As the long election campaign has already started – an unforeseen consequence of fixed-term Parliaments – we should be starting to hone and send out the message of our achievements in Government. The Politics of Yes should see Conservatives at every level identify the ways in which we have made a positive difference to people’s lives and shout them from the rooftops.
One of these success stories is the continued collapse in crime rates. The latest British Crime Survey data, out this morning, shows that crime is at the lowest level since records began in 1981.
That isn’t the number of crimes recorded by police, which is an underestimate for obvious reasons, it is the number of crimes that people say they have suffered. It isn’t a perfect measure, and I wouldn’t use it to produce a precise total figure for the number of crimes that occur, but it does allow us to judge the relative rate of crime against other years in the BCS’ history.
The message on that count is clear: crime is lower than at any other point in the last 32 years.
Each crime that is prevented is a victory for civilised society – less human suffering, less fear, less economic damage, more confidence, more freedom and more people choosing the productive, happier route of honest work over the miserable experience of violence and jail.
That there are now fewer than half the number of crimes committed each year in the UK than there were in 1995 is a huge victory for the nation as a whole. That the crime rate fell by 7 per cent in the last year alone is a victory for the Government.
The crime rate can and will fall even lower, particularly as Chris Grayling focuses on reducing reoffending rates among those already caught up in the justice system. And yet for some reason the Conservative Party and the conservative press talk about these successes very rarely – David Cameron didn’t mention it in his otherwise optimistic Conference speech, for example. That ought to change.
There is a wider success story from these numbers, too.
Labour and the Police Federation warned that any attempt to make savings in policing budgets would inevitable cause crime to increase – that hasn’t happened. Budgets have been cut but crime has continued to fall, in a vivid rebuttal of the Gordon Brown theory that more money always equals better services. This fact is reflected in the recent BBC poll that showed people think services are improving despite austerity measures.
That message – and the specific good news that we are more free from crime than at any time on record – should be hammered home at every opportunity.