|Boris Johnson (left) has reappointed Ray Lewis (right)|
Yesterday I noted that Mayor of London Boris Johnson had reappointed Ray Lewis as his ‘Senior Adviser for Mentoring’. As many of you will know, the history of the mentoring scheme announced in Nov 2008 with the objective of recruiting 1000 black mentors for black boys, has been fraught with calamitous failure. Five years on and only 100 mentors have been recruited.
This lamentable effort was a direct result of the personal political intervention of Boris himself and his Chief of Staff Edward Lister in an officer led Greater London Authority procurement process.
No sooner was the ink dried on Lewis’s one day a week £20,000 per year contract than some Labour supporters led by the Greater London Authority (GLA) Labour Group and the Labour List blog were fulminating about his appointment with their GLA Police & Crime Spokesperson AM Joanne McCartney claiming Lewis is not up to the job and condemning Lewis’s appointment.
Now I’m no fan of Boris but for Labour to target Ray Lewis for the failure of the mentoring scheme is ludicrous and smacks of racism. Lewis is one of the most effective people I know for working with young people and I say that although I don’t agree with some of his ‘boot camp’ methods employed to keep wayward young people on the proverbial straight and narrow. But fair’s fair: he is successful at what he does and it would be churlish to fail to acknowledge that fact.
Labour seem to be copying the Lynton Crosby school of politics in targeting Lewis for the failure of Johnsons mentoring scheme. This is despite the fact they have interviewed Lewis extensively at a couple of GLA Scrutiny Panels where the evidence of Lewis and the GLA Officer responsible for the mentoring scheme Ron Belgrave, both made it absolutely clear that their preferred choice of a contractor to deliver the scheme was summarily dismissed.
Boris himself intervened, dispatching Lister to knobble the GLA procurement process in order to ensure that the contract was given to their preferred provider and overruling both Lewis and Belgrave.
To now attack Lewis for this failure is deeply cynical politics and stinks of racism. The fact is GLA Labour has been so spine chillingly ineffective in holding Boris to account on anything at all that they are now reduced to relying on racist sentiment in the press and public by labeling Lewis as a ‘failure’ and a waste of public money.
This is so desperately disingenuous as to be unbelievable, particularly in the light of their failure to expose the race discrimination effects of Boris’s policies throughout the last five years.
GLA Labour has barely raised the issues of racism and disproportionality as a consequence of the Mayors policies or its effects on black Londoners and that is in the context of London being a majority black and ethnic minority city.
Over the last few years they have been made to look quite feeble in their attempt to hold the Mayor to account as Boris plays with them at Mayors Question time, much like a bored cat plays with a half dead mouse.
I believe their relative impotence in the face of Boris has led them to grasp at straws as a means of hiding their quite obvious failures in this regard. They have, instead targeted the only black man appointed by the Mayor as a cheap and easy target in bid to mask their own lack of effective political strategy.
Meanwhile the problem that mentoring was supposed to solve: youth violence, continues to get worse, (though actual deaths are down thanks to the brilliant work of our hospital surgeons), far too many young people are cowering in fear imprisoned in their local neighborhoods, trapped by local gangs on the one hand and an increasingly racist police service that can’t tell the difference between gun toting gang members and bible carrying church goers.
It’s a cheap shot by Labour who should be more effectively attacking Johnson not his employees. It’s a growing trend within Labour generally to attempt to capture racist public sentiment on issues of immigration for example. It’s a nasty trend and they should stop masking their own inadequacies, get some testicular fortitude and go after a Mayor who is the epitome of incompetence.