Yvette Cooper's Speech to Labour Party Conference28 September 2011
- CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY - POLICE TRIBUTE
Thank you to Paul McKeever from the Police Federation for speaking to us today.
For many years when our Party has gathered, we have heard from nurses, teachers, business leaders, scientists, athletes and thanked them all for the work they do.
But until this year, we have never heard from the police, the people who work tirelessly to protect our communities. We pay tribute to them now.
To the officers who respond to the 999 call, no idea what they will find when they arrive, or whether they will return home safe at the end of their shift.
The officer who explains to a teenager that carrying a knife means his own life is in danger.
Or the eight riot police who stood on St John’s Road in Clapham Junction that August night as 350 rioters swarmed towards them down Lavender Hill.
We will not always agree with the police and Labour Ministers have had disagreements with the Police Federation in the past.
But our party believes strongly in respect for the police, and in backing the work they do.
So we say thank you through Paul to police officers up and down the country who work so hard to keep us safe.
And Conference. North Yorkshire police were among the emergency services to attend the accident at Kellingley Colliery on the edge of my constituency where a miner tragically died yesterday. Thank you for your tributes to the miners this morning. All our thoughts are with the families today.
We know in the Labour Party how much it matters to cut crime.
This summer Ed Miliband showed strong leadership in response to the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone and the awful August riots.
Ed has talked about the importance of responsibility and respect, and the quiet crisis for families across Britain when things go wrong.
Take the Yorkshire mother whose family I spoke to after her house was burgled.
In the statistics it’s a routine crime. There are over half a million similar crimes each year. She wasn’t threatened or hurt, she didn’t even see the burglars, she was upstairs asleep with her children. Yet the impact on her life is immense. Now she can’t sleep. She jumps at every noise, every creak, every child’s cough. The laptop they stole had the family photos on. They stole her car keys and her car so she’s missed work.
The burglary that destroys someone’s confidence.
The copper theft that stops thousands of commuters getting to work on time.
The stalking and harassment that means a women is too scared to leave home.
The abuse that bruises a child’s face and poisons his whole future.
That’s why Labour was right to work so hard to cut crime, to keep people safe and secure, and why we must do so again.
Of course we didn’t get everything right.
We didn’t need 90 day detention.
Or 42 day detention.
They were never justified by the evidence.
On immigration, we should have had transitional controls for Eastern Europe.
And we should have brought in a points-based system earlier.
Managed migration has benefits for our economy and our culture but we also need to recognise its impact on communities. And that means strong, fair controls that are properly enforced.
We have to learn from our mistakes.
But we should learn from what we got right too.
Tony Blair was right.
Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.
Because it worked.
Crime fell by 40%. 7 million fewer crimes a year.
The first government since records began where crime went down and not up.
That’s Labour’s record and we should be proud of it.
CRIME TOO HIGH
But we know crime is still too high.
We want crime to fall further.
But the Tories don’t get it. And I don’t think they ever did.
In 1978 Jack Smart came to Labour Party Conference from Castleford in my constituency, and said of the Tories:
“They do not have to live in vandalised communities. They do not have to drive the trams which have missiles thrown into the cabs. They do not have to take charge of the buses and deal with the rowdies”.
My old friend Jack was right.
Conference, can you imagine David Cameron and George Osborne dealing with what Jack called the rowdies?
They struggle to deal with rowdies of their own – they can’t even control Boris Johnson.
TORIES’ CUTS TO POLICE
And what is David Cameron’s answer to crime?
20% frontloaded cuts to the police. Shocking.
650 police officers cut from Merseyside.
750 from Wales.
1,200 from the West Midlands.
Nearly 2,000 officers from the Met.
Right across the country 16,000 police officers lost.
That is a reckless risk to take with the fight against crime.
Theresa May says they will all come from the back office.
But the truth is they are putting officers back in the back office, because the back office itself has been so heavily cut.
The staff members that Unison represent, who do the jobs that keep constables out on the streets, too often taken for granted - thousands of them have already gone.
