Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

Meeting: 
MQT on 2018-06-21
Session date: 
June 21, 2018
Reference: 
2018/1697
Question By: 
Tony Arbour
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  The Mayor will now provide an oral update of up to five minutes in length on matters occurring since the publication of his report.  We have had a request for a matter for inclusion within the Mayor’s oral report, which is from David Kurten [AM], who wants an update on why the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) decided to close down the Lewisham East by-election hustings on the evening of Tuesday, 12 June 2018.  Mr Mayor.

Answer

Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

Answer for Oral Update on the Report of the Mayor

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Good morning.  Since we last met we have marked the anniversaries of both the London Bridge and Finsbury Park terrorist attacks.  A year on, it is no less difficult and no less painful.  We send our best wishes, love and prayers to the victims’ families and everyone who was injured.  As well as remembering those we lost last year, I know the whole Assembly will join me in paying tribute once again to the heroic efforts of our emergency services, transport colleagues, and ordinary Londoners who bravely ran towards danger while directing others towards safety.  The cowardly terrorists who commit these horrific acts do so to try to divide us, to fuel fear, and to change how we treat one another.  I am proud of the way we have responded as a city, standing united in defiance and staying true to our values and our way of life. 

 

Last year was an incredibly tough time for our city, and I know, as we mark these sad anniversaries and as we honour the innocent victims, we recommit as Londoners to honouring them through our actions and standing united against terrorism. 

 

We also - as you said - recently marked the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.  I have met with survivors, residents and the local community on many occasions over the last year.  The grief felt by the local community and by people across our city is still raw.  I am sure I speak for all of us when I say we send our prayers and best wishes once again to the families and friends who lost loved ones.  Alongside the heartache, the Grenfell Fire has shone a light on the stark inequalities that still exist in our city.  A year on, we must be more determined than ever to ensure justice is done, but also to implement the changes we need to create a fairer, more equal society, one that works for everyone. 

 

Since we last met, Chairman, I have also been working on a number of other strategies and initiatives to improve the lives of Londoners.  Crucially, this includes continuing to do everything possible to tackle violent crime in our city, not only by working with the police to crack down on the problem, but by working to tackle the complex root causes of violent crime.  I have also continued to lobby the Government for the extra resources we need to help keep our city as safe as possible, as our police service is still overstretched and under-resourced as a consequence of Government cuts.  I look forward to answering further questions during the course of today, but I have, as you said, been asked to give an oral update on a question asked by Assembly Member Kurten. 

 

I want to start by congratulating Janet Daby, the newly elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Lewisham East, on her emphatic victory.  As with all London MPs, I look forward to working with her on the key challenges facing our city and creating more opportunities for Londoners to fulfil their potential.  I know Janet will make a tremendous MP, following in the footsteps of her illustrious predecessor, Heidi Alexander, whom we are now lucky to have as London’s Deputy Mayor for Transport.

 

My understanding is this specific incident, a hustings, occurred during a pre-planned event that the MPS was aware of and for which it had a policing plan in place.  On the evening, around 100 of the group For Britain’s supporters attended the event, and a crowd of 100 to 150 antifascist protestors also gathered outside.  This caused the MPS concerns for public safety.  Police officers liaised with the organiser, and the event was closed with his permission after he and the candidate for For Britain Movement Party were informed that the police could no longer guarantee public safety.  This was an operational decision taken by the police in conjunction with the organiser. 

 

David Kurten AM:  Mr Mayor, I want to contest something of what you said there.  There were not 100 people from the For Britain movement in the hustings.  In fact, there was hardly anyone there.  The candidate herself did not turn up.  I was there.  I was intimidated and harassed myself, as were almost all of the candidates and voters going into the meeting who wanted to listen to the candidates speaking.  There was a mob outside, which was acting with absolute thuggery, something I have never seen in this country before.  On your watch, in London, a hustings, part of the democratic process for a by-election, was shut down.  It was not the mob that was dispersed by the police.  It was the candidates and the voters inside.  Everyone going into that meeting was harassed.  Why did the police not protect the democratic process and disperse the mob, the far left protesters outside, instead of dispersing the crowd, dispersing the people inside the hustings?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chairman, I cannot but repeat the words that I said previously: the police were concerned about public safety.  The police are well aware of our commitment to freedom of expression, and police acted on the expert views they had.  I appreciate Members of the Assembly, particularly United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) candidates, claim to be experts in everything, including policing matters.  I do not.  I rely on the advice given to me by those in charge of operational matters, and I rely upon their advice that the safe thing to do was, after consulting the organisers and the candidates, to cancel the hustings.  I suspect, Chairman, had - God forbid - the hustings taken place and there been a public order incident and people injured, I would be accused of causing those injuries as well.  Heigh-ho, that is politics in the Assembly 2018. 

 

David Kurten AM:  Mr Mayor, I do not appreciate the sarcasm in your answer, but what I do want is the democratic process in this country to remain free.  You talk about freedom of speech.  The freedom of people to listen to candidates and for candidates to speak, whatever you think of their views, is sacrosanct in this country.  The police should not have allowed that hustings to be stopped.  Why did that happen?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I can repeat the answer, Chairman, if you want me to. 

 

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I think that Assembly Member Kurten has made his point on this one.  Thank you very much.