Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has said Labour would invest in neighbourhood policing, establish new domestic violence laws and would establish a new Child Exploitation Register in his keynote speech at the party conference today in Brighton.
He opened by discussing how his childhood as the son of a Welsh steelworker led him to the Labour movement, saying: “Growing up I saw the damage the Tories did to our industrial areas, but I also felt the power of the solidarity that binds our communities together.”
He commended “the heroism of our NHS workers” and other essential workers, and the work of unions toward establishing the furlough scheme.
In an apparent dig at Margaret Thatcher’s famed 1987 quip that “there is no such thing as society” he said “We in this party know that there is such a thing as society. Bound together by respect, decency and fairness,” values he said were key to his own success and to that of Labour officials.
“The Conservatives are letting our country down because they have the wrong values,” he went on.
He then listed a range of criticisms towards the government, including delays to the Windrush compensation scheme, ongoing antisocial behaviour issues, the response to the crisis in Afghanistan, inaction against Russia over the Salisbury poisonings and the failure to grapple with the terrorist threat posed by the ‘incel’ movement.
Slamming incumbent home secretary Priti Patel, he said she was “prepared to rip up the UN Refugee Convention” and promised that a Labour government would ensure ‘safe and legal’ immigration routes. He also accused Mrs Patel of claiming to back “our frontline police officers” but “insulting” them with a pay freeze.
He said that the Conservatives “have failed on crime” and that, “as Barbara Castle and Harold Wilson said, that the Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing”, explaining: “Let our moral crusade be to build safer communities”
He went on: “It’s no surprise that she has lost the confidence of 130,000 rank and file officers represented by the Police Federation, who are the undisputed voice of policing.”
Upending the historic claim that right-leaning parties are the parties ‘of law and order’, he accused the Conservatives of being “the party of crime and disorder” and listed low conviction rates for violent crimes and rape.
Echoing former Prime minister Tony Blair’s slogan, first coined in a 1993 interview with the BBC, he said the government “are soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime.” He said that John Apter, the Chair of the Police Federation, was in the room and thanked him for his “tireless work”.
Criticising “Tory cuts” to policing, he said that as a result “people feel unsafe going out after dark.”
A Labour government “will bring back neighbourhood policing” he explained, and added that they would launch a “major” recruitment drive for special constables, in order to give people “the chance to contribute to the safety of their neighbourhood”.
Seemingly in response to ongoing campaigns among grassroots on the Left of the party and amongst other progressive movements in the UK and beyond, he affirmed that “No Labour Home Secretary will ever defund the police”.
He also said Labour would create a new Child Exploitation Register to crack down on county-line drug gangs preying on “vulnerable” minors.
He went on to say that “we won’t tackle the crimes of the future with the methods of the past”, adding that Labour would make it a “priority to pass new laws to protect women and girls from domestic abuse in their homes” along with “the appalling harassment, intimidation and violence they face on our streets.”
Referring to the death of 28-year-old primary school teacher Sabina Nessa, he said: “As a country, we have come together during the pandemic to drive back the virus. Now, let us use that same sense of togetherness and use it to drive back the virus of violence in our society.”
He concluded the speech by suggesting that members “leave this conference with that resolve and determination to put our values into practice and win power once again.”