The Labour Party Manifesto, subtitled “Our plan to change Britain”, promises a “fully costed, fully funded, credible plan to turn the country around after 14 years of the Conservatives”. (Turning it around to face Europe would be a thing, but we don’t think that’s what they mean.) It opens with six “first steps”, one of which is to

Crack down on antisocial behaviour, with more neighbourhood police paid for by ending wasteful contracts, tough new penalties for offenders, and a new network of youth hubs.

This does not really compare with Tony Blair’s famous “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” and seems oddly muted coming from a party led by a former Director of Public Prosecutions. The criminal justice system is in crisis, the prisons are full, the courts are struggling with legendary backlogs, and the police are underpowered. Youth hubs sound great but “tough new penalties” is just a meme now. And that still leaves the civil and family justice systems unaddressed.

Thankfully the manifesto goes into more detail further on, under a section headed “Take back our streets” which sounds a bit Brexity but refers to the general collapse of law and order under Conservative rule. It promises:

“We will tackle the epidemic of serious violence, with a greater focus on prevention, including by holding those companies and executives cashing in on knife crime personally to account. We will no longer tolerate the violence against women and girls that stains our society. And we will reform the justice system to put the needs of victims first, tackle the prisons crisis and cut reoffending.”

They also promise to address the courts backlog by allowing Associate Prosecutors (trained lay employees of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)) to work on appropriate cases, to increase the powers of the Victims Commissioner, and to review sentencing to ensure it is brought up to date. They say they will “fast-track rape cases”, with specialist courts at every Crown Court location in England and Wales. And there is a plan to build more prisons, improve rehabilitation to cut reoffending, and provide a more joined up probation service after the “chaotic reorganisations” of the current government. (Spin the zodiac wheel of Tory Lord Chancellors back to the Grayling period and you may recall the source of that chaos.)

Under the heading of “Historic injustices” they promise to “ensure justice and compensation are delivered swiftly for those sub-postmasters shamefully affected by the Horizon IT scandal” and to “act on the findings of the Infected Blood Inquiry, and respond to the findings of the Grenfell Inquiry and the Covid-19 Inquiry, to ensure swift resolution”. In addition:

“Labour will introduce a ‘Hillsborough Law’ which will place a legal duty of candour on public servants and authorities, and provide legal aid for victims of disasters or state-related deaths. We will ensure the victims of the appalling Windrush scandal have their voices heard and the compensation scheme is run effectively, with a new Windrush Commissioner. Labour will also ensure, through an investigation or inquiry, that the truth about the events at Orgreave comes to light.”

Labour also promise “A fair and properly managed immigration system” along with “Secure borders”:

“We will create a new Border Security Command, with hundreds of new investigators, intelligence officers, and cross-border police officers. This will be funded by ending the wasteful Migration and Economic Development partnership with Rwanda. This new Command will work internationally and be supported by new counter-terrorism style powers, to pursue, disrupt, and arrest those responsible for the vile trade. We will seek a new security agreement with the EU to ensure access to real-time intelligence and enable our policing teams to lead joint investigations with their European counterparts. Labour will turn the page and restore order to the asylum system so that it operates swiftly, firmly, and fairly; and the rules are properly enforced.”

On constitutional change (a big element of what they achieved last time in office) they would introduce “legislation to remove the right of hereditary peers to sit and vote in the House of Lords”. Labour would also introduce a mandatory retirement age of 80 for all members of the upper chamber.


The Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto has another of those three-party slogans so beloved of the Covid era: “Clear plan, Bold action, Secure future”. But they are severely hampered by the massive weight of disappointment they carry after fourteen years of austerity, unforced reorganisation, unplanned Brexit, unprepared-for Covid, and a giddy game of musical chairs round the cabinet table played to an accelerando medley of jingoistic clamour. We have “the courage to take the bold steps necessary to build a secure future for you and your family”, says the prime minister whose immediate predecessor’s bold economic plans triggered a pensions and mortgages crisis that directly impacted most families’ financial security.

Despite having brought the justice system to a state of almost total collapse, the Tories still try to present themselves as the party of law and order, with pledges of tougher sentencing and a promise to really, really this time actually build those new prisons they promised three years ago. (A bit like the boasted “40 NHS hospitals” pledged in the 2019 manifesto that turned out to be a handful of mostly refurbished buildings or little clinics.)

