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by Paul Embery
Monday, 2
January 2023

Could Labour really become the party of law and order?

The Opposition will need more than new slogans to become serious about crime
by Paul Embery
Can we trust him to get tough on crime? Credit: Getty

Since time immemorial, every political party which aspires to government has pledged to clean up the streets. Knowing as they do the extent to which crime is a touchstone issue on the doorstep, opposition leaders are usually desperate to present their party as being on the side of the law-abiding majority and more committed than the other lot to making our communities safer. 

Yet in spite of the endless promises over many years by politicians of every stripe, lawlessness and disorder remain widespread, court sentencing an open joke, clear-up rates atrocious, and the police too absent from our neighbourhoods and seemingly more interested in virtue-signalling than they are the business of preventing and detecting crime.

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So we should be sceptical about Labour’s recent declaration of itself as the party of law and order and accompanying pledge to tackle anti-social behaviour. Sure, the move makes sense politically, not least because the highest levels of support for a tough approach to crime are usually found in the same working-class communities that are most blighted by it, and which just happen to form the kind of constituencies that the party must win back if it is to secure power again.

But we have seen this film many times before, and whether or not the fine words would ever translate into reality under a Labour government is, let us say, debatable. That is in no small part because so many on the Left still don’t get this stuff instinctively.

They see crime as an inherently “Right-wing” issue and are distinctly queasy about the concept of retributive justice, preferring instead to take a sociological approach that rejects the notion of free will, always assumes some other “underlying reason” for wrongdoing, and ultimately sees offenders themselves as victims. Tony Blair’s “tough on the causes of crime” mantra was an unintended but obvious admission of this. As for those “underlying reasons” that jar with their political prejudices — such as the absence of fathers in so many homes — they simply discourage any discussion of it. Their approach is, in the end, a dishonest one. 

None of this is to say that we should take an unthinking “hang ‘em and flog ‘em” approach to crime. Of course it is vital to get the socio-economic factors right. Give people stable, rewarding employment and strong family and social networks, and the temptation to turn to crime will be reduced. But those who reject the moral dimension of crime are missing a crucial part of the puzzle. For it is an inescapable fact that the less robust the universal moral code that underpins a society, the more some will feel relaxed about doing wrong. (Anyone who doubts this might like to question why in the 1930s, despite deep levels of poverty and deprivation, crime rates remained low.)

So Labour may be on to a vote-winner with its latest initiative. But the party must ensure that, if it is to have any real meaning, the debate around it is rooted in the experiences and demands of ordinary voters. This means confronting uncomfortable truths such as family breakdown, asking why the police and justice system have become so utterly useless (it really isn’t just about a lack of funding), and being prepared to talk unapologetically about the moral dimension and the concept of punishment. The party and wider Left have traditionally shied away from doing these things. If they want to be taken seriously on the issue of crime, they cannot continue to avoid them.

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Robert Kaye
Robert Kaye
8 months ago

“always assumes some other “underlying reason” for wrongdoing, and ultimately sees offenders themselves as victims. Tony Blair’s “tough on the causes of crime” mantra was an unintended but obvious admission of this. ”

On the contrary: the genius of “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” was that Blair never spelled out what he meant by causes, allowing people to project that he was talking about what they thought the causes were. The left could interpret it as a reference to inequality, the right as a reference to family breakdown and poor discipline…

John Reid
John Reid
8 months ago
Reply to  Robert Kaye

Exactly people both interpreted tough on crime as personal responsibility or poverty depends who heard it

R S Foster
R S Foster
8 months ago

…the inescable leftist instinct on crime is to believe that if they take yet more money from prosperous, law-abiding people…and find new and clever ways to give it to louts, thieves and gangsters…the recipients will be grateful and start behaving nicely…

…newsflash…they won’t…

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
8 months ago

Well when they come to power and confirm in law that women no longer exist, will the people who support them finally realise how extreme they are?

