It is a sad commentary on wider, deep-held perceptions of Croydon that Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, and Brian Paddick, his Liberal Democrat party’s candidate for the London Mayor election, chose the town to highlight how they have put policing at the top of their agenda.
Clegg accompanied former senior Met officer Paddick in a photo-op visit to Reeves Corner on Friday afternoon, together with Tom Brake, the LibDem MP for Carshalton and Wallington (offering another hint that he will contest the new Croydon Central and St Helier seat if the Boundary Commissioners’ changes are implemented).
But the House of Reeves was a good choice for such a launch. Maurice Reeves won hearts and minds from his appearance on the television documentary Mr Reeves and the Riots, where the head of the century-old family business considered his own desire for punishment but also looked at redemptive measures for rioters.
Reeves Corner ablaze was the key TV image of Croydon that was beamed around the world last August.
And somewhat like Maurice Reeves, the Deputy Prime Minister wanted to portray the Liberal Democrats as having a policy for “joined up government”. As well as tough punishment, Clegg says that he also wants good works to help ex-cons once they come out of prison.
The LibDem leader heard from two Croydon charity workers who help former offenders.
They detailed how council cuts caused by Clegg’s government’s 27 per cent reduction in local funding had restricted what they could do. Clegg looked suitably concerned and caring.
Croydon is also facing cut-backs in its police numbers, including the loss of six sergeants from its Safer Neighbourhood Teams.
“Brian has decades of police experience and has creative ideas for combating crime,” Clegg told Inside Croydon when asked how Paddick’s approach to policing might have been more successful than what Croydon residents experienced on the night of 8/8.
“There’s a very strong emphasis in Brian’s campaign drawing on his 30 years’ experience as someone who actually knows what it’s like to police London, which of course his two rivals don’t possess.
“They are classic, sort of professional politicians to their core,” said Clegg, who himself is a “classic, sort of professional politician”.
Warming to his theme, Clegg continued: “Brian actually knows what it means to police the streets of London. I think that’s unique, I think that sets him completely apart. I think it answers precisely the kind of questions that people have got these days about how we can keep London’s streets safe.”
Paddick, a former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner, said if he had been mayor during the riots, he would have stood alongside the police to tell people they were destroying communities.
While London, from Tottenham to Clapham to Croydon, burned last August, Boris Johnson stayed on his holiday. “Because the mayor was absent for days during the riots and even after the riots, that really sent the wrong message to Londoners about standing united,” Paddick said.
“We have got to get the police and Londoners standing together against the criminals and if we can do that we can really transform London in terms of crime and disorder,” Paddick said.
Other local media at the photo-op raised the issue of the slow and even non-payment of riot compensation money – Maurice Reeves told Inside Croydon that it has so far cost his company £70,000 just to clear the site of his torched furniture store – something about which Clegg expressed concern.
The sex-industry Sadvertiser took its opportunity with the deputy PM to ask about Croydon’s city status bid, which all present seemed to think pretty irrelevant.
Clegg’s visit included a tour of the recently completed history of Reeves, on hoardings surrounding the burnt out site, which is well worth a look if you are in the area.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Council press officer attends LibDem election photo call (insidecroydon.com)
- It’s scrum time for Ken, Boris… and for Brian Paddick (insidecroydon.com)
- “Police have moral duty to give 8/8 evidence” Paddick says (insidecroydon.com)
- Wisdom, tolerance and the riot lessons of Mr Reeves (insidecroydon.com)