Rising crime: a new headache for the coalition

Burglaries, robberies and muggings in London increase for the first time in years.

To the coalition's list of woes, we can now add rising crime. In London, burglaries, robberies and muggings have all increased for the first time in years, even before the full force of the government's police cuts are felt. Figures from the Met show that burglaries in London rose by 18.5 per cent from 4,410 in May last year to 5,228 this May, robberies by 15 per cent from 3,257 to 3,749; and thefts of and from vehicles by 6 per cent to 9,299. It's all fertile PMQs material for Ed Miliband.

Significantly, as today's Times reports (£), police chiefs outside London believe this is the start of the long-anticipated recession crime wave. One chief constable tells the paper: "We are just about holding the line, but there are clear signs that burglary and robbery are on the turn."

Labour, ever eager to challenge the Tories' reputation as the party of law and order, has been quick to respond. Yvette Cooper said: "Cutting police budgets by 20 per cent means 12,000 police officers are being lost including 1,800 in the Met alone. Crime fell by 40 per cent in the last twelve years, but that progress was hard won and it is now being put at risk." So far, David Cameron and Theresa May have insisted that their cuts will have no effect on the delivery of policing but a rise in crime would instantly discredit this claim.

Ministers, one expects, will argue that rising crime is inevitable in these austere times. But it's not an argument that they ever accepted from Labour when in opposition. A surge in crime, as David Cameron will be all too aware, could yet provide a focus for public anger.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Benn vs McDonnell: how Brexit has exposed the fight over Labour's party machine

In the wake of Brexit, should Labour MPs listen more closely to voters, or their own party members?

Two Labour MPs on primetime TV. Two prominent politicians ruling themselves out of a Labour leadership contest. But that was as far as the similarity went.

Hilary Benn was speaking hours after he resigned - or was sacked - from the Shadow Cabinet. He described Jeremy Corbyn as a "good and decent man" but not a leader.

Framing his overnight removal as a matter of conscience, Benn told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I no longer have confidence in him [Corbyn] and I think the right thing to do would be for him to take that decision."

In Benn's view, diehard leftie pin ups do not go down well in the real world, or on the ballot papers of middle England. 

But while Benn may be drawing on a New Labour truism, this in turn rests on the assumption that voters matter more than the party members when it comes to winning elections.

That assumption was contested moments later by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Dismissive of the personal appeal of Shadow Cabinet ministers - "we can replace them" - McDonnell's message was that Labour under Corbyn had rejuvenated its electoral machine.

Pointing to success in by-elections and the London mayoral election, McDonnell warned would-be rebels: "Who is sovereign in our party? The people who are soverign are the party members. 

"I'm saying respect the party members. And in that way we can hold together and win the next election."

Indeed, nearly a year on from Corbyn's surprise election to the Labour leadership, it is worth remembering he captured nearly 60% of the 400,000 votes cast. Momentum, the grassroots organisation formed in the wake of his success, now has more than 50 branches around the country.

Come the next election, it will be these grassroots members who will knock on doors, hand out leaflets and perhaps even threaten to deselect MPs.

The question for wavering Labour MPs will be whether what they trust more - their own connection with voters, or this potentially unbiddable party machine.