Sadiq Khan’s abject failure on crime is tarnishing the UK’s reputation globally. When will he stop trying to blame everyone else?
IT IS always nice to hear compliments about your own country, and the other day a guy in Sao Paulo was being positively glowing. ‘London!’ said the Brazilian tycoon. ‘It’s the greatest city on Earth. We love London, don’t we?’ he said to his wife.
She fervently agreed. The culture, the restaurants, the parks: the whole package. It was like nowhere else on Earth. I preened.
And Brexit! he went on. That was so right, so good. He was sure that in the medium to long term it would make the UK an even better place to live and invest. At this point, my pride was probably emetic to behold.
Then his tone changed. A shadow passed over his face. But you know what, he said — he had to tell me something, in all candour, in all seriousness. I might not like it but I needed to hear it. ‘What’s that?’ I said.
‘Shall I tell him?’ the tycoon asked his wife. ‘Darling,’ said his wife, ‘you absolutely must tell him.’
It’s the crime, he said. Something is going wrong — you go to London these days, and you don’t feel safe.
By this time, I was frowning, but he pushed on. He had been in Knightsbridge last month, and he came out of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, looked at his mobile to check on his ride — and POW! A guy on a moped whipped the phone from his hand.
And even though he tracked it down to a shop in Edgware where they seemed to deal in stolen mobile phones, he had been unable to get the police to take a darn bit of notice.
He even found the phone — and still no interest from the police. And he wanted me to know he had other friends, who all loved London, but they were saying the same thing.
This Mayor — what was he called again? The Labour guy? He didn’t seem to have the right priorities.
As he talked, I found myself fuming — because I was getting fed up with hearing this kind of criticism.
In fact, it was only a few weeks previously that I had been given the same sort of message by an audience in Nevada. I tried to fight back. I told them that they were exaggerating, and that London remained, by international standards, a very safe city — but they began gurning and barracking me, and I felt I was losing them.
The customer is always right, and if we want the world’s biggest spenders to come and lighten their wallets in London, then we don’t want thugs picking their pockets in Piccadilly.
It is crucial for the success of this country that we make it as attractive as possible to investors. That means not chopping and changing on nationally significant infrastructure projects such as HS2.
It means not making selfharming gestures like a global minimum corporation tax, when, in fact, we should be cutting corporation and other taxes.
And it means, crucially, having a reputation as a safe place.
I can tell you that the word is going around the campfire that after many years London is getting dodgy again — and that is a very great shame because the real victims are not the global elite. The Brazilian tycoon — he can get a new mobile easily.
It’s the people of the city, the people of this country, who deserve so much better. It’s everyone else who suffers — the people on lower incomes, because it is they who are disproportionately affected by crime, and the poorest worst of all.
The view of commonsense people across this country — and especially in the capital — is that the police are not on their side.
They go to the supermarkets, and they see people sauntering out with shoplifted smorgasbords of food and drink — and then the police say they can’t or won’t enforce the law against theft.
They see the police allowing hate-filled Lefties to shout antiSemitic slogans, and to call for the extirpation of Israel; and then what — the police tear down the posters of Israeli kids who have been taken hostage, in case they wind the Lefties up.
If the public want to confirm their prejudice that the police are woke and bureaucratic, and nervous of antagonising the Hamas- condoning bullies, they will find plenty of support from the media; and from politicians — constantly wagging their fingers and criticising the cops.
No wonder the public is losing confidence in policing — because no one is standing up for the police. And that is a profound mistake.
It so happens that there is only one year in the past six decades when there were fewer than 100 homicides in London — and that was 2014, when I had been running the city for six years.
Of all the crime statistics, homicide is one you cannot fudge, and it is the clearest possible sign of whether or not a city is safe.
London was obviously and visibly getting safer.
How did we do it? Simple. Together with my deputy mayors, Kit Malthouse and Stephen Greenhalgh, we decided to back a common- sense, zero-tolerance approach to policing.
We banned alcohol on public transport, which immediately helped to reduce disorder in public places.
We sent out a clear message to kids who went around with knives: that we would stop them, and search them and take those knives off them.
Above all, we backed the police. We gave them the political cover they needed to enforce the law; not aggressively, but firmly and consistently.
Yes, it is true the police lawyers today will endlessly quote human rights as a reason for inertia; and Jonathan Sumption KC, the former Supreme Court judge, has made a powerful case for pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights. I found his arguments persuasive. That debate must now be held.
And yes, it is true that recent Supreme Court rulings would seem to restrict the ability of the police to interfere with some of
No one is standing up for the police: that’s a mistake
London’s Mayor must empower his officers
the more egregious and inflammatory behaviour we have seen — or at least those rulings have given the police lawyers the grounds they require for inertia. But, in the end, the law will always be capable of different constructions.
What matters most is the lead, the steer, the impetus they get from the politicians — because what the police are always thinking is: will they back me up, if I come down hard on crime, or will they all run for cover?
It is in this crucial respect that London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan has been an abject failure. He is standing — absurdly and shamelessly — for re-election next May. Let’s hope Conservative candidate Susan Hall removes him.
Until then, he should stop his endless whingeing and hairsplitting and blaming everyone but himself. He needs to come out strongly against the Lefty twaddle and empower his officers to do what they signed up to do.
At the moment he is letting Londoners down, and damaging our global reputation. It is a disgrace.
Come on, Khan. Come out from your lair in City Hall. Tell us how you are going to take responsibility yourself — and back the police to cut crime.