“I’d rather invest in future Daves and Stormzys, than future victims of crime.”
The words above were cynically muttered by a smug Sadiq Khan earlier this year whilst he took questions from the London Assembly. I’m sure any respect for Khan would have been rapidly ushered out of the room if your average person was listening from above.
How dare he slouch in his chair and shed this rhetoric while crime rates have substantially soared under his leadership. Not to mention his mismanagement of TFL and compulsive blame shifting. These actions made me question whether he even cares about London.
A few months after these comments the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted and distorted all of the past normalities of our day to lives. Although, London has remained similarly bogged down under Khan’s extended mayoral leadership.
All respect for the mayor was lost, in my opinion, when the Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey tabled a motion to the Assembly on de-twinning London with Beijing. The motion was in protest of all the human rights abuses being undertaken on the back of the pandemic by China.
Unsurprisingly, controlling as much of our daily lives as possible is a prerequisite for Labour and their policies, and hence London Labour rejected the motion. While Trump is an enduring embarrassment for many American people, it’s stupid to see that Khan would instead support an undemocratic society over one that is wholly democratic. However, while those are personal points, for many Londoners, some critical issues remain complicated and unresolved under Khan’s useless leadership.
Under Johnson’s previous tenure as London mayor, TFL saved over £12 billion to help increase its long-term sustainability. This was required to help facilitate the ending of the DfT operating grants in 2015. From then on, the local government body was to be funded by fares, advertising, congestion chargers, GLA grants and borrowing. However, since Khan took office in 2016, TFL’s debt has ballooned to between £11-13 billion. At the same time, Khan, craving support, handed out subsidised travel passes to tourists, the elderly and the young.
However, other issues remained unresolved, and Khan should be taking the blame. Hammersmith Bridge has required minor and more significant repairs since 2016, Khan wasted time and offered the local council involved and TFL no evident enthusiasm on funding. By April 2019 all motor traffic was prohibited from using the bridge indefinitely, and by August 2020 it was closed to cyclists and pedestrians. This has been a nightmare for locals who now have to travel several miles to utilise Putney, Chiswick and Barnes railway bridges.
Crossrail further highlights the mayor’s inability to lead London affectively. Khan arrived in 2016 with Crossrail on time and on budget. The project has now faced frequent delays and is now not expected to be fully operational until 2022/23. Little direction has been provided by the mayor here and the layoff of over 20% of TFL’s staff during his tenure will have stunted the speed of Crossrail’s construction.
Khan’s ‘Streetspace for London’ campaign established mid-pandemic has seen the mass rollout of cycle lanes covering 11 miles with a further 12 under construction. Such a policy, though good for the environment, only benefits the 3% who make their journeys on bikes. With the UK economy decimated and London’s economy on life support, cycle lanes should not be encouraged when people need to start going ‘back to work’.
The cycle lanes are incredibly disruptive and have been counterproductive. Congestion is now at higher levels than last year, and you only have to look online to see how angry black cabbies have become over this situation. I thought the mayor of London is there to put Londoners first?
The most pressing and well-publicised criticism of Sadiq Khan’s mayorship is on London’s crime epidemic. Knife offences and homicide are at frightfully high levels, and he has done little other than shift the blame onto the Government. According to the ONS, 15,080 knife offences were recorded in London last year alone, and with homicides at a 10 year high, you have to question Khan’s ability to resolve these grisly statistics.
Other than asking for more police officers and increasing stop and search, Khan lacks focus on establishing long-term initiatives to help fight this abhorrent issue. The GLA Conservatives leader Susan Hall replied to Khan’s distasteful statement I loathe over at the beginning of this article and rightly summed up Khan’s ineffective mayorship:
“We’ve got knife crime out of control, and you talk to me about Daves and Stormzy. It’s an absolute disgrace Mr Mayor”.
The Conservative mayoral candidate for 2021, Shaun Bailey, has jumped to sell himself by arguing that you cannot fight knife crime without pushing for educational change, increasing employment and offering more substantial prison education to help curb reoffending. While Bailey may be offering a light at the end of the tunnel, the question remains as to whether a Labour London can bring itself to support Conservatives in the London Assembly once again.
London deserves a mayor who can accept constructive criticism and act on this to the best of their ability. This would not be someone who shifts the blame on everyone but themselves and takes a greater interest in commenting on issues outside of their job description.