Gareth Bacon is the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly
Sadiq Khan’s dreadful record at City Hall is becoming clearer by the day – crime is going through the roof, Transport for London is nearly a billion pounds in the red, and the homes the Mayor promised simply aren’t being built. Two and a half years in, Londoners can see that Khan is not delivering.
But Khan isn’t just failing on policy, he is also failing to provide accountable and transparent leadership. A pattern is occurring: whenever the Mayor falls short, which he does on an alarmingly regular basis, he will always try to pass the buck, shirk responsibility or deflect.
The most recent Mayor’s Question Time took place on Friday, and my colleagues and I took the Mayor to task on this. We highlighted four examples where he has misled Londoners or shifted the blame to divert the attention away from his own inadequate record.
In London one of the main challenges we face is the severe lack of affordable family sized homes, yet unbelievably the Mayor’s Housing Strategy doesn’t include a target for these types of properties. When my colleague Andrew Boff grilled him on this a few months ago, Khan claimed that the previous Housing Strategy, published in 2014, didn’t include a target either. Yet this is not true – readers can see for themselves that page 29 of the 2014 Housing Strategy makes clear that 36 percent of ‘discounted’ rented homes should be family sized. This is the worst side of Khan – when he is presented with cold hard facts which expose his failings he shamelessly resorts to misdirection, and occasionally – as in this case – plain untruths.
The Crossrail debacle has been well-covered in the press over recent weeks, and rightly so. Crossrail Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL, which Khan chairs; make no mistake, this delay is Khan’s delay.
The Mayor has claimed that he didn’t learn about the delay to Crossrail until two days before the public announcement. Yet the Transport Committee has seriously questioned whether this is true, saying that it was “highly likely” that the Mayor had been informed around six weeks earlier about “very likely” delays. It seems that Khan could have used semantics to try and avoid culpability, saying he only knew about the precise details two days before the announcement but omitting to admit that he knew that serious problems existed weeks before. Millions of Londoners were relying on Crossrail opening on time and businesses had made investments based on the plans, but Khan’s determination to avoid transparency means that Londoners found out about this delay weeks after they should have done.
Despite being London’s police and crime commissioner with a multi-billion-pound budget, Khan constantly blames government policy for the fact that crime is going through the roof in the capital. But he is clearly doing this simply to disguise his own failure to deliver on crime.
To take just one example, Khan announced, in February, an extra £5 million to recruit new police officers. Yet it wasn’t until September – over six months later – that the recruitment drive started. Violent crime is one of the biggest problems in the capital, but the Mayor isn’t acting with the urgency that is so desperately required.
Khan doesn’t just shirk responsibility on the big issues of housing, transport and crime, but he shamelessly tries to dodge accountability when it comes to the trivial matters too. Before the famous Trump blimp hovered above Parliament Square, the Mayor said that “it is not the Mayor’s or GLA’s role to act as a censor or the arbiter of what is or is not a good protest” and implied that the decision to allow the blimp to fly was an independent one taken by officers without outside interference. However, recent FOIs have shown that the Mayor’s close advisors intervened and managed to persuade the relevant officers to do a U-turn and allow the inflatable to fly.
This is just another example of the Mayor finding himself in a tricky position politically and, rather than honestly owning up and taking responsibility for his actions, choosing instead to pass the buck.
There is of course the chance that Khan doesn’t mislead, point the finger and fail to take responsibility for his own petty political reasons. Perhaps he genuinely is incapable of using his huge power and a £16 billion budget to deliver what he promised for London. It could be the case that he is under the cosh and powerless in the face of his own officials and the Government.
Khan is either weak or deeply incompetent. Either way, Londoners deserve better.