Another thing they will definitely, definitely, eventually do is send asylum seekers to Rwanda, as part of the plan to toughen borders which has not worked for the last few years. Flights will begin in July (after the election, presumably, but only if they win). Migration will be capped, they say, despite having in the past relaxed such caps in the face of recruitment crises in industries and services where, for some reason, domestic labour is simply not available.

There’s a lot about cutting taxes (and benefits), not much about improving services (which cost money). But more money will go on defence, leaving a smaller portion of the whole to spread round things like health, education, and the justice system.

Even so, they have issued promises to restore police numbers and public trust, to deal with violence against women and girls, support victims of domestic abuse, toughen sentences (eg for knife crimes, and for domestic murder within the context of domestic abuse) and undertake a review of homicide sentencing.

Dealing with the courts, they say:

“We will cut the Covid court backlog by keeping open Nightingale courtrooms, funding sitting days and investing in court maintenance. And we will continue to digitise court processes and expand the use of remote hearings. We will match fund 100 criminal law pupillages to speed up justice for victims and will continue to ensure access to justice through legal aid provision.”.

Funding pupillages for baby barristers sounds great, but of course they need to look forward to being properly paid when they actually take on cases. So restoring legal aid, which the Tories have done more than anyone to cut, is far more important.

Dealing with civil and family justice they add:

“We will expand our Pathfinder Courts pilot in family court proceedings and continue mediation vouchers to help more families resolve private law child arrangements without an acrimonious court battle. We will support our world class legal services sector, including through an Arbitration Bill. We will help individuals and small businesses bring cases against wealthier opponents with legislation to support third party funding of litigation.”

There are plans to curb abuses of the right to protest in public, such as banning face coverings, climbing on war memorials, banning protests outside schools, and “explore ways for the police to recover some of the costs of policing disruptive protests from the groups that organise them”.

Many of the smaller proposals are quite sensible, but you have to wonder why they’ve waited so long to propose them, and why they failed to address other things that may have caused the problems in the first place. There’s a short termist crowd-pleasing aspect to much of it. For example, their “three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy to make it easier for social housing landlords to evict tenants guilty of anti-social behaviour” sounds like being tough on anti-social behaviour, but what happens to the evicted tenants? Do they suddenly mend their ways and jump to the front of the housing queue, or (being “intentionally homeless”) will they simply end up being anti-social on the streets, or committing more serious crimes only to end up in the overcrowded prisons?

Under the heading of “Using our Brexit freedoms to deliver regulatory reform”, they promise to continue the process of repealing or reforming retained EU laws, and reduce the regulatory burden on businesses more generally, which has always been Tory policy anyway, and the reason why so many businesses support the party (albeit with diminishing munificence, these days, it seems).

Missing inaction

Curiously, the manifesto is more interesting for what it leaves out. There is no mention of the Royal Commission on the criminal justice process which the Tories pledged to set up in the 2019 manifesto, and which would have received support from the Bar Council, among others.

Nothing about the Human Rights Act, either, which previous manifestoes have promised to shake up or repeal, and nothing about the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and submission of cases to its Strasbourg court. All it says is, in relation to tackling illegal migration, that they plan to:

“Reform asylum rules, holding an international summit and working with other countries to reform international laws to make them fit for an age of mass migration. We will restrict visa access from countries that don’t work with us on our national priorities, like illegal migration.”

This seems like a belated recognition that the mass migration problem isn’t something any one nation can solve in isolation — even if it’s an island nation, with a chartered plane to Rwanda standing idle on a secret runway — and that international cooperation might be a better option. (A return to something like the Dublin II Regulation perhaps?)

Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrat manifesto is subtitled “For a Fair Deal”. By that they mean a fair deal on the economy, jobs, prosperity, the environment, health and social care, education and welfare; plus a “truly fair democracy” based on proportional representation. They have often come up with more interesting ideas than the other parties, but since 2010 they have been more cautious about making ambitious commitments that participation in actual government might expose to stress-testing. (Making pipedream commitments is as easy as falling off a paddleboard, but not nearly as picturesque.) Nevertheless, they have promised to increase public spending and aim to reach Net Zero by 2045.

