Labour's Diane Abbott tears into Home Office over 'crude and offensive' bid to tackle knife crime with chicken shop ads
The Home Office has been condemned as "offensive" after it launched a plan to combat knife crime by placing anti-weapon messages on fried chicken boxes.
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott accused the department of resorting to "crude" stereotypes as it unveiled the bid to tackle a spike in knife-related offences with a nationwide ad campaign.
Ministers said over 321,000 chicken boxes in more than 210 stores across England and Wales would be branded with the hashtag '#knifefree', and would aim to tell the "real life stories of young people who have chosen to pursue positive activities, such as boxing or music, instead of carrying a knife".
Launching the new advertising blitz, Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said: "These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.
"The Government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police’s ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets."
The Home Office also vowed to send anti-knife crime teams to "convenience stores, hair salons and barber shops" across London, Manchester and Birmingham as part of the drive to explain the consequences of knife-related offences.
The move follows an earlier tie-up with chicken shop chain Morley's, which saw 20,000 of the anti-knife boxes handed out.
But the move has already sparked an angry backlash from Labour.
Ms Abbott said: "Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign."
And she added: "They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them."
Meanwhile Tottenham MP David Lammy asked: "Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What's next, #KnifeFree watermelons?"
Home Secretary Priti Patel shot back, accusing Ms Abbott of "playing politics with knife crime".
The Cabinet minister added: "I will do everything in my power to stop it traumatising communities - recruiting 20k officers, empowering police to stop & search, communicating tragic consequences of carrying a knife. I will not apologise for that."
The move comes as part of a wider government crackdown on violent crime, including a controversial move to loosen restrictions on police stop-and-search, which Labour has warned could exacerbate community tensions.
The Government's own figures show that black people are nine-and-a-half times more likely to be the subject of stop and search than their white counterparts.
But Labour's position sparked an angry response from Number 10 this week, with a senior Number 10 source: "On stop and search, the Labour Party with Dianne Abbott as Shadow Home Secretary is ideologically opposed to giving the police more powers and a clear roadblock to getting knives off the street as stop and search does."