Starmer accuses Tories of being “soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime”

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer has accused the Tories of being “soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime”, arguing that the government is creating the “perfect storm” by failing to tackle violent crime and to provide “ambition and opportunities” for young people.

Ahead of a visit to Sunderland today with police and crime commissioner Kim McGuinness, the party leader pledged to “reverse the shocking lack of security being felt by young people and communities up and down the country as a direct result of complacent inaction by this Tory government”.

Labour published analysis of government figures today showing that youth violence in England has cost £11bn since the Tories took office in 2010. According to the data, the cost for the year 2020/21 was almost £200m more than in 2010.

“Boris Johnson and his government do one thing and say another, and that’s no more evident than when it comes to law and order,” Starmer said. “As director of public prosecutions, I saw the difference preventative services and early intervention can make to give security, choices, to turn young people’s lives around.

“The Tories are creating a perfect storm of failing communities that don’t feel safe, failing to tackle violent crime and failing to provide the ambition and opportunities young people need to make positive choices.

“When Labour is in power we are showing that with the right approach and investment, we can prevent crime, ensure people feel safe and secure where they live, and save taxpayer money. My contract with the British people will build a new Britain which guarantees security, prosperity and respect for all.”

The number of violent offences committed by young people rose to an estimated 70,000 last year, over 20,000 more and 40% greater than the most recent year of Labour government in 2010. The Conservatives cut youth services budgets by £610m a year, or 66% in real terms, between 2011/12 and 2019/20.

Barnardo’s Javed Khan described the increase as “alarming but sadly unsurprising”. The chief executive of the children’s charity said that “taking away youth workers and safe spaces in the community contributes to a ‘poverty of hope’ among young people who see little or no chance of a positive future”.

Redthread chief executive John Poyton warned that the cuts to service budgets and the corresponding rise in violent offending among young people “highlight the need to ensure all young people have access to the support they need”.

The visit today forms part of a three-day tour Starmer is undertaking to put his ‘contract with the British people‘ directly to voters. Beginning in Sunderland today, the Labour leader will move on to Burnley and then Erdington.

The opposition leader’s tour this week follows Yvette Cooper’s warning over the weekend of a “perfect storm” facing policing. The Shadow Home Secretary urged Priti Patel to tackle the problem and unveiled Labour’s five-point plan:

  • “Urgent inclusion of violence against women and girls in the Home Office’s strategic policing requirement to tackle problems with both internal attitudes and policing operations around violence against women and girls;
  • Overhaul of misconduct proceedings including urgent action to reduce long delays in holding misconduct hearings, and clear management processes to stop abuse being dismissed as ‘banter’ as happened at Charing Cross station;
  • “Overhaul of police training including a specific package of [violence against women and girls] training for new recruits and continual updated training for officers;
  • “Overhaul of social media usage including updated guidance on social media, including WhatsApp and messaging platform, conduct and regular reviews of officers’ use of social media; and
  • “Overhaul of whistleblowing structures to ensure police officers and staff can confidently report misconduct from colleagues without fear or favour.”

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick resigned last week. She had promised to stay in post and implement a plan to rid the service of its toxic culture following a number of scandals but was told the plan was inadequate by London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Dick was forced to apologise in December after two officers were jailed for taking and sharing pictures of sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, found stabbed to death in June 2020, and a recent report into Charing Cross police station showing evidence of “discrimination, misogyny, harassment and bullying”.

The commissioner was also criticised for the service’s response to the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer and the handling of a subsequent vigil, which saw officers kneeling on the backs of women and attendees threatened with prosecutions and fines for breaching Covid rules.

She most recently came under pressure following the emergence of numerous allegations of social gatherings held in breach of public health restrictions throughout the pandemic in Whitehall and the reluctance of the force to investigate.

But Cooper stressed the problem is “not about just one individual” or “one police force”, calling for a “serious programme of reform”, and told the Sunday Morning show that successive Conservative Home Secretaries have spent more time cutting or criticising the police than working with them to raise standards.

YouGov found last year, for the first time since the pollster’s records began, that more people did not trust the police to deal with crime in their local area than those that trusted them. The latest figures showed that 44% of people have confidence in the police to do so while 48% do not.

Cooper warned that “confidence in the police has dropped on this Home Secretary’s watch and her failure to act is letting both the police and our communities down”, adding: “That is not good enough. Policing, and trust in policing, are far too important for the Home Secretary to ignore in this way.”

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