Tony Devenish is a member of the London Assembly for West Central.
The 1980 Presidential debate between then US President, Jimmy Carter, and his challenger, Ronald Reagan, is most famous for an eleven word question that Reagan asked the watching public: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” A week later Americans answered with a resounding “No” and elected Ronald Reagan by a landslide. To believe that Londoners are better off thanks to his Mayoralty, you would either need to have spent an awful lot of that time with your eyes screwed shut and your fingers in your ears, or you could be Sadiq Khan.
Books could be written about all the many ways in which Khan has been a dreadful Mayor of London, who has repeatedly let down Londoners. Conservative Home readers may well recall the litany of broken promises from the two million trees he pledged to plant by May 2020 to the 80,000 homes a year he was going to build to the “zero days of strikes” that Londoners would experience if he became Mayor.
At the time of writing, Londoners have suffered 93 strikes on TfL-run services under Khan. The equivalent figure for Ken Livingstone, who tended to give the unions what they wanted, was 16 strikes in eight years. Khan claimed this figure was “too many”. For Boris Johnson, who stood up to the unions, that figure was 35 strikes in eight years. Khan condemned 35 strikes in eight years as “a disgrace”. Shockingly he has yet to describe his own record in quite the same terms. Our current Mayor largely gave the RMT and co what they wanted, until he ran out of our money and had to start saying “No”.
Even now, Khan prefers to try and blame the Government for the record number of strikes under his Mayoralty, rather than recognise the culpability of the RMT. This should not surprise anyone who has paid any attention to the way he has run – or, more accurately, failed to run – London. Instead of focusing on delivering for London, it is clear that the current Mayor sees his role as opposing the Government. A good example is an issue on which I have been pushing since first elected, at the same time as Khan, in May 2016.
Excessive tube noise is a subject that most Londoners would not recognise as particularly important. If you use the Tube, you might notice that on some sections of certain lines the noise becomes so loud that you cannot talk to your neighbour or, more likely, hear the songs on your iPod. This can be uncomfortable and annoying and it is definitely a problem that TfL (and TfL’s Chairman Khan) should be desperate to solve. However, it is a fact that this noise is not constrained to the Tube itself but invades people’s homes and makes some of my constituents’ lives miserable. Some have had to leave their homes because excessive Tube noise makes it impossible to sleep whenever the Tube is running. After numerous e-mails, meetings and motions, the Mayor has completely failed to step up and deal with this appalling public health problem.
A major problem, where Khan has utterly failed to step up, is in dealing with violent crime in London. It’s notable that so-called minor crimes such as burglary, car theft, and drug dealing are all but ignored by the Met Police since Khan became Mayor. People do not always recognise that one of the London Mayor’s roles is London’s Police and Crime Commissioner. In that role he has fundamentally failed, over the last six years, to reform the Met Police.
Amongst other disgraceful lows, such as a consistent rise in knife crime that was only interrupted by lockdown and confidence in the Met plummeting from 69 per cent in June 2017 to 49 per cent in March 2022, there have been months in which London’s murder rate overtook New York’s. Recently, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary had little choice but to intervene to place the Met in “special measures”. Khan’s response was not to apologise, or express regret that this had proven necessary on his watch, but to agree that the Met needed special measures and then seek to blame senior Met officers. This “not my fault” posturing has been widely – and rightly – ridiculed. He’s reached a new low this summer, blaming the sunshine and so-called austerity for crime.
Keeping Londoners safe is the Mayor of London’s top job. I sit on the Police and Crime Committee, which meets with officers and Khan’s officials every fortnight. Khan has been told repeatedly that the Met is not up to scratch. Kit Malthouse MP, my predecessor as West Central’s Assembly Member who went on to serve as the Police Minister, squarely laid the blame at the current Mayor’s feet.
Khan has built up an astonishing record of failure. In just 20 months’ time the Conservative Party will have a chance to kick him out of office. Now we have selected a new Prime Minister the next choice for the Conservative Party should be to find our London Mayoral candidate. Despite the mess that the incumbent has made of it, having the chance to govern the greatest city in the World is an immense privilege and hugely worthwhile.
Conservatives have seen the difference that a great Mayor, like Ben Houchen or Andy Street or Boris Johnson, can make to a city. In London. It’s past time for a change.