Yvette Cooper’s speech at Labour Conference

Yvette Cooper MP, Shadow Home Secretary


Exhibition Centre Liverpool

Conference, every one of us in this hall will have stories from friends, families or neighbours about the violence and abuse that too many women face.

My great, great grandmother was attacked by her husband.

First when she was pregnant. The report says he struck and kicked her so she could not sit or lie in bed.

Then he attacked her with a poker. In front of her daughter. 

The case went to court. The magistrates bound him over to keep the peace. 

But you know the most shocking thing about that story?

That is more protection from the police and courts than many domestic abuse victims get today. 

And it was over 100 years ago. 

Conference we cannot stand by and let our daughters face the same abuse as our grandmothers. This has to change. 

With us this morning is Nour Norris.

Her niece Raneem Oudeh – faced abuse, stalking, threats to kill from her ex-partner. 

Repeatedly she asked the police for help. 

But nothing was done. On the night Raneem and her mother Khaola were murdered they called 999 four times. But no one came.

I am determined no woman should ever be ignored and abandoned in this devastating way.

You know we’ve talked about change for years, but I am sick and tired of women who face abuse and violence being failed – generation after generation.

Sick and tired of the most serious perpetrators getting away with it.

Sick and tired of women still feeling worried on the streets, saying to friends “text me when you get home”.

When the first women’s safety march in Leeds was nearly 50 years ago.

Enough is enough, we will not stand for this any more.

So Conference, the next Labour Government will put rape investigation units in every force, domestic abuse experts in every 999 call centre.

We will require police forces to use tactics normally reserved for organised crime or terrorist investigations.

To identify and go after the most dangerous repeat abusers and rapists and get them off our streets.

Know this. If you abuse and hurt women, under a Labour Government the police will be after you, because everyone has the right to live in freedom from fear.

And who better to lead the fight against crime than someone who spent years pursuing criminals and terrorists and standing up for victims – the person we pledge to make the next Labour Prime Minister, Keir Starmer.

From Labour, this week, you get serious plans to change our country.

From the Tories, last week, what were they on?

And the chaos just gets worse.

We’ve had five Tory Prime Ministers in seven years – and seven Tory Home Secretaries.

Suella Braverman is literally the only person who could make you want to bring back Priti Patel.

A Home Secretary more interested in going after Elton John than going after criminals.

I mean seriously? Well I guess that’s why they call them the Blues.

Labour believes security is the first duty of any Government.

Security is the bedrock of opportunity.

Families don’t thrive if they don’t feel safe.

Security means knowing someone will be there for you if things go wrong, that laws will be respected and enforced.

And it means strong communities – where people pull together instead of turning on each other.

Because when communities fracture, antisocial behaviour grows and organized crime and extremists step in.

But instead of standing up for security, the Tories have done the opposite.

That feeling we have that nothing works and everything is broken.

A brittle Britain, where we face the future with foreboding.

They have taken a wrecking ball to the criminal justice system, so 90% of crimes now go unsolved.

More criminals let off. More victims let down.

Criminals today are less than half as likely to be caught as they were under the last Labour Government.

That is the scale of the collapse in law and order under this Tory Government.

Criminals laugh at the law, communities pay the price.

Conference this isn’t an accident.

It is the result of deliberate Tory choice.

A choice to cut police from our streets, a choice to undermine respect for the law and for standards in public life, a choice to chase headlines not solutions, and a shameful choice to ramp up the rhetoric and pit people against each other rather than bringing communities together.

Weak on crime, weak on its causes, weakening our security.

A reckless Tory Home Secretary. A hopeless Tory Government. They need to go.

Labour’s task in Government will be to restore respect and rebuild our security – for our nation: at our borders, on our streets, and in our homes. 

That starts with defending our national security.

Labour will work tirelessly with our intelligence and security agencies to defend our country from fast changing threats be they from terrorists, organised criminals or other states who seek to do us harm.

And Conference, we have seen the devastating and barbaric terrorist attacks in Israel this week.

As David Lammy has said “terrorism can never, never be justified”.

And let us be clear.

Here in the UK, we will work with the police, with the Community Security Trust, with the Government because there is no place in Britain for the promotion of proscribed terror groups like Hamas.

There is no place in Britain for antisemitic hate.

Conference, delivering security for our communities also means securing our borders.

