Answering the questions of the Home Affairs Select Committee on the riots today, Mayor Boris Johnson effortlessly dominated the proceedings with a subtly nuanced, in depth performance that seemed to anticipate questions almost before they were asked.
It was clear that not only had the Mayor thought deeply about the problem of teenage alienation, he has also found solutions and put them into place. The Heron Unit at Feltham has had outstanding success in dealing with reoffending. Mentoring schemes are providing kids without stable families, with the love and backup they need. These solutions of course take time. Boris said you cannot abandon young criminals and believe punishment is enough. They need help in rebuilding their lives.
The Guardian reported: “Johnson said that 75% of those arrested had criminal records, while 83% had previous contact with police: “What was going to make you more likely to riot? It was previous contact with the police, and that’s the problem that we need to tackle.”
The prime minister, David Cameron, lay great stress on gangs being behind the riots. But Johnson said just 20% of the 2,300 arrested so far had gang affiliations.
The Conservative mayor, who faces a battle for re-election next year, said police were not asking to use weapons such as baton rounds and water cannon, and he dismissed the notion floated by Cameron that social media could be blocked in the event of future disturbances.
Johnson said monitoring such sites helped police to gather intelligence. He said London had brought a high level of violence and disorder under control within days, while other cities such as Paris had failed to quell their riots for months.”
The Mayor was full of praise for the police, who bravely quelled the riots without resorting to any weapons but their shields and batons. The cost to London will be £75M, but Boris said that on 11th August, the Prime Minister had given his promise that the police would have everything they needed to deal with the riots. The Mayor was therefore confident that the money would be forthcoming from the Treasury.
It was impressive to hear how efficiently the Mayor had every aspect of the situation covered. Compare that then with the performances so far of his two Mayoral challengers. Ex-Mayor Ken Livingstone bizarrely declared in March this year that he would not reveal any of his financial strategies to the voters until he is elected. Brian Paddick breezily declared that so far his policies sheet is a blank piece of paper. The contrast is painful. Ken has failed to come up with one decent idea so far. He and Brian Paddick might as well throw in the towel.