Jay Singh-Sohal is a strategic communications director at M&C Saatchi and Army Reserve Captain. He was the Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands in 2021.
With Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour reportedly preparing to “double down” on its controversial attack ads, which include claims Rishi Sunak is responsible for rising crime, it’s worth reminding readers (and voters at large) that Labour are far from tough on crime and its causes. Rather, they themselves are having a detrimental impact on policing and crime, which can be evidenced in three of our largest force areas in England.
In Greater London, Greater Manchester, and the West Midlands, it is Labour who control local police governance through their directly elected officials. Thus, it is Labour policies being enacted that have resulted in these regions’ having significant increases in crime over the past decade. This is despite increasing investment from the central Government including the 20,000 police officer uplift programme. All three have also been mired in controversies that erode public trust and confidence in policing, while their elected political leaders engage in political point-scoring against the Conservatives as a distraction from their own failures in office.
There are a combined total of 15.8 million residents across Greater London, Greater Manchester, and the West Midlands, accounting for just over a quarter of the population of England. Their police forces have a combined budget of more than £5 billion, although the £4 billion for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) of course outweighs the £718m and £670m budgets for the other two due to the number of people in the capital and the MPS responsibility for specialised areas such as national counter-terrorism.
While in my home region, it is the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (or PCC) who oversees the response to crime and criminals, in the other two Authorities the responsibility is held by Labour Mayors, Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham, respectively, who can and have appointed a Deputy to exercise those functions on their behalf while setting the overarching strategic direction for policing. This is also now the case in West Yorkshire, where since 2021 the PCC function has been merged into the Mayoral office of Labour’s Tracey Brabin.
The PCC (or Mayor) is mandated by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, to secure an effective police force for their area, to appoint and hold to account a Chief Constable, to set the forces’ budget according to their priorities as well as determine the local policing precept, and to set objectives that tackle crime through a Police and Crime Plan.
Whether a Plan, or indeed a PCC or Mayor with policing powers, has been efficient and effective in performing their statutory duties can be measured by one simple factor – did they get crime down? And it is by delving into these regions’ total recorded crime figures, which includes offences ranging from theft to violence against the person, that we find Labour are woeful at getting to grips with local crime.
In London a decade ago, and with Mayor Boris Johnson at the helm, there were 771,566 total recorded crimes in 2012/13. When he left office the figures for 2016/17 show total recorded offences had dropped by 17 per cent to 643,299. Last year, in Labour Khan’s second term of office, it had shot up to 970,929 recorded incidents. Meaning, a rise of 26 per cent with 199,363 more crimes recorded by the MPS in 2022 when compared to 2012.
The figures for Greater Manchester Police are more difficult to decipher by calendar year. The force was placed in special measures in 2021 following concerns over its failure to record 80,100 crimes in the space of a year, including one in four violent crimes. When comparing Labour Burnham’s first term in office in 2017 to 2021/22, there is a 5.2 per cent rise in recorded crime, meaning nearly 18,000 more incidents recorded. It’s smaller but significant when considered alongside the pre-2012 rate of 207,687 incidents recorded in 2011/12. As with all regions, a PCC was introduced in 2012 and between that year to the powers merging with Burnham’s in 2017, the post-holder was also Labour. Under Labour then, crime over the decade rose by 74 per cent to 361,018 incidents in 2021/22. These latest levels put Greater Manchester back on par with the high crime rates the region witnessed in 2002, reversing many years of progress.
In the West Midlands, the rise in annual total recorded crime is more dramatic than in the capital, with a staggering increase of 113 per cent over a decade of Labour PCCs, meaning 193,807 more crimes were recorded in 2022 than 2012. That year, when the West Midlands PCC role was first introduced, there were a total of 171,732 crimes committed, with theft ranking highest of the offence classes with 42,434 incidents, followed by violence against the person at 28,605 incidents. The latest full-year statistics, which I obtained through an FOI request, reveal the number of thefts remains relatively low compared to violence which has rocketed by 439 per cent to 154,064 incidents. This is a higher figure than what the Met recorded rate in 2012/13. Possession of weapons (including knives) is now higher in the West Midlands than in the MPS area, with 7,257 recorded incidents compared to 6,281 respectively.
What has caused crime to go up in these large Labour-run regions over the past decade? The trend shift in total recorded crime indicates that Labour politicians locally are simply not effective nor efficient in putting in place policies that tackle criminality. And this should be the focus of any Conservative response to Labour’s claims that they will be tougher on crime.
Labour blames the rise in crime on Conservative governments and funding cuts, but the truth of the matter is that these decisions were made by the Brown government following the 2008 economic crash, the funding situation has only begun to improve since 2019 when Priti Patel, as Home Secretary, successfully argued for more funds for policing. Each force now gets more from the central Government grant than it did a decade ago. So too has the local policing precept, which the PCC or Mayor sets, increased in all three force areas.
Beneath these overarching crime figures also lies a failure of leadership locally by Labour, to take responsibility for the crime brief and to be forward-thinking in tackling issues head-on within police forces such as the MPS, Greater Manchester Police and West Midlands Police. Issues such as police officers not being properly vetted, investigations against officers accused of sexual offences, heavy handedness when making arrests or abuses of power in general only erodes public trust and confidence in policing, which in turn emboldens the criminally minded.
As our party’s former West Midlands PCC candidate between 2019-21, I know from 18 months of hard campaigning just how much law and order matters to the majority of residents, from diverse walks of life. As Conservatives we cannot cede the argument to Labour about rising crime being linked to lack of investment in policing. Rather, we’ve got to be smarter about using the evidence, such as through the examples in Greater London, Greater Manchester, and the West Midlands, that the politicking, wokery and limpness of Labour locally would continue nationally were it given the keys to Number 10.