They are, of course, the main party still opposed to Brexit and are promising to

“Fix the UK’s broken relationship with Europe, forge a new partnership built on cooperation, not confrontation, and move to conclude a new comprehensive agreement which removes as many barriers to trade as possible”.

Their proposals on crime and policing suggest they have given some thought to coming up with new ideas:

  • Scrapping Police and Crime Commissioners and replacing them with local Police Boards
  • Creating a new Online Crime Agency to effectively tackle illegal content and activity online, such as personal fraud, revenge porn and threats and incitement to violence on social media
  • Setting a clear target of halving the time from offence to sentencing for all criminals, and implementing a properly funded strategy across the criminal justice system to achieve it
  • Embedding domestic abuse specialists in every police force and 999 operator assistance centre to ensure that reports from survivors are handled effectively and sensitively.
  • Adopting a public health approach to the epidemic of youth violence which identifies and treats risk factors, rather than just focusing on the symptoms. This means police, teachers, health professionals, youth workers and social services all working closely together to prevent young people falling prey to gangs and violence.
  • Establishing a Women’s Justice Board and providing specialist training for all staff in contact with women in the criminal justice system.
  • Improving transparency throughout the criminal justice process by enabling all victims to request a transcript of court proceedings free of charge.

On immigration, their more imaginative approach involves:

  • Transferring policy-making over work visas and overseas students out of the Home Office (which the manifesto bluntly describes as “not fit for purpose”) and into other departments.
  • Scrapping the Conservatives’ Illegal Migration Act 2023 and Rwanda scheme, upholding the Refugee Convention, and providing safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees, helping to prevent dangerous Channel crossings.
  • Tackling the asylum backlog by establishing a dedicated unit to improve the speed and quality of asylum decision-making, introducing a service standard of three months for all but the most complex asylum claims to be processed, and speeding up returns of those without a right to stay.
  • Lifting the ban on asylum seekers working if they have been waiting for a decision for more than three months, enabling them to support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute to the economy.
  • Implementing the Windrush Lessons Learned Review in full, without further delay, and ensure victims of the Windrush scandal get the compensation they are entitled to by making the compensation scheme independent of the Home Office.

On human rights and equality, they promise to:

  • Scrap the Conservatives’ draconian anti-protest laws, restoring pre-existing protections for both peaceful assembly and public safety, and immediately halt the use of live facial recognition surveillance by the police and private companies.
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive Race Equality Strategy to address deep inequalities, including in education, health, criminal justice and the economy.
  • Respect and defend the rights of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including trans and non-binary people, and ban all forms of conversion therapies and practices.
  • Fully implement the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, with protections for all survivors regardless of nationality or immigration status.
  • Establish a new right to affordable, reasonable legal assistance, and make the Legal Aid system simpler, fairer and more generous.
  • Introduce a Digital Bill of Rights to protect everyone’s rights online, including the rights to privacy, free expression, and participation without being subjected to harassment and abuse.
  • Give Parliament time to fully debate and vote on legislation on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults with strict safeguards, subject to a free vote.

On family law, they propose:

  • Implementing the Law Commission’s proposals to reform wedding laws, giving couples more choice over how and where their wedding takes place, while respecting religious beliefs and practices and introducing legal recognition of humanist marriages.
  • Extending limited legal rights to cohabiting couples, to give them greater protection in the event of separation or bereavement.

Perhaps the most radical proposals are those for constitutional reform:

  • Strengthen democratic rights and participation by scrapping the Conservatives’ voter ID scheme and giving 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote.
  • Finally hold Government Ministers to account for corruption and sleaze by enshrining the Ministerial Code in legislation.
  • Reform the House of Lords with a proper democratic mandate.
  • Transfer greater powers away from Westminster and Whitehall, introduce a written constitution for a federal United Kingdom with strong voices for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and oppose a second Scottish independence referendum and independence.

Reform UK

The United Kingdom faces an “urgent existential threat”, says the party that isn’t a party, it’s a privately owned company, formerly known as the Brexit party, but “The British people have a real common sense choice in Reform UK”. Their manifesto that isn’t a manifesto, it’s a contract, titled “Our Contract With You” sets out the changes they would plan to implement in their first 100 days in power. It offers a vision of lower taxes, less regulation, smaller government, zero waiting lists, and lashings of good old fashioned common sense.

