Diane Abbott: We need a Home Office that prioritises security, fairness and equality for all
The recurring theme of Tory Home Office policy is that ordinary people don’t matter. A Labour government will ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect, writes Diane Abbott
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a country which detains its own citizens indefinitely, without charge? Or deports them to another country they have no connection with, even though they are legally entitled to be here? Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine. Under this government, we are all living in just such a country.
All this has been happening while the Tories have been in office. There is no evidence to suggest they are about to recant, so it is reasonable to assume these injustices will continue to proliferate.
The charge sheet could go on. Ask the Grenfell residents, who were treated as second-class citizens for the crime of being social housing tenants in one of the richest places on earth, as well as being overwhelmingly from migrant communities. Or the growing number of victims of violent crime, suffering while the Tories (and the Lib Dems) axed thousands of police officers and handed over hundreds of millions of pounds in contracts to private security firms. Or those who have been denied justice such as the Orgreave campaigners, and the victimised workers from the decades-old Cammell Laird and Shrewsbury disputes. Or those who have lost loved ones from unexplained deaths in police custody.
The recurring theme of Tory Home Office policy is that ordinary people don’t matter. This is true whether it was Theresa May with her “Go home” vans, or Amber Rudd who ‘misspoke’ when she said she didn’t have deportation targets, or Sajid Javid who claims the hostile environment has ended, yet denies re-entry to this country for a six-year-old boy who was born here.
Tory policy does not prioritise the safety and security of the ordinary people of this country. It amounts to an abject failure in one of the primary duties of any decent government.
Labour’s values and Labour’s policies are entirely different. Under the new management represented by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, our single overriding priority is to treat ordinary people with dignity and respect.
Our economic policy is aimed at ensuring the greatest possible job opportunities and living standards for the vast majority of the population. Our foreign policy is aimed at securing peace and no more needless and bloody wars. And in home affairs, the Corbynista policy is aimed at achieving security, fairness and equality for all our citizens. This is our banner.
Ordinary people are most worried about serious crime – violent crime, including knives and guns, sexual crimes, hate crimes and domestic abuse. The Tories talk tough on sentencing. But tougher sentences are useless if you don’t apprehend the criminals in the first place. Arrest rates are falling along with police numbers, and the Tories are in denial about the effect of their own cuts.
The same is true for Tory cuts to the number of border guards and to the number of firefighters. You cannot fight crime effectively, or tackle smuggling and people trafficking if you cut the numbers of police officers or border guards. You can’t maintain fire response times if you cut the number of firefighters and fail to invest properly in vital equipment. Cuts have consequences.
Labour will start to tackle all of these problems by investing in key public services and by recruiting thousands more workers. We will not engage in empty rhetoric about law and order or border security as the Tories do. We will invest to improve the safety and security of all our people.
In the same way, we are determined to tackle the grave injustices I have mentioned arising from industrial disputes, deaths in custody and other areas. We will stop indefinite detention, and the detention of vulnerable women and children. We aim to right the wrongs around both the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell disaster.
Above all, our aim is to ensure the safety and security of our citizens, so long neglected by the Tories.
Diane Abbott is Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, and shadow home secretary