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What Are the Stances of Political Parties on Crime and Policing in Their Manifestos?

Labour, the Conservatives, Reform, and the Liberal Democrats are the only four parties polling above 10 percent, but how do they intend to tackle crime?

What policies are Labour, the Conservatives, Reform UK, and the Liberal Democrats offering on crime and policing?

Labour Party

In its manifesto, launched last week, Labour said it would introduce a new “neighbourhood policing guarantee,” which would restore patrols town centres “by recruiting thousands of new police officers, police and community support officers, and special constables.”

The party goes on to say it aims “to halve knife crime in a decade.”

“Every young person caught in possession of a knife will be referred to a youth offending team and will receive a mandatory plan to prevent reoffending, with penalties including curfews, tagging, and custody for the most serious cases,” the manifesto adds.

It says, “To get knives off our streets Labour will ban ninja swords, lethal zombie-style blades and machetes, and strengthen rules to prevent online sales.”

Labour also promises to “introduce a new offence of criminal exploitation of children, to go after the gangs who are luring young people into violence and crime.”

Labour says it will introduce new “respect orders” which will give the police or councils the power to “ban persistent adult offenders from town centers, which will stamp out issues such as public drinking and drug use.”

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Labour says it “will use all relevant powers to build the prisons so badly needed“ and ”will work with prisons to improve offenders’ access to purposeful activity, such as learning, and ensure they create pre-release plans for those leaving custody.”

ANALYSIS: Labour has not specified how many extra officers they would fund. If Yvette Cooper becomes home secretary she is likely to have to run a thrifty budget as Labour has stressed money will be tight until or unless they can boost economic growth. 

Reading between the lines, people caught in possession of knives will not be sent to jail for their first or possibly even their second offence. Will that really cut knife crime?

They focus heavily on ninja swords and zombie knives—which often make headlines in the papers—but in reality many murders are carried out using kitchen knives, which are not bought online and cannot be outlawed.

There also appears to be little recognition in the manifesto of the importance of gangs and indeed drill music, which is heavily linked to knife violence, especially in London.

And are the respect orders just anti-social behaviour orders—which were abolished in 2014—in another guise?

Conservative Party

In their manifesto, also launched last week, the ruling Conservatives say they will “give every neighbourhood an additional police officer by recruiting 8,000 more police officers to patrol communities and catch criminals in every ward in the country.”

They say they will “toughen sentences for knife crime, grooming gangs and assaults against retail workers.”

There is also a promise to “introduce a 25-year prison term for domestic murders, regardless of whether a weapon is used.”

The Conservatives say they will “restore public trust in policing” and “legislate to ensure officers are appropriately vetted during their service and those who fail can be sacked.”

The Tories say, “We will ban protests outside schools to stop mobs from intimidating teachers and children.”

Finally there is a pledge to “build four new prisons, completing our program of 20,000 new prison places by 2030.”

ANALYSIS: Having been in government since 2010, and having cut police numbers during the period of austerity, it may be difficult for voters to be impressed by a pledge in 2024 to recruit 8,000 more police officers. 

Although Rishi Sunak has only been prime minister since Oct. 24, 2022, the electorate might wonder why the Tories are only now promising to fund “neighbourhood policing” and grant powers to seize knives.

Tougher sentences for knife crime are long overdue, as The Epoch Times highlighted last year.

The promise to ban protests outside schools seems an odd policy priority, considering the only example was a demonstration outside a school in Batley, West Yorkshire, in 2021 by Muslim parents.

Police officers escort a man away after he threw a cup towards Reform UK leader Nigel Farage on the Reform UK campaign bus in Barnsley, England, on June 11, 2024. (Danny Lawson/PA)
Police officers escort a man away after he threw a cup towards Reform UK leader Nigel Farage on the Reform UK campaign bus in Barnsley, England, on June 11, 2024. (Danny Lawson/PA)

Reform UK

On Monday, Reform UK launched its manifesto, which it describes as a contract.

It outlines “critical reforms needed in the first 100 days” of a Reform government, one of which is “recruitment to increase UK per capita police numbers to 300 per 100,000 population.”

Reform says that would mean “40,000 new front-line officers, over a 5-year parliament.”

The party also promises to “increase stop-and-search substantially” and says, “Drug dealing and trafficking will get mandatory life imprisonment.”

Reform promises to build “10,000 new detention places” and suggests using disused military bases.

ANALYSIS: As a party which does not realistically expect to win power on July 4, Reform is able to make slightly more unrealistic pledges and the 40,000 new police officers promise is just that.

Commentators have also pointed out Reform has made some very expensive promises and has said it would fund them by making massive cuts in other areas of public spending, although it has not highlighted where exactly the axe would fall. 

It is perhaps telling that Reform is the only major party that has mentioned stop-and-search—which has been controversial in recent years with MPs like Diane Abbott criticising its use—in its manifesto and certainly the only one to suggest increasing it. 
The threat of life sentences for drug dealers raises the prospect of youths being locked up forever for selling a bag of cannabis, something which would massively increase the prison population and need far more than 10,000 extra places.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats were the first of the main parties to launch their manifesto and they offered several eye-catching policies, including “creating a new Online Crime Agency to effectively tackle illegal content and activity online, such as personal fraud, revenge porn and threats and incitement to violence on social media.”

The Lib Dems also propose scrapping police and crime commissioners—which were created by Lord Cameron’s government in 2012—and replace them with local police boards made up of councillors and representatives from local groups, while investing the savings in frontline policing.

The Lib Dems, in stark contrast to Reform, say they would end the “disproportionate use of stop-and-search.”

ANALYSIS: Some may argue online crimes are already tackled by police forces and the National Crime Agency and the setting up of a separate organization is just another layer of bureaucracy.

The abolition of police and crime commissioners would be very popular in some quarters, but plans to reduce stop-and-search would be resented by the police.

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