London murders v New York murders: some still in denial

After I reported, in the Sunday Times, that “London overtook New York in murders for the first time in modern history in February,” a story taken up by every other national media outlet, some people are inevitably trying to pick holes.

They tend, admittedly, to be the same people who initially reacted to reports about rising immigration by saying it was all made up by the Murdoch press and the Daily Mail.

The most common responses of the deniers have been to:

 

  1. Point out that London had fewer murders than New York in 2017, and in January 2018: I do know this, and indeed pointed it out myself in the article, but I’m not clear why it disproves a statement about murders in February and March 2018. There was a gap, but it has closed to nothing in those two months – for the first time ever. One of the core purposes of journalism is to spot precisely such tipping-points.

 

  1. Claim the real reason London has overtaken New York is that the American city’s murder rate has “fallen dramatically.” That is certainly part of the reason: but the dramatic falls happened in the early 1990s, around 25 years ago. New York homicide continues to fall, but much more gradually. Just as important, and far more recent, is the dramatic three-year trend rise in murders (38% between 2014-17, even excluding terrorism) in London.

 

  1. Say that two months is too short a period to draw any conclusions from. Our reporting didn’t draw any conclusions – it merely reported the facts. That said, the three-year trend of rising murders does appear to be accelerating, with an average of 12.7 a month over the last six months (Oct 2017 – Mar 2018) compared with 9.2 a month between Oct 2016 and March 2017.

 

  1. Say that it’s just a “spike.” A spike is something that goes up and then comes down again. For the moment at least, this isn’t coming down.

 

  1. Misrepresent what we reported. A common tactic when you can’t deny what’s actually been said: deny something else instead. Among the things we have been accused of claiming: that “London was now more dangerous than New York” (we didn’t – clearly danger lies in more than murder); that London murders in 2018 as a whole were higher than NY (we said the reverse); that we linked the rise in murders to the fall in stop-and-search (no again.)

 

  1. Say it’s all an attack on Sadiq Khan. The New Statesman says claims of murders topping New York are a “myth…being used to mislead people about Sadiq Khan’s mayoralty.” Sadiq has in fact barely been mentioned in most of the coverage – our leader article, for instance, focused entirely on the failings of the government – but perhaps he should have been. He is the mayor, after all, and a rather underachieving one, in cycling, in housing, and in transport as well as in crime. Why should he be exempt from criticism?

 

  1. Say London’s “the safest global city in the world and one of the safest cities in the world,” the official soundbite response to this story. This just sounds silly because even the people parroting it must know it’s not true. London is less safe than Hong Kong, Singapore or Tokyo (to name three other global cities), less safe than most other cities in Britain and less safe than many other cities on mainland Europe.

 

In conclusion, the facts aren’t pretty and they certainly threaten some people’s idea of London. But the problem clearly is both real and growing – and liberals really shouldn’t try to wish it away. To do so is to fail other Londoners in much less safe neighbourhoods than theirs.

Advertisements

Cycle Superhighway 11 is dead

Cycle Superhighway 11, and with it Sadiq Khan’s entire walking and cycling policy, is effectively dead today.

The key element of the plans by the last mayor – approved by 60% in public consultation – has been dropped.

This was to close four of the eight gates to Regent’s Park for 20 hours a day, seven days a week (13 hours more on top of their existing midnight-7am closure) to prevent the Outer Circle being used as a rat-run for speeding cars. See this map.

Screen Shot 2018-01-17 at 14.05.23.png

You would still have been able to drive into or out of the park at any time, and its residents would have had special access. But it would have been impossible for any non park resident to drive through it in the north-south/ south-north direction, by far the main rat-run axis. Regent’s Park would have gone back to what Nash meant it to be, a place of recreation and tranquility.

It would have benefited the millions of non-cyclists who visit the park every year. It would also have provided a highly attractive low-traffic cycle route from Swiss Cottage to the West End, taking thousands of vehicle movements out of the whole area as more people switched to cycling. The closure of the gates, and the removal of rat-running in the park, is the only thing which makes CS11 a meaningful route.  But a nimby minority is vocally opposed to losing their rat-run.

