News Analysis: Worsening security in London brings about spat between two major parties

Source: Xinhua| 2018-08-21 06:47:33|Editor: Liangyu
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by Xinhua writer Gu Zhenqiu

LONDON, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- The worsening sense of safety and security in London prompted senior members of the two major British parties -- the ruling Conservative Party and opposition Labour Party -- to attack each other in a struggle to blame the policy of the other party for the rising violence in the British capital.

Shaun Bailey, a Conservative who served as the British prime minister's special adviser on youth and crime from 2010-2013, said that London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a parliament member from the Labour Party, had "lost control of the streets" and wasted money on a "bloated" bureaucracy.

The row is even expected to affect the election of a new mayor in two years as London is witnessing some of the highest rates of violent crime for many years.

"Many Londoners feel less secure than they once did," said a signed commentary carried by the Evening Standard, a London-based newspaper, on Monday.

Knife crime is up by more than 50 percent since 2016 and the murder rate was recently worse that that of New York City.

Standing out as a challenger to the mayor, Bailey on Monday revealed his plan for 1,000 extra police offers to fight London's wave of knife crime. The plan was announced as a 16-year-old boy appeared in court and was accused of murdering a fourth person in knife attack on Friday during a four-day period in London, bringing the total number of homicides this year to 95 in the British capital.

In a stinging attack, Bailey called for resources to be shifted to the frontline and said Khan had shown "lack of leadership" by blaming government cuts instead of taking the fight to criminals.

"Before Khan gets the begging bowl out and complains about the lack of government funding, he should first cut his own bureaucracy," Bailey wrote in the Evening Standard. "Too much of the overall police budget is spent on backroom bureaucrats and not police officers."

Hitting back, Khan accused Bailey of failing to understand how police funding works in London. Knife and gun crime has surged in England and Wales, but the causes and solutions are unclear.

The rival plan would reduce money for measures aimed at preventing crime, the mayor argued, and he blamed the British government for a financial squeeze on the London police.

In a sense, the political discord eclipsed the joint partisan efforts to find the root causes of the street violence in London.

The row puts crime levels at the forefront of the battle for London City Hall when Khan stands for re-election in 2020. It follows months of rising concern about a surge in violence linked to drug gangs in the capital.

The rise in crimes involving knives can also be seen in hospitals. In the five years to March 2017, the number of admissions for stab wounds increased by 13 percent in England and 17 percent in London.

There were 1,438 stabbings in London in the first four months of 2018, according to London police figures. The monthly total of knife crime incidents was 1,030 in July 2016, shortly after the mayor took power, but the figure rose to a peak of 1,371 in June this year.

Controversially, Bailey argued that the cuts cannot be blamed for problem in a capital where 337 pounds (about 431 U.S. dollars) was spent per Londoner on policing, an expenditure more than that of other British cities.

As London has seen a surge in street violence, with the number of knife and gun crimes rising, the Monday commentary joined Bailey in lashing out at the mayor.

"It is the duty of the mayor of London to make sure that it is criminals that feel under pressure, not communities," the commentary added.

While the figures suggest serious violence is on the rise, there is no consensus in the political realm about the causes or solutions, policy experts and criminologists here observed.