As you know, I am never normally one for unsubstantiated gossip (stop giggling at the back!), but on this occasion I thought I should pass this on for what it is worth.
Over the weekend, the Conservative Party in Kent chose its candidate to be Police and Crime Commissioner for the county. The successful candidate is Councillor Craig MacKinlay, a former Deputy leader of UKIP who joined the Conservative Party in 2005.
A little bird tells me that Jan Berry’s candidacy had been promoted by no less a person than Nick Herbert MP, the Minister for Policing, who apparently took the view that Jan Berry would be the sort of high-profile candidate that his policy of electing Police Commissioners should be seen to have encouraged and would also be a slap in the face for the current leadership of the Police Federation for whom he has notoriously little time.
His choice, however, did not go down well with some of the local MPs and one in particular, Mark Reckless, is said to have campaigned ruthlessly and effectively against Jan Berry and for the ex-UKIP man.
All I can say is “interesting, if true”.
And good luck to Harriet Yeo, the Labour Party candidate.
Much as I enjoyed all the “tainted Prime Minister” stuff in Ed Miliband’s speech this morning to the Labour Party National Policy Forum, I was struck by the enthusiasm with which he spoke about local government and the contribution being made by Labour councillors:
“Labour Birmingham. Labour, in whom the people of Birmingham placed their trust in May. A Labour council changing the way we do politics with a manifesto built on 12 months of conversations with the people of this city. A Labour council improving our society with 5,000 new homes a year. And a Labour council changing our economy by paying at least £7.20 to every city council worker. A decent living wage.
And let us recognise the work of every Labour council making a difference in tough times. Liverpool’s new Mayor Joe Anderson and h is council that is building 2,500 homes. Manchester keeping open its Sure Start Centres. And Newham, standing up for tenants against unscrupulous landlords.
Labour councils whose examples will inspire our next manifesto. And let us applaud them for their work.”
Here at last is a recognition that Labour local government can be in the vanguard of delivering effective public services that meet the needs of their communities, that Labour local government is not something to be apologised for but is Labour’s future, and that the platform for winning future General Elections will be found at local level.
David Cameron’s flagship policy of having elected Police and Crime Commissioners is in danger of unravelling. Despite the Tory claims that the elections would deliver high profile “serious” figures to hold local police chiefs to account, this now looks as though this is not going to happen – at least as far as the Conservatives themselves are concerned.
The latest news is that Colonel Tim Collins has dropped out of the selection process to be the Conservative candidate to be the Kent PCC – apparently he was too busy to attend the selection meetings (which does raise the question as to whether he would ever have been able to fulfil the role even on the part-time basis on which he was offering himself).
And, if you look at the latest lists of runners and riders compiled by the Police Foundation, the Tory Party now has no significant high-profile candidates publicly in the running for selection.
By contrast, the Labour Party has already selected a number of impressive candidates and there are a number of well-known names in the frame for the remaining selections, particularly those which the Party is likely to win. (The LibDems, of course, have run away from the whole process and may not run candidates at all.)
So where does this leave the elections in November? The turnout will undoubtedly be low. The date chosen has only half the daylight hours of a more traditional May polling day and the weather may be unpleasant. The Government has vetoed a free postal distribution to candidates, so the elections will not be well-publicised. And with the rejection of the other Conservative flagship policy of elected Mayors in all but one of the major cities that held referenda there will only be the Bristol Mayoral election on the same day to boost the turnout.
We can now expect the Tories to downplay the whole process and I suspect there will be a number of those in the Parliamentary Conservative Party scratching their heads to remember why they wanted to make these changes in the first place.
I have written a short piece for the Labour Lords website.
You can read it here, but the text is as follows:
London elects its Mayor in one week’s time. The choice is a simple one. Do Londoners want someone who cares about (and will do something about) the issues that affect them, such as rocketing transport fares, falling police numbers and poor prospects for young people? Or do they want a Mayor who is more pre-occupied with costly vanity projects and using the Mayoralty as a platform to gain the Leadership of the Conservative Party?
The brilliant Labour election broadcast was attacked by the Tories for being “scripted” (since when was an election broadcast not scripted?) and (wrongly) of having used actors. The attacks were typical of a Conservative campaign that has sought to keep away from any proper policy debate or focus on what directly affects Londoners.
Indeed, what is interesting about the Tory campaign is what they do NOT talk about. Their candidate’s manifesto barely mentions the word “Conservative” – relegating it to the published and promoted by small print at the end of the page. But more significant is the failure to mention childcare or child poverty, the different faith communities that make up London, or LGBT Londoners. And black Londoners are only mentioned in the context of crime. The manifesto itself is light on policy and says little about what Boris Johnson would do in a second term in office.