Sadiq’s new plan, I have learned, is to close only two of the four gates we proposed – North Gate, 1 on the map, leading from Avenue Road, and Park Square West, 5 on the map – and for only five and a half hours more each day instead of 13 hours more. The hours of closure would be 7 to 9.30 and 4 to 7 on Mondays to Fridays only; there would no longer be any closures of any gate at the weekends.

Two of the three gates in the south of the park proposed for closure under our plan – York Gate and Park Square East, 4 and 6 on the map – will now remain open at all times (except midnight-7am) under the new Sadiq plan. There is also a new proposal to make Hanover Gate in the north-west corner (8 on the map) entry-only during the rush hours.

What this means is that the vast majority of drivers who use the park as a north-south rat-run now will still be able to do so. For much of the day (and all weekend), including the congested school-run time, they will be able to drive exactly as they do now.

In the rush hours, drivers will still be able to rat-run between Hanover Gate/ Gloucester Gate and Park Square East (in the north-south direction) or between Park Square East and Clarence Gate/ Gloucester Gate (in the south-north direction.) During the rush hour the proposals will, in fact, create significantly more traffic than now on some roads in the park, and on some roads outside it too (including, with a certain justice, several of those inhabited by the shrillest nimbies).

Southbound rush-hour drivers wanting to rat-run through Hanover Gate will have to turn left there under the proposals, and go the slightly longer way round via the zoo. Traffic which currently uses North Gate will divert through residential streets to reach Hanover Gate or Gloucester Gate instead. The eastern side of the Outer Circle, and Park Square East, will become much busier.

Throughout his time in office Sadiq Khan has constantly promised to “transform London’s streets for walking and cycling,” to have an “unprecedented focus on walking and cycling,” to make London a “byword for cycling,” and so on.

The easiest place imaginable to keep these promises is surely a park. But no. And if Khan cannot even manage it here – in a scheme with the support of 60% of the public, one of the two local councils, the Crown Estate Paving Commission (one of those which controls the roads in the park), and the Royal Parks themselves – it is very difficult to see him managing it anywhere. This act of defining weakness effectively ends any serious cycling and walking programme in this mayoralty.

City Hall, aware how bad this will be for its credibility, has been trying to find other people to blame – firstly the Crown Estate Paving Commission, which is false and unfair. The CEPC strongly backed the original plan and continues to do so. It is opposed to this new dog’s breakfast, but only, it has told me, because it’s not good enough. Max Jack, its director, says: “We don’t want an unsatisfactory compromise that won’t promote road safety and won’t work for anyone.”

Then there’s Westminster Council, which was in my time the most lukewarm main stakeholder on the scheme and is now apparently against any gate closures at all. Westminster has a terrible record of hostility to cycling and it definitely deserves blame here. Its role has been entirely negative.

But do you know what? When I was at City Hall, we got Westminster to agree to several things, like the East-West superhighway, which they didn’t really want. If the Mayor does really want something, and is prepared to press for it, you can overcome stakeholder opposition. Instead, by delaying any decision for almost two years, Sadiq emboldened the antis and told them he wasn’t interested in the scheme.

Let no-one imagine, by the way, that this abject capitulation will satisfy anybody. The pro-cycling groups are and will be against it. But nor will the antis be satisfied, because the scheme still includes some gate closures and a remodelling of the gyratory at Swiss Cottage, which they hate.

With exquisite political skill, Sadiq and his A-team have now succeeded in changing a scheme which would have done real good, and had 60% support, into to a scheme which will do little or no good, and which has no support at all (including, crucially, from one of the controllers of the roads.) For that reason, what will almost certainly happen is nothing, not even the brief gate closures proposed. CS11 is dead.

“Byword for cycling?” Bye is indeed the word.

Police: Uber deliberately refusing to report sex attacks by drivers

Here’s how today’s story in the Sunday Times starts:

Uber has been accused by police of failing to report sex attacks and other “serious crimes” committed by its drivers, and of obstructing officers trying to investigate them.

The company, which operates in more than 20 British cities and 633 worldwide, faces a licence review in London, its biggest European market.

In a letter obtained by The Sunday Times, Inspector Neil Billany, head of the Metropolitan police’s taxi and private hire unit, said he had “significant concern” that Uber seemed to be “deciding what [crimes] to report”, telling police only about “less serious matters” that would be “less damaging to [its] reputation”.

