Evening Standard Comment: Voters need a mayor to beat knife crime

Evening Standard Comment
·3-min read
 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Our city is at a critical juncture. Buffeted by Brexit and reeling from Covid-19, this election is Londoners’ chance to choose a mayor who will inject life back into our capital, the engine room of the British economy.

Now more than ever, we need a mayor who will stand up for London. One who will fight for the best deal against a central government seemingly focused on investing more elsewhere. Who will work relentlessly to ensure our city has the safest streets, cleanest air and the most reliable transport network.

The tragedy is that this campaign has been lacklustre, a contest unbefitting the greatest city in the world. The big ideas, the energy and optimism have been conspicuous by their absence.

We encourage every Londoner to get out and vote, though the outcome appears to be a foregone conclusion. Indeed, the only question seems to be whether Sadiq Khan will win in the first round, or if he will require second preferences to get over the line.

Why are we in this position? The reality is that the Conservative Party regrettably appears to have concluded that London is unwinnable. This is despite the fact that the present occupant of Number 10 is a previous mayor.

Shaun Bailey has an interesting personal story to tell, but he has clearly suffered from insufficient support from within his own party, compounded by unforced errors throughout the campaign.

It is surely the case that greater powers for the capital — something this newspaper has consistently called for — would not only lead to more of the decisions that affect Londoners being made here, but also attract the top drawer leadership our city is crying out for.

Turning to Khan, his victory in 2016 was historic. The son of a bus driver, he became the first Muslim mayor of a major western capital. Yet his record is a mixed one. Indeed, the average Londoner would be hard-pressed to articulate a major policy achievement.

There have been successes, for example on air pollution. Our city has seen significant falls in nitrogen dioxide, even before the pandemic. But there is much further to go if London is to lead the world on raising air quality.

Transport is one arena in which Khan has struggled. The pandemic hit Transport for London’s finances hard, but they were already facing a squeeze as a result of the Mayor’s fares freeze and the enormous delays and cost overruns haunting Crossrail. Meanwhile, the closure of Hammersmith Bridge has become a global embarrassment, even making the pages of the New York Times.

Yet it is on crime — and in particular violent crime — where Khan’s record is weakest and deteriorating. Our poll suggests crime is the single biggest worry for Londoners, at 52 per cent. This is sadly not surprising.

The stabbing of Fares Maatou, 14, last month was only the latest and most shocking example of the appalling waste of young lives at the hands of knife crime. Teenage knife fatalities are already in double figures this year, in spite of lockdown.

Khan, who has had a full five years rather than four, was slow to adopt the public health approach — campaigned for by this paper — needed to address the root causes of offending.

We share Londoners’ fears over violent crime. Indeed, what recovery can we have if residents — from single women walking home at night to young men in broad daylight — do not feel safe on the streets of our city?

This is your chance to decide who can best address these challenges. Whatever your misgivings about the candidates, exercise your vote. And whoever you choose, you can be sure we will continue to voice Londoners’ hopes, dreams and concerns, and campaign to keep this city the greatest capital on earth.

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