By contrast, Ken Livingstone’s manifesto makes a series of striking pledges that match the concerns of Londoners. Ken has committed to cut fares – saving the average fare-payer £1,000 over four years; crack down on crime by reversing the Tory Mayor’s police cuts; and help reduce rents with non-profit lettings agency for London. The Labour Mayoral campaign promises to provide free home insulation for those in fuel poverty and campaign to force the utility companies to cut heating bills; establish a London-wide Educational Maintenance Allowance of up to £30 per week to help young people stay in education; and support childcare with grants and interest-free loans.
Ken Livingstone has also promised to freeze both the Mayor’s share of Council Tax and the congestion charge for four years and to invest in improving transport services, build new homes and cut pollution.
On 3rd May, Londoners will also be electing twenty-five members of the London Assembly whose role is to hold the Mayor to account and to speak up for the interests of Londoners. At present only eight of the seats on the Assembly are held by Labour (the Tories hold eleven with three LibDems, two Greens and one ex-BNP “other”). With the Assembly being a mix of fourteen constituency seats and eleven more “additional members” elected to achieve proportionality, there is a real prospect of the balance shifting significantly. Labour is hoping to gain Barnet and Camden where the incumbent Tory has made his name by making controversial statements and there are several other constituency seats being targeted.
With just one week to go and the public increasingly focusing on what sort of policies they want from London’s government, there is all to play for.
Youth knife crime has gone up in London by 23% in the last four years – with more than five and a half thousand young victims in the last year and at the same time police numbers are being cut. Of course, four years ago a promise to get to grips with knife and serious youth crime was central to the election manifesto of Mayoral candidate, Boris Johnson. The record of his four years as Mayor, however, demonstrate the shallowness of that promise and his strategy over that period has been described as “directionless” and “a shambles” by one of the experts brought in to advise on it.
It is not surprising therefore that Richard Taylor, the father of Damilola stabbed to death in Peckham twelve years ago should be so disappointed, saying earlier today:
“Knife crime is still a huge issue for London. The problem is not going. It is still there. Something must be done. … As someone who has been through it this makes me so disappointed. More and more families are suffering as a result of the negligence of the authorities. There has been a failure to address the problem properly.”
He was hopeful that the plans announced by Ken Livingstone would help with the problem, saying:
“Ken has been able to see the weaknesses of the present Mayor so he should be able to capitalise and do something about this. … It has to be dealt with once and for all. It has to be handled with an iron fist.”
Ken Livingstone’s proposals include a plan for every one of London’s 432 state funded secondary schools to be assigned a dedicated police officer committed to tackling knife crime by providing better intelligence, increasing detection levels and building better relationships between young people and the police.
Ken Livingstone has also announced plans to back London Citizens’ ‘City Safe Havens’ scheme, which builds the power of local communities to tackle crime and the fear of crime. The scheme works with willing local businesses and other organisations that are open to the public to make them ‘safe havens’ offering their premises as a place of safety for people who are in immediate danger.
Labour’s candidate for Mayor has promised to work to ensure that all organisations that support City Safe Havens scheme will be given a service agreement from the Metropolitan Police that would include:
• A named officer assigned to the premises
• Regular visits from their Safer Neighbourhood Teams
• A panic button alarm service for emergencies
And his campaign have issued a fact sheet about Tory Mayor’s lies on knife crime.
My webmaster, the excellent Jon Worth has posted on the row that has developed about Boris Johnson usurping the Mayor of London Twitter account for his political campaign.
And as usual he talks a lot of good sense:
“The issue here essentially boils down to your answer to one question: is there any longer any point in insisting on the separation of party political and governmental (i.e. supposedly impartial) communications?
If your answer is that there is still a need for a separation, then Boris is clearly in breach of the rules. The Twitter account in question was established after the 2008 elections, staff time from officials at the GLA was used to maintain it, and – prior to the username change – the account was prominently displayed on the GLA website, a site maintained by the administration that is supposedly above party politics.”
He even offers a solution:
“It would actually not be hard to separate the party political and administrative comms for someone in Boris’s position. A party political, personal Twitter account could be maintained by the politician and his political staff (even if these are taxpayer funded – i.e. SpAds and equivalents – and you could even make the case for there being more of them), and linked to the politician’s political website. A further administrative account (@LondonGov or something like that in this case) could then be used for the governmental comms. If the political account chooses to RT something from the governmental account, so be it, but the administrative account would not RT the political account. When the politician leaves office, his/her followers stay with him/her, while the governmental followers transfer to the next administration. Everyone would know where they stand. Too much to ask?