Read the letter here.

12042017 NB to Helen Chapman_Redacted-2

Haras Ahmed and Prevent Watch: the facts

I wrote in the Sunday Telegraph in January last year about something called Prevent Watch, an organisation of Islamist activists linked to the terror-sympathising group Cage (famously supportive of “Jihadi John”) who promote inflammatory stories about the Government’s anti-terrorism policy, Prevent. I discovered that not only were many of the stories false or exaggerated, but that several of the people presented as ordinary victims in them were in fact activists in Prevent Watch.

Among these activists was a lady called Ifhat Smith, also known as Ifhat Shaheen or Ifhat Shaheen-Smith, who won copious newsprint and airtime with a claim that her schoolboy son had been “interrogated” and “treated as a criminal” because he had used the phrase “eco-terrorism” in class. It was, she told the BBC, the act of a “police state.”

I discovered, and reported, that when Mrs Smith took the school (and the Government) to court over the matter, her claim had been dismissed in scathing terms as “bound to fail” and “totally without merit” and she had even been ordered to pay £1000 for wasting the court’s time. I also found that Mrs Smith managed the London office of the Tunisian Islamist party linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, Ennadha.

Prevent Watch took us to Ipso about the story – and lost. Ipso ruled that it was not inaccurate for its and Mrs Smith’s claims to be described as false or exaggerated, or for Prevent Watch’s work to be criticised by somebody quoted in the story as a “campaign of lies.”

Ipso also stated that Prevent Watch had “published comments on their website in defence of a person convicted under the Terrorism Act 2000, [and] it was not significantly misleading to characterise Prevent Watch as having ‘sympathised’ with terrorists.”

Mrs Smith then decided to threaten to sue: much wiser from her point of view. Because last year, as part of its long retreat from journalism, the Telegraph got rid of its former, rather robust lawyers (who successfully fought the Ipso case) and appears now to have taken a policy decision to settle legal threats. The paper did duly capitulate, despite the verdict of a court of law and of Ipso that Mrs Smith’s claim was false.

Now, after the good Mrs Smith, another Prevent Watch activist, Haras Ahmed, has quite understandably decided that he wants a piece of the action. Last week he too trousered a settlement from the paper over the same story.

Here’s the background to his achievement. On 30 November 2015, the BBC reported that a school in Waltham Forest, Greenleaf Primary, had “mistakenly revealed” the names of children deemed at risk of radicalisation “in response to a Freedom of Information request by a parent… Haras Ahmed submitted the FoI request referring to one class at the school, asking if certain children had been targeted.” An indignant Mr Ahmed, presented as an ordinary parent, was duly interviewed outside the school. Prevent Watch used the case to press its narrative of Muslims being picked on.

Alas, a few details were missing from this concerning tale.

(1) Mr Ahmed does not appear to have been a parent at Greenleaf School. At the time he made the FOI request, one of several he made in June and July 2015, he was a parent governor at a different Waltham Forest primary school, Thorpe Hall, which his lawyers, Carter Ruck, described as “the local primary school attended by his children.”

(2) Carter Ruck claimed in its complaint that at the time he made his FOI request Mr Ahmed was not an activist in Prevent Watch, saying he had “never even heard” of the group and had only become involved with it “several months after he had made the FOI requests.” His LinkedIn page says that he was involved with Prevent Watch from January 2015, five months before he made the requests.

(3) Prevent Watch itself accepted to Ipso that Mr Ahmed was “already affiliated” with it “at the time [he] had approached the media” with the Greenleaf story. He has represented Prevent Watch on numerous occasions since.

(4) Mr Ahmed involved a second Islamist front group, Claystone, in the story. (They too campaign against counter-terrorism policy on the basis of exaggerations and lies  and they too lost an Ipso complaint against me when I said as much.) Mr Ahmed passed Claystone the emails and they issued a press release on 22 September 2015. This didn’t state that the school had revealed the children’s names – just that seven pupils “had been identified” as vulnerable to radicalisation – and the story got very little coverage. So perhaps something else was needed for a fresh media push in November.