We want to see strong border security and a properly controlled and managed asylum system so the UK does our bit to help those fleeing persecution and conflict while those who are not refugees are swiftly returned. 

That is what Labour believes in.

Under the Tories we have none of that. 

Criminal gangs are making a mockery of our border security and the asylum system is in total chaos.

The taxpayer spending an astronomical £8m a day on hotels.

Returns of failed asylum seekers down by 70%.

And £140million cheques already sent to Rwanda – even though they’ve sent more Home Secretaries there than asylum seekers.

Time and again all the Tories offer is gimmicks and no grip.

Labour will deploy hundreds more police and investigators to go after the smuggler and trafficking gangs who undermine our border security and put lives at risk.

And to pursue their supply chainsTo stop the boats before they reach the French coast.

And we will clear the backlog, end the use of asylum hotels, save the taxpayer £2 billion and fix this Tory chaos.

But Conference, we’ve seen a Tory Home Secretary target and blame LGBT+ refugees to distract from her mess.

This is less than 2% of UK asylum applications, at a time when Uganda and other countries threaten gay people with the death penalty.

That is shameful and it demeans her office.

Labour will never scapegoat people because of who they are and who they love.

And conference, we will rebuild security here on our streets. 

Our town centres should be the beating heart of our communities.

But instead, we’ve got local shops chaining fabric conditioner to the shelves, putting security tags on packs of cheese and butter to fend off organised gang raids.

An epidemic of shoplifting and violence against shop workers.

A law brought in by the Tories means shop thefts under £200 aren’t investigated even if the same gang comes back time and again. 

So Conference, we will end the £200 rule to tackle the shoplifting gangs. 

Bring in Respect Orders to ban repeat offenders from town centres.

And we’ll restore neighbourhood policing – 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on our streets.

Guaranteed patrols in the heart of our towns.

And conference we will stand with USDAW, the Co-op, Tesco, small convenience stores with a new law and tougher sentences for attacks on our shopworkers.

Everyone has the right to feel safe at work.

And Conference it falls to us to rebuild confidence in British policing.

Turning around the collapse in prosecutions, recruiting detectives so that more complex crimes, like fraud, are solved, reforming policing with new powers for the inspectorate if police forces fail, with firm action to tackle racism, and new vetting and misconduct rules to keep standards high.

If officers shame their uniform or abuse their position, they will be quickly out.

But for the tens of thousands of officers who strain every sinew, to keep the rest of us safe, we will back you.

And we will be proud to introduce a bravery medal for police officers, firefighters and emergency service workers who lose their lives in the line of duty.

We owe them our thanks for keeping us safe.

Conference, more than anything else, we need to keep our children safe.

Last year Keir and I met with a grieving mum in Hartlepool who showed us the video she kept on her phone of her cradling her teenage son in his hospital bed, singing to him as he lay dying from a knife wound.

It was one of the hardest things I have done in this job.

Families who feel like they have lost their future.

But who are calling for us to help them save other children’s lives.

Knife crime has gone up by 70% in eight years – some of the steepest increases in towns and suburbs.

Yet far too little is done, and a generation is being failed.

We must not fail them any more.

Too often when teenagers say they don’t feel safe, no one listens.

Too often when they start to struggle with mental health, or go off the rails. Or are groomed by criminal gangs, nothing is done.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.

We said it, we mean it, that means we have to act.

So Labour will bring in new laws to crack down on dangerous knife sales and to stop gangs exploiting children.

But we also need to step in early.

25 years ago, I was one of the Labour Ministers responsible for Sure Start.

Bringing communities and services together to help families with the very youngest children.

Conference I am determined that the next Labour Government will do the same for our teenagers.

That’s why I am announcing today a new ten-year programme bringing together services and communities to support for young people.

New youth hubs, with both mental health workers and youth workers, to tackle the crisis in youth mental health, to give teenagers the best start in life, to stop the knife crime that is killing our children.

Imagine it – communities coming together with that same awesome capacity to transform lives. 

We did it in Government before. That’s what Labour in Government can do again. 

Conference this is Labour’s mission.

To halve serious violence, to put police back on the beat, to restore respect for the rule of law, to keep our children safe.

Labour, the true party of law and order. Giving our children their future back. Giving our country its future back.

That is what the next Labour Government will do.

Thank you.