Conference, the police do have to make their fair share of cuts.
We said 12% budget cuts – based on independent advice on what the police need to protect the front line.
That’s £1bn over the Parliament. But the government’s gone for £2bn in cuts. With the steepest cuts in the first two years. We’ve said it before; It’s too far too fast and it’s communities that will pay the price.
And here’s the reality of what those cuts mean. You may have seen his story in all the papers.
Sergeant Kevin Brooks has worked for South Wales police for many years.
This summer he won a police bravery award after tackling a criminal who deliberately rammed a patrol car with his 4x4, at risk of crushing an officer to death.
The Prime Minster invited him to Downing Street. Posed for a photo with him.
Only days later, back in South Wales, PC Brooks lost his job because of the cuts.
Now we see a British Prime Minister, a Tory Prime Minister, handing P45s to crime fighting heroes.
He shouldn’t be sacking the police, he should be backing the police.
RIOTS AND POLICE NUMBERS
And how can they turn a blind eye to the evidence from the riots this summer.
For four nights thousands of people took to the streets to loot and to pillage.
Burning police cars, looting shops and torching homes.
Putting people’s lives as well as livelihoods at risk.
This country must never again tolerate such lawlessness. Never again should criminals be allowed take control of the streets, and they cannot be allowed to get away with it.
But it took 16,000 officers to quell the madness on London streets – officers from Norfolk, South Wales, Hampshire, Cumbria, all joining the Met to bring the streets back under control.
Conference, that’s the same number of officers David Cameron now wants to cut.
How out of touch can you get?
Police numbers matter. You don’t cut crime by cutting the police.
Conference we need enough police. And we need the police to do a good job.
Labour introduced important reforms
• Neighbourhood policing to get police out of their cars and onto the beat.
• Changing the law to make police, councils, youth services, probation all work together in partnership to prevent crime.
We need to go further. But what do we get from Theresa May and David Cameron?
Chaos and confusion.
They promise less bureaucracy but they increase the forms officers have to fill.
They promise to professionalise the service, but then abolish the training to deliver it.
Breathless promises this summer to send in the army. Troops on the streets of Britain.
Prime Minister, you don’t need to bring in the Army if you have enough police.
We need further reform right across the criminal justice system.
Sadiq Khan’s plans he set out this morning, more support for victims, a new victims law.
And on policing what the Police Federation and the Superintendants Association have called for is right. Now is the time for a serious vision for the future of policing -- a Royal Commission or heavyweight independent review.
The government has refused to do so. So we will.
We are setting up an independent review to look at the crime challenges of the 21st century and how policing needs to adapt and respond.
Building on the best of British and international policing. Vigorous and challenging on the changes needed.
Working with the police not trying to undermine them.
It will be led by someone who started as a beat officer in London and rose to be the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
I am grateful to the much respected Lord John Stevens for agreeing to chair this important independent review.
Next week at the Tory Party conference, we’ll hear a lot of tough talk from David Cameron about broken Britain, cracking down on crime and gangs.
Tough talk from a Prime Minister who is still cutting the police, still cutting police powers, still pushing up unemployment and has barely mentioned crime since he started in the job.
He says it now. He hasn’t done it before.
Prime Minister. It shouldn’t take a riot.
Conference, the police need strong powers to cut crime – alongside strong checks and balances to guard against abuse.
But behind the rhetoric the Tories are making it harder for the police to do their job:
• making it harder for the councils to use CCTV.
• abolishing ASBOs, replacing them with weak injunctions the police can’t enforce.
• voting to water down counter-terror powers so we can’t ban terror suspects from London in Olympic year.
And Conference, this is the Tory government that wants to slash the DNA database despite the fact that it helped catch rioters, and it helps solve thousands of crimes each year. In ten days time they plan to vote to take 17,000 suspected rapists off the database, despite the evidence from the police and Rape Crisis that this will make it even harder to bring rapists to justice and prevent this horrible crime.