Ben Jones
Ben Jones
8 months ago

I served in the Met before Mayors and after they were introduced; Livingstone was never as left-wing in practice when it came to policing, behaving as if the old GLC days never happened. Johnson was, surprisingly, quite good (he left it to others to manage) and will always have my respect for getting rid of the execrable Ian Blair. Khan is a typical leftist Mayor who hasn’t a clue about law and order, in the De Blasio mould. He’s scared of the subject and the hard truths involved. Left-wing human rights lawyers seldom make for effective law enforcers.
And yet… in *England*, with it’s strange not-quite-devolved local governance, policing’s increasingly locally led (although the Home Office loiters like Banquo’s ghost) and therefore service delivery’s increasingly influenced by individual politicians (and mayors are the only area where the otherwise pointless Police and Crime Commissioner experiment makes much sense). Andy Burnham, for example (hardly a gibbering right-winger) has appointed a very old-fashioned no-nonsense Chief to run Greater Manchester Police. He is as effective as Khan is useless.
The lesson for Starmer? Get central government’s nose out of police service delivery. Labour can’t help themselves though, in tough economic times the only red meat available to his Left will involve intersectionality and pandering to it’s client interest groups. Both of which will stymie even any commonsense local Labour initiatives to run policing properly.
Oh, and he’s also a left-wing human rights lawyer. His tenure at the CPS – of which he seems bizarrely proud – was a disaster.

Anthony L
Anthony L
8 months ago

They’ll say anything to get votes and people know it. Tories lie pathologically, Labour lies opportunistically. I’m looking forward to seeing the voter turnout / spoiled ballots at the GE.

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
8 months ago

For the Left, crime is a very divisive issue. Some want a very progressive “let’s accomodate criminals approah and fight racism instead”. And their working class voters want a more solid response on crime.
So the Labour will act like the Tories do on immigration : make promises to working class voters before election, and do nothing once elected since they don’t want to upset their upper class constituents.

Ruud van Man
Ruud van Man
8 months ago

The Labour Party has no significant track record of dealing effectively with law and order issues. Unfortunately, since about 1990, neither does the Conservative party.

Brett H
Brett H
8 months ago

The real issue of crime begins in Westminster where the real criminals lurk.

David Harold Chester
David Harold Chester
8 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

They not only lurk but deliberately fail to properly understand how our social system REALLY works. If they did there would be some agreement as to what to do to bring our failing economy out of its existing state of being trapped in a political quagmire. My book might enable them to better understand of what our social comprises and how it REALLY works. Write to me at: [email protected] for a free e-copy of my 310-page “Consequentiakl Macroeconomics” and blow clear your past inevitable confusion about this truely scientific subject, (which has previously been regarded even by the experts as a pseudo-science that is complex and difficult to follow).

Sean carr
Sean carr
8 months ago

New labour brought in a raft of legislation such as In prison for public protection and ancillary orders such as the ASB which were tough on the offender. The figures, approximately for the youth custody population in 2000 were around 2500 compared to now which is around 550 so I think saying new labour was not tough on crime is unfair

Granted The treasury had a lot more money in the coffers during new labour – but whether you agreed with their approach or not new labour had a clear plan of action, I don’t see this now.

David Harold Chester
David Harold Chester
8 months ago

Due to how the land is owned and monopolized a lot of people feel that they are being left out of having equal opportunities, whilst the monopolists who hold useful and valuable sites and speculate in their values create a situation where everybody seeks a fast reward for doing as little work as these crooks do. This is how corruption grows.
If Labour seriously seeks more social justice it should consider a system of land-value taxation as proposed by Henry George in his classic book “Progress and Poverty” of 1879. There are alternatives too, that are less offensive to the landlord but have the same effect. My proposal for one is a bit long to add here. TAX LAND NOT PEOPLE; TAX TAKINGS NOT MAKINGS!

