Law and order: what can we expect from an incoming Labour government?

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2024 Number 86

Law and order: what can we expect from an incoming Labour government?
Kirsten Forkert talks to Kevin Blowe, campaigns coordinator of Netpol, pages 136-148
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.86.08.2024


Netpol - the Network for Police Monitoring - is a coalition of organisations that liaise together on monitoring police activities. Cases it has been involved in include those of Ian Tomlinson and Jean Charles de Menezes. As DPP, Keir Starmer confirmed CPS decisions not to prosecute the police officers concerned in these deaths. Such actions, together with other positions he has adopted, tell us that Starmer doesn’t understand the massive imbalance in power between the individual and the state: when he was in a position to adjudicate on where that balance lies, he always came down on the side of the state. He has little understanding of social movements, seeing change as happening within committee meetings - as involving discussions amongst people with real power. Labour’s criticisms of the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Act, and the Public Order Act have also been tepid. All this means that a Starmer-led government is unlikely to deviate from the mainstream-constructed consensus on policing. It is likely to continue to give the police whatever they say they need to deal with a given situation. There may be noises made about the importance of human rights, and, possibly, there will be fewer attacks on judges when there are legal challenges, and less resort to culture-war rhetoric; and at least Labour won’t abolish the Human Rights Act, which means that there will still be a basis for challenging actions that contravene it. But an incoming Labour government is unlikely to provide a greater degree of protection to people who are vulnerable to overreaching state power. Dealing with policing in communities over many years has not been about asking grand questions about what happens during elections: it has been about finding processes for survival - helping people to develop a sense of power, the confidence to complain and to organise, to push back against local councillors who are not prepared to challenge the police commander in their area. This often stops people in particular areas from experiencing the same level of oppressive policing as they would without local opposition. This is why local Copwatch groups are so important. After the election, regardless of who wins, there is still going to be an absolutely essential role for people who do this grassroots work: that’s where you are going to be able to make a difference. 

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To cite this article
Kirsten Forkert (2024) Law and order: what can we expect from an incoming Labour government?, Soundings, 2024(86), 136-148.

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