Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London
As I’m finding out, part of the challenge of running for Mayor is explaining to Londoners what it is, exactly, that the Mayor of London does.
“Are you here about the bins,” a kind woman asked the other day on the doorstep. “Don’t you dare talk to me about Brexit,” said another pensioner. “I’m tired of all of this (expletive) crime,” has also been heard more than once.
Of the three, only the last bit – crime – is actually within the Mayor’s remit. If your bins are out of order, it’s your borough councillor you need to get with; if it’s Brexit that’s bothering you, it’s your Westminster MP you need to see.
Listening to Sadiq Khan, for example, you wouldn’t think he has any responsibility for crime and policing whatsoever (despite being the Police and Crime Commissioner for London), such is the incredible volume of blame he shifts. But on Brexit – over which Khan likes to pretend he has control – he actually has no influence at all.
The simple fact is this: every minute Khan spends on Brexit is a minute wasted in the fight against crime, in building housing, with fixing our transport system. The Mayor should focus his time and efforts on what he can control, because the job just isn’t getting done.
My challenge now is to keep Londoners focused on these issues, and on the Mayor’s poor record of delivery. This mayoral race isn’t about anything else.
The upcoming election will be about a number of important issues, including housing and transport, but it will mostly be about crime, particularly violent crime, which is soaring. And with the Mayor, he hasn’t done all he can to tackle it, there is still more to do. Much more.
If Khan is short of inspiration, he need only look at my plan to fund a total of nearly 2,000 more police officers and detectives using the money we already have at City Hall. If he was so moved, Khan could cut his immense PR budgets and put this plan into place while using the new money from the Chancellor in the Spring Statement to put even more resources on the front lines.
I wouldn’t hold your breath. Khan would much rather pick a fight with central government than get on with the hard work of reversing this dangerous surge in crime. It’s undoubtedly a complicated problem, but it doesn’t get any easier to solve the more we let it fester. Indeed, it gets harder.
Despite what the Mayor thinks, tackling crime isn’t just a question about resources. It’s also about attitude and delivery.
The public health approach is the right one, but if it’s going to work we need to first press down on crime. All this talk of root causes is moot if police boots aren’t chasing down the hardened criminals behind the worst of this violence. Every time these gangsters hear the Mayor speak about needing “ten years” or a “generation” to fix, they become emboldened. We need to put the fear back into criminals.
Having nearly 2,000 more police and detectives on our streets, as per my plan, will help. So will taking a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social and gang behaviour. Add in some intelligence-led stop and search focused on the ringleaders of this street violence and suddenly we’re in the fight.
We’ll also need to, where we can, de-escalate on the streets. To work with community leaders on policing and to provide at-risk young people with alternative paths, like knife bins and gang call-ins, so we can show those caught up in the drama that there is a better way to live. The people involved in this violent crime need to know that a violent death and/or a long stretch in prison are the likeliest outcomes of their behaviour, not a happy life.
Most of all, however, it’s up to the Mayor to keep pushing. There can be no more press releases without firm action. There can be no more bureaucratic structures with fancy names like the “Violence Reduction Unit” that then do nothing for six months. It is time for action and leadership on crime.
Sadiq Khan’s lack of leadership and follow through on his key responsibilities – across all files – would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. Londoners need to feel safe. They need a roof over their heads. And they need reliable ways of moving around our city.
In other words, Londoners need a Mayor who will actually keep his promises and deliver on his priorities. A Mayor who will keep his eye on the job he has, not the job he wants. I will be that Mayor.
Until the next time…