The institutional racism, homophobia and misogyny laid out in the Casey report this week are a damning indictment of the Metropolitan Police. Trust in the service remains at a record low. It is clearly time for top-to-bottom reform of the service and Labour would be smart to make this issue their own going into the next General Election.
The Conservatives clearly view Labour’s approach to Home Affairs as a weakness and will continue to pit Labour as the party of ‘woke nonsense’ as the election campaign ramps up. This risks leaving Labour on the defensive as it struggles to communicate tangible alternatives to the Tories’ tough on crime positioning such as the controversial but popular ‘Stop the Boats’ policy.
However, by using Met reform as the figurehead of its policing policy Labour can cut through this Tory focus on small boats and highlight what are proportionately much greater issues affecting local communities.
In October it was reported that crime had hit a new high, with the number of those solved plummeting to a record low. Labour would do well to characterise this as the crisis it is, in contrast to the trickle of boats which dominate the mainstream news.
Under a rallying call to ‘get the police doing policing again’ Labour has several opportunities. It can continue to evidence that it has moved on from the failures of racism of the Corbyn era by stamping out the institutional racism and misogyny within forces like the Met that have become a huge distraction for Police forces. What’s more, it can draw increased attention to the embarrassingly poor performances on crime which have occurred under the watch of a Tory government. On the latter, London’s Labour Mayor, Sadie Khan, may technically have some responsibility for the Met - but that shouldn’t stop Labour putting the blame at the feet of the Conservatives. Despite devolution - when public services get it wrong the public are still disposed to blame central government.
In electoral politics, personalities also matter as much as policies. One of Labour’s most capable, measured and experienced frontbench figures is their Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper. Labour should leverage Cooper more and highlight the contrast with the Conservative’s Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, who is often perceived as a more radical politician. Sir Keir Starmer’s credentials as the former Director of Public Prosecution do no harm here either. Together, Cooper and Starmer can argue for professional standards within the Met from a position of knowing what professionals means. This argument is all the more persuasive when pitted against a Conservative Party too often mired in controversy over just that issue, its professionalism.