kids come home. A country where our elderly feel happy and secure in their own neighbourhood.

That’s why Labour is launching our campaign for safer communities today. It’s why we are pledging to drive down crime, tackle its root causes and ensure that criminals are brought to justice. Labour will always prioritise keeping you, your family and your community safe.

Keir Starmer is the leader of the Labour Party

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