It’s law and order week in No. 10. After a series of announcements over the weekend, on stop and search and a promise of more prison places, Boris Johnson has today announced a review of sentencing guidelines for rapists and murderers. More announcements and appearances are expected as the week goes on to further hammer home the message that this is a Government that’s tough on crime.
With 80 days to go until the UK is to leave the EU, No. 10 is focussed on three main areas: Brexit, health and law and order. It follows that these three topics are also what the Tories are expected to campaign on in an early election. Under Theresa May, the Conservatives’ reputation as the party of law and order has suffered. Violent crime is on the rise and as prime minister Theresa May was reluctant to increase stop and search or put more bobbies on the beat for fear it could undermine her record in the Home Office. This government has no such qualms.
With law and order identified as a key voter concern, the Tories are determined to repair any damage done. This strategy also goes some way to explaining Priti Patel’s appointment as Home Secretary. Patel’s promotion to a great office of state was one of the surprise moments of Johnson’s reshuffle. Sacked by May from her previous Cabinet job as Secretary of State for International Development, this was seen as a big promotion – and a potential risk.
However, Patel’s tough talk on crime is exactly the message the Tories would want in a general election. ‘You can’t be too tough on crime in an election campaign,’ says a party insider. There’s a view in Government that the country is to the right of Westminster group think on crime.
Tellingly, Patel used her first interview since landing the job to tell the Daily Mail that she wanted ‘criminals to feel terror’. While Labour and the Liberal Democrats were quick to criticise her, a YouGov poll found that 72 per cent of British adults surveyed agreed with her statement. Expect this type of messaging to only increase in the coming weeks and months.