‘I am Lon­don in­car­nate’

The JC is ask­ing Lon­don may­oral can­di­dates where they stand on Jewish is­sues. This week, Boris John­son talks to Jan Shure

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

AC­CORD­ING TO Mayor Ken Liv­ing­stone’s cam­paign web­site, racist at­tacks in Lon­don are “down more than 50 per cent over eight years”. To the fury of Con­ser­va­tive may­oral can­di­date Boris John­son, this claim was re­peated by Jonathan Freed­land in a col­umn in last week’s JC. But the MP for Hen­ley and for­mer Spec­ta­tor ed­i­tor is not buy­ing.

“It’s ab­so­lutely not true,” he says, as he searches his pa­pers for a brief­ing doc­u­ment point­ing to a rise in an­tisemitic at­tacks in Lon­don and the UK gen­er­ally. “I have def­i­nitely seen fig­ures that say there has been a rise in an­tisemitic at­tacks in Lon­don.”

He can­not find the pa­per, but an aide re­minds him of the par­lia­men­tary cross-party re­port which left no doubt that there had been a sub­stan­tial rise in an­tisemitic at­tacks across the UK, in­clud­ing Lon­don.

Just 24 hours ear­lier, John­son has been on a tour of Jewish North-West Lon­don aboard the Boris bat­tle­bus. He re­calls for the JC sev­eral of his en­coun­ters: “I talked to one kid yes­ter­day as I was trav­el­ling round Lon­don, and he said it was in­creas­ingly fright­en­ing for him to walk around Lon­don wear­ing a kip­pah on his head. It is a phe­nom­e­non on the rise what­ever the sta­tis­tics say. It is the job of mayor to show com­plete in­tol­er­ance of race crime in any form.

“There’s no doubt that peo­ple feel more scared than they should. I was talk­ing to an­other kid, a 14-year-old, yes­ter­day who was telling me he had been re­peat­edly mugged on his way to school.”

He is in politico mode as he de­clares: “I am keenly sen­si­tive of the needs of the Jewish com­mu­nity, and I will be a cham­pion for them.” But he slips out of it to add, some­what pen­sively: “I do worry that the kind of at­tacks that would have been very rare in Lon­don 20 or 30 years ago are now quite com­mon, and I find it ut­terly loath­some and re­pug­nant. And I won’t tol­er­ate any­thing like that.”

Then he is back on the soap-box: “Nor will I in­vite peo­ple to Lon­don who pro­mote ho­mo­pho­bia or an­tisemitism. It seems to me an ex­tra­or­di­nary thing to do, to try to use City Hall as a plat­form for geopol­i­tics. That is not the func­tion of the mayor of Lon­don.”

For any­one who has not been fol­low­ing the ca­reer of Mr Liv­ing­stone, Mr John­son is re­fer­ring to the in­cum­bent’s 2004 in­vi­ta­tion to ex­trem­ist Mus­lim cleric Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and to his fra­ter­nal hugs for vir­u­lently anti-Amer­i­can and anti-Is­raeli Venezue­lan pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez.

In ad­di­tion to an­tisemitism in the cap­i­tal, he says, there were “loads of is­sues” raised dur­ing his tour of Hen­don, Gold­ers Green and Edg­ware. “I had peo­ple ask­ing me about crimes against busi­ness and po­lice pres­ence on the streets. We should have more po­lice on the streets.

“In Cam­den, for in­stance, there are 800 of­fi­cers, but fewer than 80 out on the streets at any one time. And peo­ple say to me, ‘if we do catch crim­i­nals, there is no pun­ish­ment, no come­back’.

“I think the job of mayor is also to speak up for shop-keep­ers suf­fer­ing as­saults and shoplift­ing. Th­ese are not in­signif­i­cant crimes, and the per­pe­tra­tors should not go un­pun­ished. We need to crim­i­nalise what we call an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour and drive it out.”

Re­fer­ring to his poli­cies for mak­ing pub­lic trans­port safer, he talks about Daniel, an­other per­son he met the pre­vi­ous day, who has been a vic­tim of street crime.

