Sunday, 4 September 2011

London Riots - Boris Johnson London Mayor: Good for a laugh, but in a crisis he is a day late and a dollar short.

Boris needs more than a broom to deal with the current crisis

London is now a city increasingly divided along race lines. It is a city where the relationships between the Metropolitan Police Service and London’s black communities are at ‘boiling point’.  That’s a term I used first in speaking about the death in custody of Smiley Culture in March of this year and was denounced for doing so. Less than 20 weeks later with the shooting of Mark Duggan by the MPS my comments proved to be prescient.

This summer ends witnessing the worst deterioration of police and black community relations seen in decades. In London in particular there is a grievous problem however no comfort should be drawn from that by those living elsewhere, as this issue is equally reflected to various degrees in other parts of the country.

With the recent deaths in police custody of Smiley Culture aka David Emmanuel and Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell and Demetre Fraser in Birmingham and the latest victims Jacob Michael and Dale Burns, the tide of public anger and concern continues to grow.

The recent announcement that the IPCC can find no basis for initiating disciplinary charges against the Police officers involved in the arrest and tragic death of Smiley Culture aka David Emmanuel demonstrates the inability of this increasingly discredited organisation to support the families of victims of police brutality, ineptitude or incompetence.

This decision will cause further outrage and I can tell you that nobody understands why the Police officer that was with Smiley refuses to give a formal statement to the IPCC. In court if you refuse to give a statement then guilt is inferred from your reluctance to do so.  This officer should be should be compelled to give a statement or be sacked immediately and the Mayor should make his view on that crystal clear.

Nobody believes the palpable nonsense that Smiley was handcuffed after he stabbed himself or that mysteriously the handle of the blade that killed him had no fingerprints. Death through a single stab wound to the heart is instantaneous the idea that having stabbed himself he is then thrashing around wildly on the floor with superhuman strength requiring handcuffs to be put on him is grossly insulting to our intelligence and widely disbelieved.

This has been a terrible year so far for the Metropolitan Police Service and Mayor of London Boris Johnson and a worse year for communities we have witnessed the travesty over the Ian Tomlinson case, seen revealed the incestuous relationship between senior MPS officers and News International, endured a massive rise in the number of stop and search’s ordered by the Mayor and watched in horror a 100 % increase of the number of black deaths in custody.

The Mayors key manifesto commitment of ‘working night and day to end the scourge of youth violence’ can now be seen as nothing more than an election sound bite. As the body bags mount up, this represents as an issue, Boris Johnson’s equivalent of the Lib Dem Nick Clegg broken promise on student fees. He has failed to get any significant project by way of response off the ground. He has failed London’s black community and that failure is now writ large across his beleaguered Mayoralty.

Finally we have seen the capital go up in flames and witnessed the tragic loss of life as a result of the utter carnage on our streets. I believe that this outcome could have been avoided.

As a direct consequence of the failure of this Mayor to understand and deal with the issue of race, the mayoralty is rendered incapable of engaging with black Londoners’ communities in any meaningful or credible way.

The Mayor has no one within his core team who can act as a key adviser on these issues nor does he attach any real priority to or have any clear strategy of community and police engagement. This is a fundamental error, which has cost the Capital dear.

The difference between this Mayor and the last is that both Ken Livingstone would have visited and met with the Duggan or Emanuel families. We would have taken grip of all aspects of the case and we would have ensured that we met local communities and listened to their concerns and acted upon them.

We would have ensured that the MPS were fully engaged and that the IPCC were left under no illusions about our commitment to fully support their efforts to get to the truth. We would have conveyed an on going series of public meetings in Tottenham immediately. We would have ensured that the Metropolitan Police Authority Chair and independent members were fully engaged and on board.

Our priority would have been to ensure that Londoners understood that we are as concerned about the shooting of Mark Duggan as they were. The task of the Mayor in these situations is to reassure Londoners and provide leadership not turn up after the event with a broom in you’re hand.

The MPS for its part, is racked with internal turmoil and traumatised by the loss of yet another commissioner, phone hacking scandals have taken its cue on race related issues directly from the Mayor himself.

Put simply the Mayor has removed race as an issue of concern from London’s policy priority agenda. The civic infrastructures of race equality consultation and engagement have been dismantled, resourced cut or transferred to other areas and skilled staff discarded.

In relation to the MPS and the Metropolitan Police Authority it’s once world famous community engagement strategy has, as a result, fallen into disrepute. It has of late failed to treat those it consults with any degree of respect preferring to simply flatter egos with vanity invitations to high profile consultations at New Scotland Yard.

Once at these meetings community representatives are given flattery and platitudes in equal measure.

It is beyond my simple comprehension why these issues have not been comprehensively nailed at the door of Boris Johnson and his erstwhile sidekick Kit Malthouse.

