London Mayor Sadiq Khan has now learnt a valuable political lesson about making promises he can’t keep, and using crime as his personal political football. While seeking election as Mayor of London in 2015, Mr Khan promised to do everything in his power to cut ‘stop and search’ if he became Mayor, and to make London safer, with action to restore neighbourhood policing which in turn should assist in tackling gangs and knife crime.
Having now learnt that criminals don’t take much heed of political slogans and right-on promises, he has now admitted that ‘stop and search’ is actually a “vital tool for police to keep our communities safe” and that his Metropolitan Police will now “significantly increase” their use of stop and search powers in an attempt to crackdown on the city’s surging knife crime problem.
Sadly for the population of London, crime has not fallen under Khan’s watch, but has increased significantly. Newspaper headlines over the Easter weekend made for grim reading, with London’s murder rate overtaking that of New York, which most Brits think of as a violent city. London and New York are of a similar size and have similar-sized police forces, but while London’s murder rate has increased by 40% in three years, New York’s has fallen by 87% since the 1990s.
City Hall said it was “deeply concerned” by knife crime in the capital, but, along with the Met Police, insisted that London “remains one of the safest in the world”.
With the growing criticism of his leadership, or lack of it, Mr Khan went on the attack on Sunday, tweeting: “Tory police cuts have already cost London thousands of police officers and staff, most of our police station front counters and police buildings. It’s time for the Government to stop misleading the public and properly fund our police.”
Prime Minister Theresa May seems to have been unimpressed, with a spokesman replying: “The Mayor of London is accountable for the performance of the Metropolitan Police.”
Stop and search
The knife crime epidemic sweeping London and playing a part in the rise in murder numbers has been exacerbated, at least in part, by Mr Khan pressuring police to drastically cut back on the use of stop-and-search, which he believed was upsetting non-white ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the policy has visibly failed and perhaps even more tragically, the majority of the victims of the rise in knife crime have been from non-white ethnic groups.
Mr Khan has announced the setting aside of £1.4 million for anti-knife crime projects, some of which will be spent building a Somali Islamic centre, but while £1.4 million sounds a like a lot of money it doesn’t llok so impressive when compared with the £1.7 million he allocated for the creation of an “online hate crime” hub to investigate people using offensive language online, the £6 million set aside for special bus driver toilets or the £34 million set aside for green projects. Yes, all of those projects deserve funding of some kind but do London’s voters truly believe that more money should be spent on so-called ‘hate crimes’? That aside, isn’t knife crime the ultimate hate crime?
The tragedy of London’s rising murder and violent crime rates can at least in part be attributed to opposition vote-catching policies meeting the real world and coming off very much second best.
Mr Khan tried to defend himself by blaming a fall in police numbers and government funding, but that excuse was given short shrift by Nigel Farage, not a man whose name I’d put in the same sentence as the phrase ‘common sense’ when he said on his LBC radio show: “We now have 900 Metropolitan Police officers dealing with hate crime, words can hurt people and upset people and make them feel excluded. But where are the priorities?”
London residents will remember that the Met police announced in 2017 they no longer had the resources to investigate many “low-level” crimes, including some assaults and forms of fraud, but made a specific exception for “hate crimes” and promised to always act if someone’s identity had been offended.
Yes, it’s true that it’s not right for people to be unkind to the LGBT community or to espouse racist views online, but when criminals and gangs are running around the capital stabbing and shooting people, or scooter gangs are robbing residents, often using acid, knives or other weapons, you’d have to say that all and any police staff should be pulled away from political projects and set to banging up proper criminals.
Mr Khan needs to understand that the only people responsible for violence on our streets are the criminals who perpetrate it, and murders are not convenient tools to attack the government with but triggers that should have pushed him into positive action as soon as he was elected, not now. That means using every resource he has to solve the problem and not playing the weasel blame game. As London’s Mayor, the responsibility to act is his, just as the blame or praise for the results is his and nobody else’s.