“He told me he had been roughed up on the bus and mugged, and his mo­bile phone was stolen. This type of thing is hap­pen­ing ev­ery day; it is a pan­demic in Lon­don. But the mayor has de­cided it is the price we pay for free travel for kids.

“I am find­ing a lot of sup­port for my poli­cies to deal with this. For in­stance, if you are a teen and you lose your free­travel priv­i­lege, you should have to earn it back, by do­ing some com­mu­nity ser­vice.”

Fare-dodg­ing is not only cost­ing Lon­don £50 mil­lion a year, he says, but is “ha­bit­u­at­ing” peo­ple to mi­nor crime, and thereby “en­cour­ag­ing them to com­mit more se­ri­ous crime.

“I think there is a com­pla­cency by the mayor; a de­tached qual­ity. It is as if he is in de­nial about what is hap­pen­ing in Lon­don’s streets.”

As well as telling the Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date about their safety fears, peo­ple ap­par­ently ask him how he would af­ford the ex­tra per­son­nel to po­lice the buses. “I would re­al­lo­cate the mayor’s pub­lic­ity bud­get to get more per­son­nel on buses,” he says, tak­ing a swipe at Liv­ing­stone’s ad­ver­tis­ing and pub­li­cre­la­tions spend.

As mayor, he says that he would also be keen to help Lon­don’s young peo­ple, both by sup­port­ing the vol­un­tary sec­tor — what he calls “faith-based groups”, which “do fan­tas­tic work” — and by cre­at­ing a Mayor’s Fund for Lon­don.

“There are peo­ple who are earn­ing shed­loads of money in Lon­don. They can con­trib­ute to the life of Lon­don kids and to the wider com­mu­nity and make a huge dif­fer­ence to kids in Lon­don whose lives are go­ing wrong.”

He is deeply un­happy with the gov­ern­ment’s re­cent run-in with Barnet’s faith schools over en­try de­mands, as re­ported in re­cent edi­tions of this news­pa­per. He de­clares that, “given that we have some won­der­ful faith schools in Lon­don, it is wrong that they are fac­ing the kind of po­lit­i­cal at­tacks — un­jus­ti­fied at­tacks — that seem to be go­ing on. It is quite mon­strous that the gov­ern­ment has at­tacked them and named schools for charg­ing par­ents for se­cu­rity.”

On the is­sue of se­cu­rity costs, he says: “There is a need to en­sure Lon­don’s chil­dren are prop­erly pro­tected. The mayor isn’t solely re­spon­si­ble, but the mayor can speak up for those schools if they need more se­cu­rity and bet­ter pro­vi­sion.”

On charges of a lack of se­ri­ous­ness from op­po­nents — and, by im­pli­ca­tion, a lack of com­pe­tence — he says that his brand of hu­mour “re­flects a facet of my per­son­al­ity. I some­times use hu­mour to get a point across. I am what I am, but I know I can do a much, much bet­ter job than the in­cum­bent.

“I am thor­ough­go­ing and de­ter­mined, and de­ter­mined to change the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Lon­don.”

Asked about the sup­port by the Mus- lim As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tain for Ken Liv­ing­stone, in a ring­ing en­dorse­ment on its web­site which links the mayor and Ge­orge Gal­loway as can­di­dates for whom the Mus­lim com­mu­nity should vote be­cause of their sup­port for, in­ter­alia, “the Pales­tinian peo­ple”, John­son re­peats his be­lief that the mayor “just should not be in­volved in for­eign pol­icy.

“As mayor, I would work with all com­mu­ni­ties and work tire­lessly to pro­mote un­der­stand­ing be­tween all com­mu­ni­ties. I am a prod­uct of Mus- lims, Jews and Chris­tians,” he adds, “so I am the plu­ral­ity of Lon­don in­car­nate.

“And I re­ject the idea of say­ing one or other of can­di­dates is bet­ter for this or that group. I will be mayor for all groups.”

PHOTO: JOHN RIFKIN

Boris John­son makes his way down Brent Street while out can­vass­ing in Hen­don, North-West Lon­don, on Sun­day

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