Some spineless and deeply partisan sections of the media are allowing this Mayor to get away with murder. My charge is that they are routinely ignoring the profound and obvious inadequacies of this personally likeable but politically incompetent Mayor. Whilst quite funny, the joke wears thin when he is exposed as incapable of seeking to police and manage one of the most multicultural cities in the world.

Here is the awful reality of failing to prioritise race, racism and its effects in a city that is 40% black and ethnic minority. The electoral backlash against anti-racism has reaped it own rewards and I can tell over the coming year things will get much worse as a result.  Anti racism was never about ‘special groups’ pleading, it was about tackling disadvantage, discrimination and deprivation. The fact is this Mayoralty does not recognise the reality of racism in London and has no idea about its effects in communities.

As Mayor and the ultimate accountable authority for policing in London the jovial blonde bonhomie of our witty erudite Mayor is revealed as a sad joker whose weaknesses have been brutally exposed by this crisis, revealing him as incapable of handling a real crisis. He and his team have been shown to be both inept and incompetent.

As an aside this situation is made intolerably worse as the Mayor and Malthouse hate each other according to reliable sources in City Hall.  They barley communicate and that is seriously affecting levels of competence and effectiveness at the MPS. Malthouse unimpressed by Johnson’s complete lack of attention to detail and failure to grasp the significance of follow through and delivery has come to bury Caesar rather than to praise him.

Whilst this calamitous state of affairs in the Mayors office has gone unnoticed by many, the consequent build up of anger and the outrage in many of London’s communities has become quite visceral. When we marched on Scotland Yard and attended the MPA meeting after the death of Smiley, all were warned of the dire consequences of allowing things to continue as they are. Nobody listened.

Neither the Mayor nor the MPA or the MPS have any real or effective credibility left in communities.

There are now growing calls from eminent black academic, Professor Gus John that the black community should immediately withdraw from all MPS and Government ‘consultative forums’. Given the current situation I have real sympathy with such a proposal and intend to ensure broader discussion on the merits of Professor Johns call for a consultation boycott among major black organisations and community groups.

Hundreds of meetings discussing these issues are taking place across the city on a daily basis. Its not even on the Mayors political radar, he has no idea about the depth of feeling and, as a result, it has not registered as a significant political issue for London.

What now needs to be understood is there is now routine and widespread disbelief in the light of the Duggan shooting in any Police, IPCC Mayoral explanations comments or public statements.

That has been reinforced by the collusion of the IPCC and the Police in seeking to manipulate public opinion in the aftermath of Mark’s death by reporting that Mark shot first and that a police officer narrowly missed losing his life with a bullet being stopped by his radio. That was a lie knowingly told. The issues were reinforced by the failure of the MPA Chair, who failed to spot the fact that stop and search was rising at incredible speed and was causing real tensions. To make matters worse, we had a Mayor who was on holiday at the time of the riots and had initially refused to come back to London.

Since then Londoners have seen the Police, in a naked display of sheer arrogance, ruthlessly use their contacts in certain sections of the media to characterise the victims of deaths in custody as hostile, violent drug dealing gangster like criminals offering extreme violence and deadly force. Let me make my position here clear: all citizens of this country regardless of their race or previous criminal background should be afforded equal protection under the law.

That’s it plain and simple, and any time a society fails to afford that basic protection then it breaks the contract between citizen and state and Government and the police lose their legitimacy. Dragging the name of Mark Duggan or David Emanuel through the mud with off the record briefings leaking confidential information about on going or previous investigations is rubbing vinegar in an open wound.

The Mayor should get a grip and stop this grossly unfair trial by media and stand up for all London citizens not just those who were affected by the riots alone, but those communities deeply wounded by the lack of response to their cries for justice in relation to deaths in police custody. It’s either justice for everybody or no justice for anybody.

·       He should, as a matter of urgency, embark on an effort to restore public confidence and attend local Police Consultative Group meetings in the affected areas.
·       He should call for the immediate suspension, pending inquiry, of all officers involved in the deaths of Duggan and Emanuel.
·       He should insist that the officer in the kitchen with Smiley be required to give a statement to the IPCC immediately.
·       He should support a call for a public inquiry or initiate an independent MPA led inquiry into deaths in custody.
·       He should meet with the families of Mark Duggan and David Emanuel.
·       He should put an immediate stop to  MPS ‘ off the record ‘ briefing to the press or at least denounce them when they do appear/

The fact that he has done none of these things and that the MPA will be abolished and all its authority passed over to the Mayor’s unelected Police Commissioner fills me with dread. I have zero confidence in the Mayors ability to get this right after such spectacular failure. 

I know Boris loves the Greek classics so I end with a quote by that Greek poet presumed author of
the Iliad, Homer himself who said:

“Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.”

The next meeting of the MPA Full Authority is to take place on the 15th September 2011, at 10:00 - 12:00 in the Chamber, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2AA. It’s an open public meeting and I suggest that people mobilize and attend and give this Mayoralty a much needed wake up call.

Lee Jasper