Tessa Jowell addresses Labour Party conference. Photo:Getty Images
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The next mayoral election is closer than you think

Labour haven't won in London for eleven years. Without the right candidate, we'll lose again.

Labour has won just one out of the four elections for Mayor of London, and we’d be making a huge mistake if we think our candidate is guaranteed victory next year.   Boris won by taking Labour votes, Ken won by taking Tory votes.  Our candidate next year must have appeal beyond Labour and take votes directly from the Conservatives.  

There’s an assumption that Labour did well in London in an otherwise catastrophic General Election earlier this month.   Things aren’t quite that simple.  We may have done better in the capital than other parts of the country – but there was no overwhelming Labour victory in London either. 

The real story in London was the collapse of the Liberal Democrats.  Their vote went down by 14.4 points.  Labour was the main beneficiary with our vote share rising 7.1 points compared to 2010.  But we took almost no votes from the Conservatives.  In fact, there’s evidence from Survation that while many left-leaning Lib Dems switched to Labour, this masks the fact that many Labour voters switched to the Tories.  What’s worrying for next year’s mayoral contest is how the Tory vote in London has increased at every general election since 2001 and is now at its highest for nearly two decades. 

At this year’s General Election most of London’s safe Labour seats saw a below-average turnout while safe Tory seats saw turnout rise above average.  This follows the trend in both 2008 and 2012 where Boris Johnson mobilised the outer London Tory vote.  In a London-wide mayoral vote that matters.

In May, Labour finished 300,000 votes ahead of the Tories in London, but that lead vanishes if a Tory mayoral candidate can attract UKIP’s 300,000 voters.   While many former Lib Dem voters switched to Labour, there were 272,000 who stuck with the Lib Dems after they’d spent five years in coalition with the Tories.  There’s a good chance these Lib Dems would support a Tory mayoral candidate over Labour.  In a mayoral election where second preferences count, you can see how the Tories have a path back to City Hall next year if Labour can’t appeal beyond our own voters. 

Labour’s disastrous General Election result nationally was based on a misguided core vote strategy, aiming to mobilise the 35 per cent of the electorate assumed to be Labour rather than winning support from other parties as well.  In fact, we didn’t even manage that – Labour’s share of the vote was just 30 per cent nationally.  The same core vote strategy that failed across Britain will fail in London too. 

Sadiq Khan who ran Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign, Diane Abbott and David Lammy each have less than 20 per cent support according to the latest Evening Standard opinion poll on potential Labour candidates.  Tessa Jowell scores over 40 per cent.  Jowell, with her record of setting up Sure Start and bringing the Olympics to London, does even better among non-Labour voters than with Labour voters although she’s ahead in both groups.   Tessa has the kind of broad electoral appeal that’s necessary to win in London. 

Labour must shake off the complacent assumption that we are destined to win the mayoral election next year.  This year’s general election, even in London, show’s that’s not the case.  If Labour picks the wrong candidate, we’ll lose. 

 

Photo: Getty
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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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