Naturally, they’re fixated about immigration. They complain that in 2022 “A record 1,250,000 immigrants entered the UK” including “over 45,000 illegal immigrants [who] crossed the channel in small boats”. So the small boats accounted for 3.6% of the immigration in that particular year. Even if the government’s doomed Stop The Boats campaign actually worked, it would only reduce immigration by a tiny fraction. Nevertheless, Reform would go even further than the Conservatives, including

  • Leave the European Convention on Human Rights
  • Set up a new Department of Immigration
  • Pick up migrants out of boats and return them to France (as permitted, they say, under current international treaties).
  • Rapid offshore processing of asylum claims in Overseas Territories (they don’t say which)
  • Immediate deportation for foreign criminals, once their sentence ends.

They may wish to deport them before their sentence ends, given that the prisons will soon be extremely full — even after boosting the criminal justice budget by £2bn and building 10,000 new prison places — once Reform have implemented their critical policing and crime reforms, including:

  • Prison for all violent crimes and for even possessing a knife
  • Mandatory life imprisonment for dealing and trafficking drugs
  • Automatic life imprisonment for violent repeat offenders

After sorting out crime, by locking everyone up, Reform would like to tackle the child maintenance system (CMS) which they say is failing children and parents. “It should be a Mediation Service and means-tested child support for parents who cannot arrange finances”.

Reform would also launch “a special division of the family court for maintenance and defaults”. There would be shared parental care 50/50 where appropriate, and rights of access for grandparents.

They also promise tax breaks to support marriage and help parents choosing to stay at home to look after children, and an inquiry into social media harms to children. There would be a review of the Online Safety Bill, and promotion of child friendly app restricted mobile phones. Public toilets should provide single sex spaces.

On constitutional matters, Reform also promise to shake up the House of Lords, replacing the “crony filled” second chamber with a much smaller one, reform the civil service, and clamp down on voter fraud. Like the Liberal Democrats, they favour proportional representation. And where the Conservatives appear to have given up the idea as a lost cause, they would like to bring in their own British Bill of Rights. (This appears to be particularly motivated by Covid: “Never again,” they say, “can our entire country be shut down on shoddy evidence and lies”.) Nor is what they call the 2010 Equalities Act safe from replacement, with abolition of positive discrimination, diversity and inclusion targets and other evils that have turned out to be simply “a lawyer’s charter to print money” (literally). BBC reform and a Westminster Anti-Corruption Unit are also on the agenda.


Like the Liberal Democrats, the Greens place a big value on fairness in their 2024 Election Manifesto, promising that with them in power we “can create a greener, fairer country together — one in which we are all safer, happier and more fulfilled”.

Though they have some presence in local politics, the Green Party has consistently failed to secure more than token representation in Parliament. Moreover, many of their most obvious policies, on the environment, have been adopted by other parties. That has left them with the unenviable task of finding policies that might appeal to those already concerned enough about climate change to support them, without appearing too eccentric and whacky to attract mainstream support.

On human rights they say

“We will defend the Human Rights Act, the UK’s membership of the European Convention on Human Rights and continued direct access to Convention rights in the domestic courts.”

In terms of the constitution, they propose:

  • Replacing the first past the post system for parliamentary elections with a fair and proportional voting system.
  • Replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber.
  • Votes for 16-year-olds and residence-based voting rights.

On law and justice they say they will:

  • Scrap the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act, the Public Order Act and other legislation that erodes the right to protest and free expression.
  • Campaign for the right of self-identification for trans and non-binary people.
  • Scrap the Prevent programme and tackle hate crime, misogyny, Islamophobia and antisemitism. Seek to restore trust and confidence in the police.
  • Repair and renew our crumbling court system with a £2.5bn investment.

Like the Liberal Democrats, the Greens have always resisted Brexit and would commit to rejoining the EU “as soon as the political conditions are right”. They want to ban nuclear weapons but they would continue to support NATO and help Ukraine in its defence against Russian invasion. Like everyone else they want to see an end to the conflict in Gaza and a fair (and presumably green) solution that “ensures security and equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians”.

Further reading

Compare the above with previous election manifestoes, on the ICLR blog:

Other commentary on or related to the manifestoes and justice: