Labour mustn't return to a Tory-esque crime and justice policy


By Lauren Davison


"With the Tories lurching further to the right, law and order are sure to become even more integral to their platform. Labour must rise to the occasion."

Law and order has only been an election-winning issue since the days of Thatcher. The Tories fought the 1979 election on a platform which cemented them in the public imagination as “the party of law and order”. Prior to this, dealing with crime was not something politicians tended to wade into and was left to the “experts”. Under Johnson’s leadership, law and order have seen renewed focus. With the Tories lurching further to the right, law and order are sure to become even more integral to their platform. Labour must rise to the occasion.


Sadly, over the years, Labour hasn’t done so. From essentially staying silent on the topic for 5 years under Corbyn, to advocating punitive immigration policies under Miliband, Labour has failed to state their case for progressive law, justice and crime policy. Our record in government on these issues is grim too - many criminologists now regard New Labour’s justice policy as being more Thatcherite than Thatcher herself. Such was the pressure for any aspiring government to show the people it was “tough on crime”, a raft of ineffectual and punitive policies was advocated by Blair and Brown’s cabinets. In fact, whilst in power, Labour created over 3600 new criminal offences.


Labour simply mustn’t be drawn onto the Tories’ turf. They know the fear of crime and public anxieties are used as a currency by the right, to justify their harsh and punitive populist agenda. We don’t have to capitulate. With concerns shown recently about Labour’s potential swing to the right on law and order, exemplified with whipped abstentions on Spy Cops legislation, this article will demonstrate why lessons must be learned. It will explain why many on the left are fearful of a New Labour revival in this policy area.


By far the best illustrative example of how far a Labour government strayed from progressive policies on law and order, is their 2010 General Election platform. In their manifesto chapter devoted to “crime and immigration”, Labour pledged to put more police on the beat, targeted “50,000 of the most dysfunctional