(5) According to Waltham Forest council, which runs Greenleaf Primary, the children’s names weren’t mistakenly revealed at all. The council said the names had been redacted from the document sent under the FOI request, which had then been “manipulated by a third party to reveal the blocked-out names.”  Who was the third party? We don’t know.

(6) The council also stated that the counter-radicalisation programme at Greenleaf was “not targeted at children of any one faith” and that the seven pupils referred under it were “of different religions.”

Now Mr Ahmed has managed to extract from the Telegraph £20,000 and a statement saying: “The article suggested Mr Ahmed had, in an interview with the BBC, presented himself as an ordinary parent when in fact he was engaged in a campaign to undermine the government’s anti-terrorism policy.

“We accept that Mr Ahmed’s BBC interview was given in good faith. We also accept that, whilst he is critical of the Prevent strategy (elements of which he believes are highly discriminatory), he does not support Islamist extremists and is in no way himself an extremist.”

If the Telegraph wants to advertise itself as a cashpoint for libel lawyers, that, I suppose, is its prerogative and its problem. It could end up costing the paper a lot more than fighting. But the decision to settle with Haras Ahmed has wider consequences: it raises the bar for anyone else who wants to expose the truth about the likes of Prevent Watch and strengthens the hands of those who want to hamper this country’s fight against terror.

Jeremy Corbyn helped IRA chief get a taxpayer subsidy: see the documents

As we report in today’s Sunday Times, Jeremy Corbyn was instrumental in getting thousands of pounds of public money paid to the chief London representative of the IRA.

Files in the London Metropolitan Archives show that Corbyn lobbied the Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1980s to fund a new group called the Irish in Islington Project.

In a letter dated August 26, 1983, Corbyn said: “The work of the Irish in Islington Project is both necessary and desirable, and I urge that their application for two project workers should be met.”

IMG_0125.JPG

It can be revealed that the two workers concerned were Gerry MacLochlainn, Sinn Fein’s principal representative in Britain, and Michael Maguire, another key republican in London. For a long time they were also the project’s only two staff.

Corbyn knew MacLochlainn (also spelt McLaughlin) was a convicted IRA terrorist who had recently been released after serving part of a six-year sentence for possession of bombmaking equipment and conspiracy to cause explosions.

He hosted MacLochlainn at the Commons the following year, 1984 – a few weeks after the Brighton bombing – triggering the first IRA-related row of his political career.

Here’s Corbyn acting as a referee in the same year, 1984, for one of the Irish in Islington Project’s later grant applications.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 05.06.34.png

The files show Corbyn’s support was important in getting the grants approved. With his help the project got a total of at least £77,000 in various grants from the GLC and Islington council, the first in 1984. Most of this, the files show, was paid as salaries to MacLochlainn and Maguire. Here are a couple of documents showing MacLochlainn’s role, including one authorising him to pick up the GLC grant cheques.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 05.04.07.png

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 05.12.04.png

There’s not much in the files showing what MacLochlainn and Maguire actually did for their money – though they did hold several events with republican groups in London. The suspicion must be that the grant was paid by the GLC (whose leader, Ken Livingstone, was like Corbyn an IRA sympathiser) at least partly to provide the IRA man with a means of support.

That suspicion is strengthened by the fact that the public cash continued to flow even after the project was raided by the police and Maguire was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act! Here’s a letter in which he explains to a GLC bureaucrat that he can’t send in the requested budget because the project’s paperwork was “severely disrupted” by the Special Branch at the time of his arrest.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 05.17.46.png

What a great story this would have been for the GLC-hating tabloids at the time. It’s still a pretty good one now.

 

 

Diane Abbott backed victory for the IRA: see the document

As part our ongoing investigation into the Labour leadership’s links with the IRA, The Sunday Times found that Diane Abbott explicitly backed victory for the IRA in an interview with a pro-republican journal.

Abbott, who will become home secretary if Labour wins the election, said in the 1984 interview that Ireland “is our struggle — every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us. A defeat in Northern Ireland would be a defeat indeed.” She said she did not regard herself as British.

She endorsed violence, saying: “I am not saying that women are innately peaceful and non-violent and that we don’t fight back. Of course we do and should.”

