Keir Starmer is set to launch a ‘safer communities’ campaign with a focus on ending violence against women and girls, investing in areas with high levels of antisocial behaviour and strengthening protections for victims.
The campaign was supposed to start with a two-day visit to Wolverhampton, but Starmer entered a self-isolation period along with his family on Wednesday after one of his children tested positive for Covid.
The Labour leader still plans to hold a series of meetings and events across the country over the summer, however, and will raise the key messages of the campaign when talking to voters about crime and anti-social behaviour.
Starmer said: “Every person and every family has a basic right to feel safe in their community, but under the Conservatives things are only getting worse. They cut our police to the lowest level in a generation and decimated the services that help prevent crime.
“As a result, we’ve seen antisocial behaviour skyrocketing, criminal gangs exploiting kids to send drugs around the country and an epidemic of violence against women and girls. It says everything about the twisted priorities of the Conservatives that instead of tackling this, Boris Johnson wants to waste taxpayer money on a yacht.”
Johnson announced plans for a new royal yacht, at a cost of more than £200m, earlier this year. Labour has said it would redirect the funds to tackling antisocial behaviour. As part of its safer communities campaign, the party has committed to:
- “A new £283m fund for areas blighted by high levels of anti-social behaviour, redirected from the Prime Minister’s vanity yacht project. The additional funding could be used for surge funding for police officer and PCSOs, for helping councils fund enforcement or to pay for additional CCTV;
- “Strengthening of legal protections for victims of anti-social behaviour to give victims of persistent, unresolved anti-social behaviour the same rights that the Labour Party is proposing to enshrine for victims of crime; and
- “A set of proposals to end violence against women and girls, including increasing sentences for rape and stalking, reviewing sentencing for all domestic abuse, and better support for victims of rape and sexual violence – delivering where the Conservatives have failed to step up.”
Starmer added: “This summer, Labour will campaign for safer communities. That means more police to tackle crime, antisocial behaviour, and dangerous driving.
“It means restoring youth projects and treatment services, and it means real support for victims. Labour will always prioritise keeping you, your family and your community safe.”
The government launched a new violence against women and girls strategy today. It follows the publication of the rape review earlier this year, after which ministers said the government was “deeply ashamed” of low conviction rates for rape.
David Lammy argued that Robert Buckland rendered the apology following the release of the investigation “meaningless” after the Justice Secretary described the target to increase prosecutions to 2016 levels as “constitutionally illiterate”.
There are around 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape each year but fewer than 20% of them report the crime to the police, according to the end-to-end review. Just 1.6% of rapes result in someone being charged.
Lammy similarly described an apology offered by Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions as “hollow” because he had instructed Conservative MPs to vote against a new minimum sentence for rape earlier in the same week.
The government’s new strategy includes a senior police officer in charge of tackling violence against women and girls, a 24-hour rape and sexual assault helpline and a £5m funding commitment to tackle violence in public places at night.
Labour has published a green paper on ending violence against women and girls and is currently asking members of the public to submit their views on eliminating violence against women and girls by emailing [email protected].
The opposition party has backed calls to make misogyny a hate crime, toughen existing sentences for perpetrators of rape and stalking, create new specific offences for street sexual harassment and ‘sex for rent’ landlords.
Campaigners have been calling for ministers to make sexual harassment of women in public places, such as wolf-whistling and sexual comments, illegal. Victoria Atkins said today that the government would look “very carefully at this”.
But the Home Office minister insisted during a BBC Radio 4 interview that many of these behaviours were already illegal and claimed that police officers did not always understand that these offences “can and should be prosecuted”.
Pressed on whether the government was open to introducing new legislation, or whether ministers feel that existing laws effectively cover harassment of women in public spaces, Atkins said: “Genuinely, both.”
Jess Phillips accused ministers of failing to keep women and girls safe despite successive strategies. Referring to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, she asked: “How are we in a situation where we have better protections for statues than for women?”
The launch of Labour’s campaign comes after the party leader announced that he would be “taking Labour’s offer on the road and direct to voters” this summer as part of a commitment to spend more time outside Westminster.