Cllr Kevin Davis is the Leader of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.
Sadiq Khan told us he would be a “Mayor for all Londoners”. What we seem to have got is a Mayor who acts as if London is there for Mayor Khan’s benefit before the rest of us.
I wrote some months ago in the aftermath of the tragic Grenfell fire that there was a sense that Mayor Khan was not leading the city through the disaster. The Mayor should have been putting aside the politics and dealing with settling the minds and winning the hearts of not just those caught up in the tragedy but also those right across London caught up in the grief.
On crime the Mayor is at it again. Murder is at the highest rate for some time and look set to continue to rise. We have a Metropolitan Police Commissioner, whom I generally admire, talking of 1920s New York Al Capone tactics, whatever they might be, although for many that conjures up visions of tommy guns and spats.
The Mayor has been “working from home”, and seemingly refusing to stand up and explain what is happening and when he does emerge it is to tell everyone it is someone else’s fault – usually the “Tories”. Apparently it’s about police numbers.
Below is a graph showing the trend of murders since 2008 (Boris’s first term) plotted against the trend for Police numbers.
What do you notice? Well, it seems the fewer police officers you have the fewer murders you have. So this notion that somehow murders and violent crime have something to do with police numbers is clearly nonsense and Khan needs to get on with answering what he would do about it rather than by default blaming someone else.
So what is the solution?
All policing is a balance between civil liberties and protecting the innocent. Whilst I accept that in the past stop and search was seen as tipping too much towards infringing civil liberties – especially those of Black and Asian Londoners – the reality is that it has clearly gone too far that way and we need greater powers to stop and search. Even the most civil libertarian minded individual must accept my former Police Officer Father’s adage that “if you are doing nothing wrong why do you object to being stopped”. It is also the case that in our diverse city it is disproportionately Black and Asian Londoners who are doing and being murdered and therefore it is inevitable more from those communities will be stopped.
But that cannot be the only thing we can do. All the talk of Glasgow, youth centres and boxing clubs in the world are not going to make the necessary inroads to the causation of this issue because London is not Glasgow and youth centres were arguably the cause of the 1950s and 1960s mods and rockers violence, not the prevention.
There is a breakdown in families and the support networks that kids relate to but all the government policy in the world will not put that right for a generation, even if it does work.
At the heart of this is the issue of trust and this involves politicians. So many of these so called “troubled families” and their children have lost faith in everything to do with the state. The nannying nature and dependency of our benefits system, the way in which successive governments identify the causes of crime and poverty but then lack the courage to take the necessary steps to sort them. The terrible state of council housing across London, if you can get council housing. All this conspires against the strength of a family and many simply give up on their community and surrender to the belief that they will never get a good life and instead look to the street, fast drug money and gangs. Politicians are now seen as being part of the problem not the solution.
It saddens me that at the top of the political mistrust list is now the Mayor. As the most powerful elected politician in the capital he is quick to write his own press release and quicker to shift blame and push the issue down the road as if he has no power and no resources. Is it that he is so political about everything he does or just that he has no idea what to do and therefore can only resort to deflection? Is it about his own coming re-selection battle for the Mayoral nomination and therefore that inaction is better than the fear of upsetting the Momentum-dominated London Labour?
Whatever it is, Mr Mayor, once again this city needs leadership and not misleadership. We don’t want you tossing bogus statistics and blame to all and sundry. It’s time to stand up and start convincing the marginalised you are on their side and will build them the homes they need, attract the jobs they will want, and give them some pride in what it is to be a Londoner. Two years into your mayoralty you do not have much time left to leave London in a better place than you found it and that will be the test all Londoners will judge you on in 2020.