On Saturday at 1pm you will find me not in Golders Green, but outside Downing Street standing shoulder to shoulder with people from every ethnic and religious background. We will eclipse the anti-Semitic march led by Joshua Bonehill-Paine.
This Is London - The Most Inclusive City In The World
Joshua who has 255 followers on Twitter and 50 friends on Facebook was arrested last Thursday in Somerset for sending anti-Semitic abuse to a Labour MP. The campaign against this march has been led by local Conservative MP Mike Freer, himself a gay man, whose work with the local community to have the demonstration moved out of Golders Green during the Shabbat is highly commendable. As much as I despise Mr Bonehill-Paine and his abhorrent views, the sheer magnitude and diversity of the outpouring of opposition makes me love London in equal measure. I personally know more people planning to oppose this rally than Mr Bonehill-Paine will presumably have attending. Many of us will attend because this is London, the most inclusive city in the world; a city that will not allow anti-Semitism to emerge in any form, no matter how pathetic and juvenile.
This has focused attention this week on policing, and a very strange London dichotomy of wanting to protect minorities, but also be protected from them. As I write these lines, my team of researchers recoil, encouraging me towards political subtleties; suggesting I say instead "celebrating diversity and encouraging inclusivity". However, there is no escaping the fact that people in all communities (Jewish, Muslim, LGBT etc.) need protecting from time to time, whilst not forgetting that hate-speakers shelter amongst all of them.
Hardline factions in any community can upset the balance within, as London walks the tightrope of inclusion that is a beacon of hope around the world. Last week, we saw the horrors of violent extremism but next week, we shall see the resolve of Londoners, marking the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings.
An Evolved Society
We are constantly reminded that today's terrorist is tomorrow's freedom fighter as we try to distinguish between good agitators and bad. It is foolish to liken Peter Tatchell to IS, but it wasn't long ago that socially liberal Londoners shook their head in disbelief as he tied himself to railings or arrested Robert Mugabe as he campaigned for the unthinkable gay marriage that is now regarded a "must-have" for any evolved society. Can any culture be taken seriously as a world player without it? There is a reason why any self-respecting oligarch chooses to live in London rather than Moscow, London's also the sixth largest French city in the world (yes, the French population is that large).
It must be said, I have enormous sympathy with Iain Dale's view that mosques should no longer receive overseas funding, specifically the Saudi money that we feel forced to tolerate because of our strategic ties and energy requirements. There are a great many enormously wealthy British Muslims who can easily afford to support these community institutions; people whom I know would insist on supporting the core Islamic tenets of mercy and compassion. I would go further: any non-UK organisation funding fanatical religious ideologies should be banned, and as a Christian, I would like to see foreign funding removed from radical Christian organisations preaching intolerance in the UK. This isn't spiritual funding, this is political funding. There are restriction on how I fund my campaign and these restrictions need to be applied here.
Policing & Crime - A Key Issue For Any Mayor
The Metropolitan Police Service has been at the forefront of the fight against extremism. I come from a police family myself; my dad was a policeman. As part of my campaign I have spent time with the police, including meetings with the commissioner. We have traded ideas about how to beat radicalisation, knife crime, sexual and violent attacks on women, cyber crime all the way through to petty theft. As Mayor I will support Sir Bernard's request for a gang task force, greater support for cyber units (increasingly important because sexual and violent crimes against women tend to start online), and more powers to break up gangs by physically relocating key individuals to different boroughs. We also need to continue to try and push for a ethnically representative police force so essential stop and search duties aren't characterised as discriminatory.
What Can The Mayor Really Do To Make A Difference?
The Mayor can and should take an everyday interest in policing and crime. Currently this is devolved to a Deputy Mayor who does an amazing job. But my policy would be to personally call in two Borough Commanders every week, drawn randomly through a lottery. This solved the problem in New York and it can solve the problem in London too.
We need to collect, study and even publish borough statistics to help them improve, and the Mayor needs to use their unique position to bring together the relevant borough recourses to a system. I don't mean that we name and shame or create competition in a brash American way, we all want the same thing: a safer London.
A single phone call from the Mayor can break through borough bureaucracies and reach the person that needs to be reached. It empowers that person to make a difference and helps them to understand that their role is vital. Boris' strength has been in surrounding himself with great special advisers, whether that be Sir Edward Lister in housing, through to Ray Lewis in social mobility, helping people to achieve their potential regardless of their background. It would be short-sighted of a Mayor to dismantle this mechanism. Boris has also shown us how much influence the mayor can have even where statutory powers fall short. It is my intention to maximise these.
We all want the same thing - a safer London. As Mayor it will be at the forefront of my mind relentlessly to make it so, not just for some Londoners, but for every Londoner.