As the papers fill up with pre-Budget speculation (most of which will be wrong) and as the Lib Dems wriggle around over health, and Nick Clegg and Vince Cable fight proxy battles over mansion taxes and tycoon taxes, a new and highly vulnerable front is opening for both of them. Crime.
One of the many perpetuating myths about the Tories is that ‘traditionally’, they are tough on crime. It is nearer the truth to say that they tradtionally talk tough on crime, but fail to deliver. Crime doubled under the Tories who were in power before 1997. Crime fell under Labour, one of the many facts about delivery that has been drowned in the successful ‘mess we inherited’ mantra of the new government.
They did not inherit a mess on the NHS, which is why it had the highest public satisfaction ratings in its history as a result of investment being up, waiting times being down, more buildings, doctors and nurses. Now Tory cuts are putting that at risk, and David Cameron’s breaking of his ‘no top down reorganisation’ pledge is delivering not a mess they inherited but a mess they are entirely responsible for delivering.
Across the public services he made big play in Opposition of another pledge, not to cut the frontline. There is of course always argument as to where exactly the frontline lies but in health, education and crime, even on the most generous definition of the frontline, it is being cut.
This morning it emerges via Freedom of Information requests reported in The Observer that the number of police dealing with 999 emergencies has fallen by more than 5,000 since the election. Even Cameron at his most spintastic would be hard pressed to say that a response to 999 calls did not constitute a call to the frontline of policing.
The latest British Crime Survey figures showed an 11 per cent rise in ‘personal crime”, which includes theft, robbery and violence. That is the sharpest rise for more than a decade, showing once more that it tends to be Labour that has the better record in getting crime down, and the Tories the better reputation for talking themselves up.