Labour didn’t cut crime. Labour slashed crime. But don’t take my word for it; take the word of Simon Reed, Vice Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, speaking at the Progress conference on Saturday.
It deserves repeating as the name of the event was “Crime, Law and Order: Can Labour win the argument again?” According to this official representative of our rank and file police officers, “You didn’t cut crime, you slashed crime. You have a proud record.”
We are aware that we saw a fall in crime during our 13 year tenure of office. We’re also aware that our policies were responsible for that fall.
We created neighbourhood policing, which ended remoteness and addressed the causes of crime, by reconnecting our officers with the community. This provided a boost in intelligence, reassurance to neighbourhoods. It also created a recognition and system of remaking the built environment, to design-out crime.
We created a new law on Anti-Social behaviour, which identified persistent community disorder as being similar to harassment. This issue was previously considered to be impossible to legislate against and was tolerated as a low-level non priority, but once introduced, proved to be immensely popular, with a knock-on effect to more serious offending.
More controversially, we increased prison sentences, meaning that persistent offenders were removed from wrong-doing for a period. We ensured that the quality of education in prison was massively improved.
Hazel Blears reminded us that in the ‘80s Labour was on the side of the defendants, until we recognised that the victims of crime were our people, the working class, the vulnerable, the poor. That’s when we changed our attitude. The police were no longer seen as being the agents of the right.
Hazel also spoke about a fantastic social enterprise in Salford called B4box, a construction company which employs the long-term unemployed and people coming out of prison. Hazel promised that the business will be scaled up across the country before long.
Under Labour, The National Grid began employing young people directly from Feltham and other Young Offender Institutes. Their only stipulation was that their education much be sufficient to pass a driving test and that the governor recommends them. This program was studied by The Smith Institute on behalf of government minister David Lammy.
It has been slow to catch on, but is catching on. The company was motivated by the difficulty in hiring recruits. However, in today’s period of high youth employment, Hazel Blears announced that Morrison’s are now setting up a national scheme to employ people leaving prison.
Yvette Cooper pointed out that the Prime Minister has made no major speech on crime in a whole year of office. The Home Secretary has made no tangible policy on crime or justice.
Yvette says “We need to stand on the side of victims and communities. We need to involve communities in the fight against crime. “
Enver Solomon, a left wing criminologist who is now at The Children’s Society, condemned the manner in which children are often demonised. He pointed out that all the data of reported crime demonstrates that there is no “youth crime wave”.
Simon Reed also made a representation on the deployment of police resources. He said that crime is mostly committed in parts of the country with a large population of young men aged 16-25. If the police were allowed to identify these area, then they could concentrate their resources where they are needed. However, he complained that there is no system to provide this information to the police.
It occurred to me that GP records of the numbers of drug addicts and alcoholics would also contribute to this useful future reform.
When questioned on whether he was suggesting that the police should be managed as a national force, Mr Reed responded that there are 43 forces with 43 management structures. “We’re losing officers across the country, but we’re keeping 43 management structures. If being more efficient in our management meant we would lose less of them, then we say do it.”
This is an interesting development because when Labour proposed this reform in office, we got a hostile response from senior police officers. As a representative of the rank and file, the Federation seem to be suggesting that they would support us if we proposed this reform in the future.
All in all, this positive and buzzing event made the title a little academic. “Crime, Law and Order: Can Labour win the argument again?” We never lost the argument. We are the party of law and order. The other lot are the party of cuts and little else.
As Simon Reed said, “You didn’t cut crime, you slashed crime. You have a proud record.”
In case I don’t get around to blogging about the really good speeches in the main hall, here’s the photos.