Home Secretary's claims about London knife crime fact checked after he calls Sadiq Khan incompetent

Home Secretary James Cleverly speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
-Credit: (Image: BBC)

The Home Secretary blamed 'Labour's incompetence in London' as he was grilled on national knife crime figures this morning. But was James Cleverly, out to bat for the Conservatives ahead of July 4's General Election, right to pin a seven per cent increase in knife crime offences across England and Wales on Sadiq Khan's management of knife violence in the capital?

MyLondon has fact checked Mr Cleverly's claim by looking directly at Office for National Statistics data, and analysis by knife crime charity The Ben Kinsella Trust. The figures show that BBC researchers correctly cited national increases of seven per cent for knife crime, nine per cent for gun crime, 13 per cent for robberies, and 37 per cent for shoplifting from December 2022 to December 2023.

But when interviewer Laura Kuenssberg put the figures to Mr Cleverly, he was quick to focus on knife crime and blame the opposition party. "If you took Labour-run London out of the equation, that figure would be down. On that time frame, it is up by 22 per cent in Labour run London," he claimed. Mr Cleverly went on to say the figures were 'distorted by Labour's incompetence in London'.

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Home Secretary James Cleverly speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg
Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the government's record on crime by blaming Sadiq Khan -Credit:BBC

Mr Cleverly's citing of a 22 per cent increase in knife crime offences in the Metropolitan Police area, quoted data for the period between September 2022 to September 2023. The BBC's figures were based on the most recent available data, for the year to December 2023, which showed a slightly smaller increase of 20 per cent in the Met Police area.

Taking Mr Cleverly's suggestion that London's knife crime figures 'distort' the overall statistics, MyLondon took the stats for the Metropolitan Police out of the picture for England and Wales. The result was a 2.6 per cent increase in knife crime offences in England and Wales (without the Met), compared to a 7.2 per cent increase in England and Wales (with the Met).

Mr Cleverly also claimed 'if you took the Labour-run city of London out of these figures, you would see a very very different picture'. ONS figures show firearm offences were up 20 per cent in London, compared to 9 per cent nationally, robbery was up 22 per cent in London, compared to 13 per cent nationally, and shoplifting was up 50 per cent in London, compared to 37 per cent nationally.

Is crime in London disproportionate to population?

London mayor Sadiq Khan attends a meeting with Labour's mayors at the GTG training centre on May 13, 2024 in Wolverhampton
Sadiq Khan's record on knife crime in London has become a key attack line for the Tories -Credit:Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

As the Met is responsible for policing many more people than other forces across the country, it is important to ask if knife crime levels in London are disproportionate. Based on ONS data, which measures knife offences against population size, the answer is yes. The Met Police area recorded 165 knife offences per 100,000 people, compared to 89 in England and Wales.

However, the disproportionate numbers are also true for West Midlands police, covering Birmingham, South Yorkshire Police, covering Sheffield, Rotherham, and Doncaster, and Cleveland Police, covering Middlesbrough. The latter is run by Tory Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen. Greater Manchester police did not provide statistics, but this area, run by Labour mayor Andy Burnham, also struggles with knife crime.

In London, Sadiq Khan has remained bullish in the face of repeated attacks on his record on serious violence and knife crime. Mr Khan has previously blamed Conservative austerity policies, which led to cuts for both police and youth services. After his re-election April, he told MyLondon he had no plans to set a target for decreasing knife offences by a particular percentage.

Conservative response

A Conservative spokesman said: “These figures confirm that the overwhelming increase in knife crime has been in Sadiq Khan’s London, driving up the national average. Knife crime has risen by a shocking 20 per cent in Labour-run London, showing you can never trust Labour to crack down on crime.

“The choice in this election is clear, stick to the plan with Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives who have driven down crime by 54 per cent since 2010, or go back to square one with Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party who have no plan to cut crime.”

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