David Harold Chester
David Harold Chester
8 months ago

The Georgist cat is small and lean
And often doesn’t get to be seen.
It hides in the branches of an economic’s-tree
So it takes a long while for you or for me,
To appreciate its cute and original form
That the landlords are so ready to scorn.
The economic’s-tree has many fine branches
(On which we contend, there are no free-lunches).
Whilst the land-owning rich in the city all claim
As bloated capitalists, that they’re not to blame
For the gap that lays ‘twixt the poor and the wealthy,
But oppose any tax to make our nation healthy.
Have you heard the tale of a committee, that
Thought to bell and get warning of a fat cat?
But could not find a soul to apply this device,
Because typically all were a council of mice!
Our Georgist cat has a bell ready-fitted,
(Which makes this analogy more to be pitted).
This warning sound makes our ideals unwanted,
For a new tax is how politicians get doubted.
So the Georgist cat fails to catch any mice
That pose as landlords, along with their vice.
But how shall we silence the bell’s warning sound
And quieten the news that our p***y’s around?
Our Georgist feline is in serious error,
‘Cause its bell draws attention not only to whether
Valuable sites can be ethically shared,
But also the rent from a site is declared
As the means to replace other kinds of taxation,
Which obviously causes the landlords vexation.
In the economic’s tree many other beasts lurk
But are missed, after learning of Henry G’s quirk
Through the cat-finder’s recently brilliant discovery.
This writer seeks a new means for recovery
From our politi-unacceptable claim,
And stealthily project LVT once again.
If we would but examine some more of the tree
Alternatives are waiting there for us to see.
Among them is hiding a far better way
For an equivalent LVT effect, to stay
In essence, without causing such evil offences
To the landlords and their partitioning fences.
When a property-owner decides to sell–quick
The gov’ment buys its land, and not the public!
Its occupant then leases it for a similar fee
To the One-Tax of Henry George’s decree.
Any buildings on-site should be sold as previously
But without the land, on which the price grievously
Had risen, with huge speculation in its advance
That stopped entrepreneurs from having a chance.
The cost of this land must be raised through new bonds
Which the government sells and the public responds,
‘Though their interest-rate’s a bit lower than rent,
Their returns are more stable than the average tenant!
This process will take many years to complete–
So its financial support is no great money feat.
After the lease-fees begin to collect,
Gov’ments can tax less, and firmly expect
To pursue this policy without change, until
All the lease-fees are site-rents in the Gov’ment’s till.
With the land properly shared, the government sees
That site development stays with the current leasees.
Other taxes that cause so much trouble and hate
Are scrapped, with great pleasure to all in the state,
Except for some bankers and the tax collectors
Whose actions no longer apply in these sectors.
Land-rights will be shared through this simple device,
By a fast-growing country that takes our advice.


Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
8 months ago

What the Left do get instinctively is that a lot of the public money that will be thrown at ‘the causes of crime’ will end up in their hands.

John Reid
John Reid
8 months ago

Apart from Charles Clarke and Maybe if Peter Hitchens was still A labour supporter in the early 80’s, one, if not the only thing that United the Police Federation and the left was that Crime doubled in the 80’s due to poverty
Baring in mind, Mrs Thatcher lived the Police and 2 Rather foolish comments by stony Benn on scrapping Riot police in 1983 and Ken Livingstone on scrapping policing of strikes armed police and Special branch
Had seen the police federation say they wouldn’t be able to keep law and order if Labour won the ‘83 and ‘87 elections

Noe that’s not to say the expression the devil takes use of Idle hands, that a pride in going out for a days work, had seen people turn to crime through boredom

But Blair’s quite tough in the causes of crime
Was equally interpreted by many not to mean causes meant poverty
But people taking personal responsibility for criminality

While labour has MPs who deliberately misquote words such as race is a factor too be “racism is a fact” misunderstand innocent till proven guilt a complainant isn’t a victim
Thr accused isn’t a perpetrator
That being unarmed doesn’t mean not have a gun, as a car is a weapon, people okaying the race card threatening to report those doing their job to the complaints for negligence or refusing to condemn violence towards the police or not understanding if a girl is self harming and bleeding then dignity of only a freaks officer operating in her by removing her clothed goes out the windows

Thr. Labour won’t be serious in law snd order

John Reid
John Reid
8 months ago
Reply to  John Reid

Thatcher obviously said crime increasing want sue to unemployment “ you cruel person they haven’t got a job, you’re saying it’s them committing crime “