She criticised Northern Ireland as an “enclave of white supremacist ideologies.” Asked about Labour’s official policy of seeking Unionist consent, she replied: “Oh God! There are so many analogies if only [Clive] Soley [Labour frontbench spokesman on Ireland at the time] would look at Britain’s colonial past… Should we have waited to win the consent of the white racists in Zimbabwe?”

The interview was published in Labour and Ireland, the journal of the Labour Committee on Ireland (LCI), a small pro-republican support group in the party that operated at the height of the IRA’s armed struggle in the 1980s and early 1990s. Abbott and Corbyn spoke at several LCI meetings.

LCI organised many events with Sinn Fein, including a controversial fringe meeting with party leader Gerry Adams and Corbyn at the 1989 Labour conference in Brighton, near the Grand Hotel, which was bombed by the IRA in 1984, killing five people.

Full story in today’s Sunday Times, but below is the original copy of the interview, which we located in an Irish archive.

diane abbott piece 1diane abbott piece 2.jpg

 

Sadiq Khan cycling performance tracker April 2017

This is the first of a monthly series of posts in which I will track the progress – or not – of London cycling schemes under Sadiq Khan.

Sadiq inherited from us eight major schemes at an advanced stage of implementation, plus one addition to a scheme already open (CS1). All had been designed and traffic-modelled. All had received the support of substantial majorities in formal public consultations. All should have started building – and in some cases finished – last year.

At the date of this post, their status is as follows:

Complete: 0

Under construction: 1

Not under construction: 8

Delays are continuing to increase. In the last month, two already-delayed schemes (Westminster Bridge and the north-south extension) have been delayed further.

A detailed listing is below, ordered by how long it has been since the consultation closed.

Old Street roundabout

Consultation closed: January 2015 (27 months ago).

Public support: 87 per cent said it would improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists; 63 per cent that it would improve conditions for bus and tube users.

Status: Delayed. Construction has not started.

Cycle Superhighway 1 (City- Tottenham) – Ball’s Pond Road segregated track

Consultation closed: March 2015 (25 months ago).

Public support: 65 per cent (for option B on the Ball’s Pond Road section).

Status: Delayed, possibly cancelled. The segregated track was not opened with the rest of the route in April 2016. In May the then Mayor issued a mayoral direction ordering TfL to begin work on it by October 2016. However, nothing has happened.

East-West Superhighway between Westminster and Hyde Park     

Consultation closed: October 2015 (18 months ago).

Public support: 80 per cent.

Status: Delayed but now under construction. Construction of main section, due to start June 2016, began in Feb 2017.

Westminster Bridge roundabout and segregated tracks across bridge

Consultation closed: December 2015 (16 months ago).

Public support: 74 per cent.

Status: Delayed. Construction (due in 2nd half of 2016) has not started. Start further delayed following Westminster terror attack. No new start date given.

North-South Superhighway extension Farringdon St- Kings Cross

Consultation closed: March 2016 (13 months ago).

Public support: 70 per cent.

Status: Delayed. Originally due to start in Oct 2016. Last September, TfL announced scheme approved with start in “spring 2017.” However, it was announced last week that it now “aims” to start constructing “some sections” by “autumn 2017.”

East-West Superhighway extension Paddington- Acton via A40

Consultation closed: March 2016 (13 months ago).

Public support: 71 per cent.

Status: Cancelled.

Cycle Superhighway 11 (Swiss Cottage- Portland Place)

Consultation closed: March 2016 (13 months ago).

Public support: 60 per cent.

Status: No decision. Swiss Cottage gyratory element approved.

Highbury Corner junction scheme

Consultation closed: March 2016 (13 months ago).

Public support: 71 per cent said it would improve conditions for pedestrians and 67 per cent that it would improve conditions for cyclists.

Status: No decision. TfL denied an August 2016 Evening Standard report that the plans had been put “on hold.” However, it appears to be true: a report on next steps promised for autumn 2016  has not yet appeared.

Hammersmith Broadway junction scheme

Consultation closed: March 2016, repeated August 2016 (13/ 8 months ago)

Public support: 79% in first consultation, 73% in second

Status: No decision. TfL website claims that the scheme has been approved and is “set to start” in summer 2017.

However, detailed design of scheme has been handed over to Hammersmith & Fulham Council, who say they have not yet made a decision to to proceed. If approved, construction “could begin in October 2017.”