After Tuesday night’s BATCA Open Forum I was pointed in the direction of Sadiq Khan’s website, and, specifically, his coverage of the news that Tooting town centre is to get its own police team.
Obviously I’m glad that he also welcomes the team. But I was drawn to the comment that “Labour Councillors and Sadiq have lobbied Wandsworth Council to introduce” the new team.
I have to take issue with this for two reasons:
- I’m not aware of Sadiq ever asking Wandsworth Council to introduce a police team in Tooting. As the Cabinet Member responsible for community safety I would expect council officers to have told me if he had. However, even if he had I wouldn’t be that disappointed if officers hadn’t let me know because of my second point…
- Wandsworth Council (like every other council in the country) does not control, manage or in any other way direct the police. We may work in partnership with them, but we do not have any operational control.
Now Sadiq is a minister in the Department for Local Government. He was also a Wandworth Councillor for many years before becoming an MP. I suppose it’s entirely possible you could do both those roles without knowing what’s going on (Gordon Brown was Chancellor for ten years, after all), but it is stretching credibility a bit far.
The more realistic explanation is that he knows the council is not responsible for the police, but took the gamble many people don’t know. And to his credit it’s actually a pretty good gamble, I’ve spoken to many residents who assume the police are just a part of the council. And it makes good political sense for a Labour MP in a marginal seat. You take credit for good news, and get to imply the Conservative council are the bad guys.
So, lesson one: if it’s good, take credit for it. If possible, do this while suggesting your opponents were to blame for whatever wasn’t so good before.
I won’t pretend that I or my party are whiter than white. Only this morning I was accused of doing much the same thing, and re-reading my announcement of the news feel I should add to it.
I will still give some credit to this to the Mayor, neighbourhood resources are allocated centrally and very little flexibility is allowed. When we’d previously tried to address this, by seeing if resources could be moved to priority areas it was refused out of hand: Boris deserves credit for allowing a more pragmatic approach.
And I will still point out that we have repeatedly asked for town centre teams for Tooting and Clapham Junction. What’s more, we were asking the right people.
However, I didn’t give credit to the police borough commander, Chief Superintendent Stewart Low, who actually made it possible by re-organising his teams to free up the sergeant, constables and community support officers necessary to create the team. If there is a single individual who deserves credit it is him, and I’m happy to apologise for not pointing that out when I first had the opportunity.