Alan Johnson's speech to Labour Conference


Alan JohnsonLabour's Home Secretary, Alan Johnson's speech to the 2009 Labour Party Annual Conference:

There are three things that we need to do over the coming months - defend our record, explain our vision, display our unity.

Crime is the area of government policy where statistics matter the least and perception matters the most.  But the fact is that we have an excellent record to defend.

Jacqui Smith was the first woman to serve as Home Secretary in the 327 year history of the Department.  In her two years alone, neighbourhood policing has been established in every locality, a points-based immigration system has been introduced and police accountability is being improved through the Policing Pledge.

Overall crime is down by 36% since we came to power, violent crime by 41%, domestic burglary by 54% and vehicle-related theft by 57%.  In effect, the volume of crime and disorder has been reduced to the level it was at before the substantial and sustained increase that began under Margaret Thatcher in the early 1980s.

These achievements are a tribute to our policemen and women.  There are more of them than ever before, supported by 16,000 Police Community Support Officers with a budget 60% higher than we inherited in 1997.

They've been helped by new powers that we introduced and the Tories opposed.  Be sure to remind the public that David Cameron and his colleagues:

Voted against tougher sentences for murder and sexual and violent offences;
Voted against the banning of handguns;
Voted against five year minimum sentences for carrying an illegal gun;
Voted against allowing fresh trials for murder in the light of new evidence.

They have the unenviable record of having failed on crime, in government and in opposition.

John Wayne in their rhetoric; Woody Allen in their actions.

When I hear the Party of Section 28 posturing as defenders of liberty, I am reminded of the words of the great Tony - that's Hancock, not Blair - who said, in a memorable episode of Hancock's Half Hour: "does no one care about Magna Carta?  Did she die in vain?"

Underpinning our record and illuminating our vision is the simple proposition that social justice means nothing without criminal justice. That safe streets are as fundamental to a good society as decent healthcare and high educational standards.

Our streets are much safer, but not as safe as they need to be.

We need to do more to tackle gang violence, to further reduce shootings and stabbings, and more, much more, to address the problems of anti-social behaviour.

We began the concerted effort to ensure that people whose lives are blighted by such behaviour are rescued from despair.

But Fiona Pilkington and her daughter weren't rescued and despair led to the terrible events we've been hearing about.  It's an exceptional case but it's one that should never have happened and there must be no excuses, no complacency, no blaming the media because we don't like the facts they report.  This case tragically exposes the insufficient response to public anxiety that still exists in some parts of the country and we need to guarantee consistent standards for dealing with anti-social behaviour everywhere.

We need to ensure that any breach of an ASBO is prosecuted.

We need to support victims and subject perpetrators to the full range of enforcement powers we have introduced, not as a last resort, but as a preventative measure.

Above all, we need to make it clear that anti-social behaviour isn't a low-level nuisance to be tolerated, it's a major source of insecurity and unhappiness that has to be tackled wherever and whenever it occurs.

But there is another source of misery and unhappiness that takes place behind closed doors.

For too long it seemed to be acceptable that domestic violence against women and girls was a private matter.

It was Labour that introduced specialist domestic violence courts and helped put 720 fully trained independent domestic violence advisers in place.  More arrests are being made and conviction rates are rising.

But the police tell us they often find themselves powerless to stop the aggressor in a domestic violence situation - - from returning to the property straight away, putting the victim at risk of more violence.

That must change.

That is why I am bringing forward measures to allow the police to issue Domestic Violence Prevention Orders to stop the aggressor from returning not just to the house, but to the whole immediate area, and forcing him to remain out of the vicinity for a set period.  During this time, support will be provided for the victim including counselling and practical options for getting away from a violent partner.

I am enormously proud of our record over the last 12 years.  In education, in health, tackling discrimination, establishing basic rights for working people, making our society safer, healthier and fairer.

Gordon Brown has been integral to all of these achievements and he has led the way in addressing the biggest global economic and political challenges of our age.

As we approach a general election, we have to persuade the British public to do something they have never had the opportunity to contemplate before - to give a fourth term to a Labour government.

We need to persuade all those who have supported Labour in the past, perhaps even campaigned for Labour, but who became discouraged or disillusioned that now is the time to come back and join us because this coming political battle really is a fight for this country's future.

The Lib Dems are offering savage cuts; the Tories promise an Age of Austerity.  Only Labour can offer hope and opportunity against Cameron's Notting Hill version of laissez faire.

Nye Bevan could have been referring to the coming battle when he wrote:
"For us, power means the use of collective action designed to transform society and so to lift all of us together.  To us the doctrine of laissez faire conveys no inspiration because the hope of individual emancipation would be crushed by the weight of accomplished power."

That "weight of accomplished power", anti-European, anti-trade union, hostile to public services, throws its shadow across the difficult years ahead.  Only Labour can resist its advance by persuading the British people that we remain united behind our leader clear in our vision and worthy of their trust.