‘Sir’ Keir Starmer and his cronies at the helm of the Labour Party are doing everything they can to make it clear to the ruling class that the ‘unruly’ days of Corbynism are long gone. This includes promises to follow through on Tony Blair’s famous vow to be “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”.
Speaking at Port Vale last month, Starmer pledged to put tackling crime at the heart of Labour’s electoral campaign. He promised that his proposals would halve knife crime, reduce violence against women and girls, and see more offenders prosecuted.
He also promised to restore public confidence in the police, following the damning report by Baroness Casey into the Metropolitan Police.
Above all, Starmer emphasised the importance of law and order. “Nothing is more important – more fundamental – to a democracy like ours,” the Labour leader asserted. “The rule of law is the foundation for everything.”
The establishment’s knight in shining armour even went so far as to say that Margaret Thatcher had the correct approach to crime. “Margaret Thatcher called it the ‘first duty of government’,” he stated. “She was right.”
Starmer’s remarks are the latest example of the Labour leadership’s attempts to outflank the Tories and present themselves as the true ‘party of law and order’ – a party that the ruling class can rely upon to defend its decrepit system.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, made similar comments in another recent speech at the Institute for Government. “Urgent action” is needed to “restore confidence in policing”, she stated, accusing the Tories of turning their backs on the issue.
Cooper announced that a Labour government would legislate a new framework for neighbourhood policing, including the redeployment of 13,000 officers and PCSOs, alongside increased powers for cracking down on anti-social behaviour.
According to the Labour frontbencher, new patrols will draw on “the traditional core of British policing – the bobby on the beat who everyone knows – but modernised for a new age; equipped with new training and technology, so they can use data to target hotspots, react quickly, and build partnerships to solve problems”.
This all sounds very impressive. But it is predicated on a myth: that the main role of the ‘bobby on the beat’ is to protect the community. In reality, the police don’t exist to protect us, but to protect the power, privileges, and profits of the capitalist class.
On the back of the Black Lives Matter movement, the murder of Sarah Everard, and a number of other high-profile scandals and abuses, public trust in the police has plummeted.
Now, only 26 percent in Britain say that they have a positive view of the police, compared to 40 percent of people that have a negative view towards them.
This is a serious problem for the ‘policing by consent’ model upon which modern policing is (supposedly) based – and, in turn, for the stability of the entire British establishment.
Given this unprecedented rejection of the police by workers and youth, one is left asking: who exactly is Starmer trying to appeal to with all this bluff and bluster about ‘law and order’?
It is clear that workers and youth are not his audience, however. In reality, the Labour leader is aiming his comments at the ruling class, to demonstrate that he will be a reliable steward for British capitalism.
He was a dependable establishment flunkey as head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). And now, as prime minister in waiting, he is assuring the ruling class that he will not only (somehow) restore trust in the police, a vital arm of the capitalist state, but will also beef up the force while he’s at it.
The ruling class are set for a stormy period of strikes and social unrest. They need assurances that the next occupant of Downing Street will take the necessary steps to defend their interests in these looming battles. And with the Tories mired in crisis, Starmer is more than willing to step in and provide these soothing words.
It is for this same reason that Cooper and co., taking their cue from the Tories, have also been ramping up their anti-migrant rhetoric.
“Net migration is expected to come down” if Labour wins the next election, the shadow home secretary declared recently.
“It has to be our objective to stop all of the boat crossings and prevent the boat crossings,” Cooper continued, “because they’re putting lives at risk and because they undermine border security.”
By aping the Tories on the question of migration, Labour are aiming to show the ruling class that they too are willing to scapegoat oppressed groups, appeal to the prejudices of the most backward layers in society, and whip up a culture war – where necessary – to distract from the class struggle.
Some will sincerely believe in Starmer’s promise to clamp down on violent crimes. But most workers understand that issues like anti-social behaviour, theft, and violence against women cannot be tackled through policing alone.
At the end of the day, the root cause of crime is the capitalist system. And Labour’s programme will do little to help.
On the back of over a decade of austerity, exacerbated by the deepening cost-of-living crisis, cracks in law and order are growing, as ordinary people take desperate measures in the face of an increasingly desperate situation.
When the cost of fuel spiked last summer, for example, some petrol stations saw as much as a 61% increase in drivers escaping without paying for petrol. Similarly, as the cost of food and other necessities has soared with inflation, shoplifting rates have also drastically risen.
And when it comes to violence against women and hate crimes, the police are rightly seen by many as the worst offenders.
Starmer’s ‘tough’ rhetoric, therefore, will likely fall on deaf ears, with workers seeing no real solutions on offer in relation to the daily problems they face.
None of these attempts to present Labour as the ‘party of law and order’ will win the support of workers and youth – because that is not what they are intended to do. Instead, they are yet another sign of whose side ‘Sir’ Starmer is on: that of the ruling class.
Increasingly, workers and youth are beginning to look for a revolutionary alternative to the broken status quo that both the Tories and Starmer’s Labour represent.
We must get organised to overthrow the whole rotten system that these establishment politicians and the police ultimately defend and serve.