The Tories are hoping David Cameron is moving to the right on law and order.
He isn’t moving right, he’s just getting it wrong.
Conference, what we saw in the riots, the police see in their cells every night.
Some people who are out of control, a danger to others and often to themselves.
The carelessness and the anger, the hopelessness and the indifference. People who think they have nothing to lose and nothing better to aspire to.
That doesn’t mean the whole of society is broken or sick.
The thousands of people who stood up in our cities with brooms not batons aren’t sick. The community leaders who calmed the tensions in Birmingham aren’t broken. People like Tariq Jahan who lost his son yet spoke for peace. These are the communities who stand against violence, the heroes of a strong society.
Behind the thin blue line stands not just thousands of police officers but millions of British people who believe the law should be respected, and that we have obligations to each other.
Crime doesn’t prove society is broken, it shows society needs to be stronger.
In Labour’s years crime fell and fewer young people fell into crime. The number of young offenders fell by a third compared to the legacy the Tories left us with in 1997.
But we know there are still too many people who are out of control, going off the rails and no one drags them back. Still problem families handing down violence rather than values across the generations.
Our answer should be to build stronger communities. As Labour Lambeth Council is doing, giving the community control of the youth service, the work to tackle gangs and support parenting.
In the words of Carl Lokko, one of the young people involved, “we are more determined to make change happen because we don’t want to bury any more of our friends.”
I want them to be able to do more.
More action against gangs like in Boston or in Hackney where the police and council target gang members and confront them with the choice – get out of gangs and we will help you build a better future or face the full force of the law.
More action like Citizens UK working with businesses and cafes on our city streets who will act as safe havens young people can retreat to, to stay safe from knife crimes or bullying by gangs.
The government says we can’t afford to.
Communities across the country know we can’t afford not to.
The taxpayer now has to pay out hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation to the businesses and families hit by riots.
Far better to stop it happening in the first place.
And don’t forget they can find cash for their priorities.
Next year, in Olympic year, the government will spend over £100m electing politicians on £120,000 a year to become crime chiefs. Yet they are cutting thousands and thousands of police.
But this is the year when the eyes of the world are upon us. Our great Olympic opportunity. But we cannot have a repeat of this summer’s shameful violence and disorder.
So the Government should rethink. They should stop the plans for over 40 crime chiefs.
Use that cash this year to put in place strong action on gangs as Boston, Hackney and Lambeth are doing.
Use that cash to stop 2,000 Police Constables being cut in Olympic year.
But instead of taking action to build a stronger society and cut crime, this Government is washing its hands and making it worse.
Gang prevention work in Tottenham has been cut.
Parent support through Sure Start is being closed down.
Instead of requiring young people to work – with jobs for them to go to through the Future Jobs Fund – the government has pushed youth unemployment up. Even though we know too many of the rioters were unemployed – that’s bad for them and bad for the rest of us too.
The job of government is to act to prevent crime, not just stand back and lament crime.
Thirty years ago the Tories said there was no such thing as society. Now they admit it exists but they think it has failed. And they don’t think government has any responsibility in supporting a stronger, fairer society to put it right.
David Cameron before the election said on crime it was big government that was to blame. So that’s why he’s
cut back the police
cut back their powers
cut back youth services
cut back community support
cut back jobs
cut back hope.
David Cameron’s claim that the riots are the product of a broken society to me sounds like a form of surrender.
An excuse for government to turn its back and dodge the blame if crime goes up.
The Tories claim to be the party of law and order. But look at the facts.
Every Tory government since records began has seen crime go up not down.
Tories in government don’t cut crime.
Because in the end they just don’t believe in the things you need to do.
They don’t believe in active government, they don’t believe in strengthening society.
If we’d said before the 1997 election that under Labour crime would fall by 40% no one would have believed it could be done.
But we did.
Tough on crime.
Tough on the causes of crime.
Backing the police.
Labour the party of Law and Order and that is how we will stay.
- CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY -