Tories try to make crime pay by misleading over figures

Croydon’s Conservatives have shifted up a gear in their campaign efforts ahead of next May’s local elections, but WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, has been fact-checking their latest video nasty

On the beat: any complaints about cutting police numbers in Croydon lay with the Tories and Boris Johnson

Inside Croydon’s loyal reader has probably already twigged that there are elections on the way: the local Tories have started pumping out nicely polished social media items, intended to mislead and dissemble.

The latest came at the start of this week when Andy Stranack, the Conservative opposition on the council’s shadow cabinet member for “community safety and resilience”, attacked what he said was Croydon Labour’s failures to keep its residents safe.

Citing statistics carefully cherry-picked to show a decline from when their party lost control of the Town Hall in May 2014, Croydon Tories tweeted that sexual offences, what the Metropolitan Police quaintly refer to as “Violence Against The Person” and vehicle offences were all up, “and that’s despite having more Met Police officers!”

At Monday’s council cabinet meeting, Stranack blamed all this on Labour, and said that since they took control of the council, overall crime was up 37 per cent.

Fact checked: Andy Stranack

He then asked his opposite number, Manju Shahul-Hameed, whether she took responsibility for that, or whether it was down to her colleagues David Wood or Hamida Ali.

Shahul-Hameed’s answer isn’t included in the short video that the local Conservatives group has put together. Odd that.

Instead, it cuts to dramatic music and grim headlines, evocative of the disastrous “New Labour, New Danger” Tory campaign of 1997 (which gave the Tories their worst general election defeat for more than half a century). By the time of writing, the video had had fewer than 140 views, so all the effort to make it seems hardly worth it.

Stranack’s attempt to deflect attention from successive Conservative cuts to policing by both their governments and during Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

For a start, in his blog for Croydon Conservatives’ website, he says that Metropolitan Police numbers have increased to 33,803 officers. For a start, this number is incorrect. It includes 849 bobbies employed by the City of London Police, a force separate from the Met.

Then there’s the entirely false claim about “having more Met Police officers”. Under the last Labour government and Mayor Ken Livingstone, the strength of the Met’s thin blue line rose to a peak of 33,367 full-time equivalent officers in 2010.

Thin blue line: how police officer numbers have suffered under successive Tory governments. Source: the Metropolitan Police

Under successive Tory-led governments and Mayor Boris Johnson, that number was allowed to fall to 30,398 by 2013. At the last count, earlier this year, it had recovered to 32,954.

For the hard of thinking, that’s still fewer Met officers than we had 11 years ago.

It’s a similarly sad story across England, where in 2010 there were 136,403 officers, while in 2021, that figure was only 127,992. And that’s up from a low in 2018 to 115,545 – more than 20,000 fewer officers than under Labour.

Fire and fury: the Croydon riots hit in 2011 as the Tories reduced police numbers

In 2011, the already stretched police service in London came close to breaking point as a series of riots broke out on the capital’s streets, including in Croydon, where arson and murder took place over a couple of nights of civil disturbances the likes of which had never been seen before.

Barely a year later the then Mayor of London, Johnson, helped by one of Stranack’s erstwhile Croydon Tory colleagues, “Silent” Steve O’Connell (when he was a member of the London Assembly), decided to close four police stations in Croydon, in Addington Village, Kenley, Norbury and South Norwood.

In 2019, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, clashed with the then Prime Minister, Theresa May, over fanciful claims that Tory police cuts were not to blame for a rise in violent crime. It had been May, when Home Secretary,  who had begun the cost-cutting policy of reducing police numbers.

John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said at the time that stabbing deaths were “the true cost of austerity we warned of, but were ridiculed for doing so”.

That death toll continues, as seen on the streets of West Croydon just three weeks ago, when a 14-year-old boy was stabbed in a fight and died.

Crime figures: Official statistics tell the true story of crime across the capital, and in Croydon. Source: Metropolitan Police

For Stranack – the chief exec of the Ment4 charity in Croydon that provides intensive mentoring support to young people in the criminal justice system – to ignore his party’s part in their downfall is at best willful ignorance. At worst, it is blatant electioneering.

It doesn’t end there.

Using the same source of data cited by Stranack, “the independent Metropolitan Police crime data dashboard”, it’s clear that Croydon isn’t alone in experiencing an increase in crime due to Tory police cuts.

But when you factor in the crimes per 1,000 people, overall crime in Croydon is lower than the capital-wide figure. In fact, we’ve enjoyed a reduction in burglary, theft and the possession of weapons.

Quite why Stranack isn’t cheering the local Met’s successes is a mystery, not only to your loyal reader but also to the local Tory MP, Chris Philp.

As Tory Andy was launching his attack about crime in Croydon, Tory Chris was tweeting enthusiastically that it is, “Fantastic to see the positive effect of the extra 20,000 police here in Croydon”. Though that, in typical Philp style, is stretching the bounds of credibility.

Dodgy numbers: Conservative MP Philp can’t quite cope with real police figures, either

There’s not an extra 20,000 police in Croydon, not even in England. In fact, in Croydon, there’s an extra 26, who took up their beats this week.

If Philp – a former junior minister in the Home Office – had been paying attention in the House of Commons last Friday, he’d have heard the Prime Minister saying “of our 20,000 [police officers] that I pledged on the steps of Downing Street two and a half years ago Mr Speaker, we have already recruited another 11,000”. So there’s still a long way to go.

But what this disconnect in the Tory messaging between Stranack and Philp does demonstrate is that when it comes to crime, the Conservatives are strangers to the truth, whether it be the number of police officers available for duty, or the lockdown law-breaking party held at No10 Downing Street last Christmas.

They’re also at odds with common sense and justice. While Johnson is launching a “war on drugs”, despite admitting consuming various narcotics at university, along with Michael Gove and Dominic Raab, Priti Patel is meanwhile making peaceful protest a criminal offence.

As one senior Katharine Street source said today, “The Conservatives’ cynical and hypocritical exploitation of the crime wave they created is beyond contempt.”

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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