As for the Boris Johnson case: the account should be returned to the GLA and should not be used by anyone during the election campaign as resources from the impartial administration have clearly been used in its creation, production of content, and increasing its reach, and the two account solution put in place thereafter (of course applying to @ken4london and not Boris!)”
The episode, of course, has displayed an arrogance and a belief that rules are for other people – which it could be argued has been something that the present Mayor has displayed though out his life. Of course, it may not be a personality trait that uniquely applies to Boris Johnson, it may be the case for other Old Etonian Tories ….
It is well known that there has been a major drop in crime in New York. What is more that drop in crime was twice the rate of fall in crime across the United States and has been sustained over a twenty year period.
So what was the secret of success? And could it be translated to the UK and to London in particular?
Professor Franklin Zimring of the School of Law at Berkeley has applied scientific analysis to the figures and has come up with a number of interesting conclusions. The improvement was not so-called “zero tolerance” policing, focussing on stopping the spread of crime into new areas. Instead, the results were delivered by “hot spot” policing – robust, sustained policing of those areas with the highest rate of crime (especially violent crime).
The aim should be harm-minimisation as far as things like drug use are concerned (disrupting public drug markets where associated violent crime tends to happen, for example, rather than trying to eliminate drug use itself).
Crucially, he also finds that police numbers matter – provided those numbers are directed to the areas with the highest crime and, when there, officers police “robustly”.
He is also not convinced that simply locking criminals up cuts crime. As he puts it:
“We used to think that all we could do with high-rate offenders is lock ‘em up or they’re going to offend on the street. But NYC has 28 % fewer people locked up in 2011 than in 1990. And it has 80 % less crime. The [individual] criminals didn’t go anywhere. They’re just doing less crime. So the bedrock of prediction on which incapacitate imprisonment was built, has turned out to be demonstrably false. And the proof of that is in New York City.
The data shows that the criminal activity of people coming back to NYC from the prisons dropped as the crime decline proceeded. In 1990 the odds that a prison released from prison coming to NYC would get reconvicted of a felony over the next three years was 28 %. But over the next 17 years, the odds of being reconvicted of a felony dropped to 10 percent.
The street situation changed and so had the things that their friends were doing. People were now smoking marijuana and drinking wine. Cocaine use was down. Street robbery has gone down 84 %. Burglaries 86 %. And that meant that the people that the released offender used to hang out with as a persistent offender from a high-risk neighborhood, are no longer doing those things. So he’s not doing crimes with them.”
This obviously has implications for the current debates on prison numbers and suggests that Kenneth Clarke’s approach is potentially right, if – and it is a big if – the rest of Zimring’s conclusions are taken on board.
So what else does his work mean for policy here?
It certainly implies that police numbers are important and that the last Labour Government (and the last Mayor in London) were right to boost the number of police. The cuts envisaged by the present Government and those that are being carried out quietly in London by the present Mayor are therefore almost certainly unhelpful. (The lack of certainty derives from the fact that it does, of course, depend on what the police officers remaining are actually doing and whether their activity is in fact robustly tackling crime hot spots.)
It also suggests that policies favouring policing the suburbs at the expense of the areas with higher crime that tend to be in the inner cities are misconceived.
I suspect that the robust and sustained “disruptive” policing of crime hot spots is consistent with the approach that Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe would wish to follow. It will be interesting to see whether this is encouraged by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC – pronounced “Mopsy”) or whether the MOPC will be nervous about the political implications in the run up to the Mayoral elections in May.
Michael White, the Guardian’s veteran Assistant Editor, has an article today assessing the shape of UK politics over the year ahead. Although sometimes verbose (a problem I am well aware that I suffer from myself), he is usually extremely perceptive. Today’s article is therefore well worth reading and I agree with many of his conclusions.
However, there is one line in it that is total nonsense. After pointing out the threat that reinvigorated Boris Johnson would present to David Cameron if re-elected to the London Mayorality in May, he goes on to say:
“If Ken beats Boris he will make Miliband’s task harder.”
The reality is the exact opposite. So much so that David Cameron has recognised that his number one priority in 2012 is to ensure that London’s City Hall must remain in Conservative hands. Not the economy; not the growing housing crisis; not Europe and the Eurozone; but London. That is the Prime Minister’s priority for the coming year.
