Today, Prime Minister Dave “Hug a Hoodie” Cameron was in Tripoli, patronising the Libyans with trite soundbytes about how they’ve got their water supplies running.
It does make you wonder quite what senior politicians actually take in when on “fact-finding” trips, because the last time Cameron visited a war zone, when he came to Croydon in the week after the riots, he clearly did not understand the failures of policing on 8/8.
Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks managed to get a question asked of the PM at Westminster yesterday about proposed cuts to police numbers. “A sensible government would pause for thought and change its mind,” Wicks said, “and the last thing it would do is reduce police numbers.”
Maybe Cameron’s isn’t a sensible government. Certainly, Cameron failed to give a sensible answer to Wicks’s question as far as Croydon was concerned.
This is what Cameron said: “Well first of all let me say I came to visit Croydon and met with him and met with a number of people who had seen some shocking things happen in that borough that must not be allowed to happen again.” Must not be allowed to happen again. So far so good.
“Even after the changes we’re making in police funding the police will be able to surge in a way that they did in Croydon, they did in Tottenham, they did in Manchester, they did in Salford,” Cameron claimed.
What did he mean about the police being able to “surge”? Maybe the owners of Reeves furniture store can recall whether there was a police “surge” on the night of August 8? Had Cameron spoken to the people of London Road who lost their homes and businesses to the arsonists and looters, and whose calls for help to 999 were answered with declarations that there were no police available to protect them?
There was assuredly no surge from Croydon police on August 8, and no reinforcements were sent to Croydon, despite appeals to Scotland Yard throughout the day.
“The problem on the night of the riots was that the surge didn’t take place soon enough,” Cameron told the House of Commons. In truth, in Croydon on the night of the riot, there was no “surge” at all.
“I think he’s confusing the response to the riots in the immediate circumstances and what’s happening to police funding,” Cameron said, adopting his best Old Etonian patronising tone. “The police have assured me they will be able to deliver as many police on to the streets of London as they did when they got control of the riots.” Which to anyone who had to live through the nightmare of 8/8, will come as no reassurance at all.
But at least we are clear on one thing: Cameron’s government will not be reconsidering its dangerous policy of cutting police numbers.
Wicks has been more successful in getting a U-turn over the use of the £20 million post-riot fund. It even looks like, embarrassed over negative reports about millions of riot aid being given to Tottenham Hotspur FC, Mayor Boris Johnson may now have to find an extra £8.5 million to fulfil commitments given to White Hart Lane.
In a letter to Wicks, the local government minister, Big Eric Pickles, confirmed that none of the £20 million in post-riot regeneration funds will go towards paying Spurs’ transfer funds, or even the rebuilding of the club’s stadium.
Pickles sent to Wicks correspondence his department had received, dated September 13, from Sir Peter Rogers, Boris’s adviser on regeneration. It does not take much reading between the lines to see that the Mayor’s office has been forced to back down.
Sir Peter refers to the £8.5 million for THFC as a “conditional offer”, and states that it will be met from Greater London Authority resources, including some from Transport for London. Sir Peter wrote: “This therefore means that the £20m fund which your Department has identified for the worst affected parts of London can now be utilised for other areas and not for THFC.”
The weasel words are “can now”, which some might take to suggest that, had Boris managed to get his hands on it, part of the post-riots fund would have been allocated to Spurs.
“The £20 million fund for Tottenham and Croydon was a very welcome step but then became shrouded in confusion when Boris Johnson implied that £8.5 million would be allocated to Spurs,” Wicks said. “This always seemed bizarre.
“It is now clear that the Government agrees and has stepped in to make it clear to the London Mayor that this money is to help with the redevelopment of riot-torn communities. In essence, Boris Johnson has scored a ridiculous own-goal and referee Pickles has blown the whistle to declare it offside.”
- Croydon police chief says her force was overstretched (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon 8/8: Borough’s top cop was called away before riots (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon was vulnerable after being short-changed for decades (insidecroydon.com)