13:05 GMT +322 September 2019
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    Sadiq Khan the Mayor of London speaking to the media during a press conference in London (File)

    ‘Human Cost of Austerity’: Sadiq Khan Swipes at Conservatives Over London’s Knife Crime Nightmare

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    Mr Khan announced during his speech that both Tory leadership hopefuls, Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, should end the “nine year experiment to shrink the state” that he blames on the increase in knife crime.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared in a major speech that the capital’s soaring knife crime is largely the consequence of social exclusion and government-imposed austerity policies.

    At his speech at the Salmon Youth Centre in South London - close to the site of a recent stabbing attack - Mr Khan presented new data released by City Hall that, according to him, shows a “direct link” between poverty in the British capital and its spiralling violent crime rates. In particular, Khan zeroed in on the ruling Conservative party’s policy of economic austerity, which he argued facilitated a rise of 71% in violent and often gang-related incidents between the periods of 2012-18.

    According to statistics, the number of people stabbed to death in London has increased on a year-on-year basis since 2014, with 2018 being the worst year, culminating in 135 fatalities. Moreover, as of July 7 2019, there had reportedly been around 74 recorded stabbing-induced killings.

    ​The Mayor’s study alleges that the poorer an areas is, the higher the chances are that it will experience youth violence. The research points to the fact that the Tower Hamlets borough of London - widely known to be one of the most socio-economically deprived areas in England - has one of the highest rates of violence in London.

    “The sad reality is the violence we’re seeing on our streets today is an appalling side-effect of increasing inequality and alienation caused by years of government austerity and neglect,” Mr Khan asserted.

    Renewing his well-trodden attack on police stop and search powers - which allows officers to briefly search a person in order to see if they are carrying a knife or other weapon - Khan said that London will “never be able to solve this problem [knife crime] with stop and search alone.”

    Moreover, Mr Khan took aim at Boris Johnson by saying that he needs to be “honest” about the issues “at the heart” of knife crime, rather than focusing efforts on ramping up police stop and search powers — a policy that Mr Johnson, who is likely to become the next prime minister, is keen on implementing.

    ​Khan also claimed that £800 million had been “stripped” from the Metropolitan Police Force’s budget since 2010, which he said has wrought a “huge amount of damage” on London’s communities. Boris Johnson’s main contender for the Tory leadership and the spot as prime minister, Jeremy Hunt, recently admitted that “austerity did go too far on police numbers.”

    Yet, in an attempt to swot away accusations that he was politicising the issue of knife crime in an effort to attack the governing Conservatives, Khan said that “the numbers don’t lie” and that the link between poverty and knife crime was “unarguable.”

    However, critics of Mr Khan’s tenure - many of whom blame an absence of decisive leadership on his part for London’s knife crime nightmare - are unlikely to have been impressed with his performance. When asked by a journalist whether he still stands by the claim he once made that London is safer on his watch, Khan refused to give a direct answer, simply saying that it depends on how that question is defined.

    Mr Khan’s speech also received at mixed review on social media, with some questioning the correlation between poverty in London and knife crime

    ​Others simply questioned whether violent crime rates are the consequence of Khan’s leadership - or absence of - rather than austerity policies.

    Tags:
    gang violence, austerity, London, Sadiq Khan, knife crime
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