Why? He knows that a Ken Livingstone victory in May would be an essential first step for the Labour Party to win a General Election in 2015.
He also knows that Ken Livingstone’s flair for articulating the impact of Tory policies on the people of London would resonate with millions elsewhere in the country.
The Prime Minister’s grasp on history is probably a little shaky, so he may not be aware that a Labour-run London County Council in the 1930s laid the groundwork for the victorious and reforming Labour Government of 1945: trialling and showcasing how the power of Government can be harnessed to boost the chances of the vast majority of the population.
However, Cameron’s instincts will tell him that a Labour Mayor in City Hall would demonstrate that there is an alternative to a Conservative-led Government more concerned with the interests of a privileged minority than the rest of society. (A Conservative trait also shown by Mayor Johnson and his penchant for meeting bankers and representatives of the financial services in preference to other interests in London.)
So if Cameron is so desperate for Ken Livingstone not to be elected in May, it follows that Ed Miliband is, if anything, even keener to see the Conservatives turned out of City Hall in four months time. This is where Michael White is wrong and dwelling in a 1980s past. Ken Livingstone has more positive and supportive relations with the national Labour leadership than ever before.
A Livingstone victory will be a boost for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party. It will be a sign that the people of London have rejected not only a Conservative Mayor but also those Conservative policies being pursued by his friends holding national office.
Telephone message received: “Please call Geoff in Lord Strathclyde’s office as soon as possible. He would like to have a meeting with you before the Christmas break if at all possible.”
I have to admit to being intrigued. This would be the first time that Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde, Leader of the House of Lords, has ever asked to see me. And before Christmas …..??!!
I dial and speak to Geoff:
“Hello, this is Lord Toby Harris. I had a message to ring.”
“Oh yes. Thank you Lord Harris. Tom Strathclyde was keen to have a meeting with you and Lord Kirkham in the next week or two before the Recess.”
This was even more intriguing: I have never even spoken to Lord Kirkham, the South Yorkshire billionaire, founder of the DFS Furniture Company and Chairman of the Conservative Party Treasurers.
“Are you sure you’ve got the right Lord Harris? What’s the meeting about?”
“Oh, fundraising, I think.”
“What sort of fund-raising?”
“I guess, it is for the elections next May.”
“I think you have got the wrong Lord Harris.”
“Oh, err, are you sure?”
“Yes, I think you want Lord Harris of Peckham.”
Of course, Lord Harris of Peckham is not quite in the same league as Lord Kirkham: he is only worth £285 million and he only does carpets.
Still, it is good to hear that the Leader of the House of Lords and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is doing his bit for the Conservative Party coffers from his Parliamentary office with the support of his civil servants ….
What is probably the final ordinary meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse AM, Deputy MOPC Presumptive, is NOT in the Chair (he is on paternity leave). Instead, Reshard Auladin, the Deputy Chair, is presiding over what is hardly going to be a quiet somnolent meeting of the Authority.
Apart from the usual items on the agenda, like the Commissioner’s report (will he mention Tasers?), there is also the “Policing London Business Plan” that will lead to a lively (and political – given the approaching Mayoral elections) debate on the gap in the Met’s budget, the Mayor’s instruction to keep police numbers up without the money to do it (apart from £30 million that the Mayor is transferring to the Met from the Fire Service budget, about which the Fire Brigades Union threatened demonstrations outside the MPA meeting), the cutbacks in Safer Neighbourhood Teams and their sergeants etc etc. And the report of the MPA’s Civil Liberties Panel on the DNA database (topical with the Government’s plans to remove potential rapists and others from the database) is also to be discussed.
But the meeting has started with a question submitted by Samantha Rigg-David on behalf of the United Families and Friends Campaign about the procession down Whitehall on Saturday 29th October in remembrance of those who have died in custody or state care and what the Campaign says was the disproportionate, aggressive and degrading treatment the families received from the Police after the procession had handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street. Shortly after the 29th, I had heard about the incidents referred to in the question and had asked for a briefing from the Met about what had happened. I never received a response, so the answer to the public question is the first time that the Met has given their version of events.
That version was rather different to that of the questioner. However, the Commissioner gave an undertaking personally to review the CCTV material of the incident and to communicate directly with those involved. Surprisingly (given the fact that similar events have been organised over the last thirteen years), it was suggested that there had been a failure of communication between the organisers of the demonstration and the police.
What is not clear is how easily such issues will be aired and pursued once the MPA is abolished.