Ken Livingstone stages media event to protest against his own policy

Tomorrow, with the press and TV invited, Ken Livingstone will present a petition against “Tory police cuts” at City Hall. The petition has been on his website for the last six weeks with, ooh, 313 whole signatures at the time of writing. “We call on the Tory led Metropolitan Police Authority and the Tory Mayor Boris Johnson to reverse the decision to cut 455 police officers,” it storms.

There’s just one teensy-weensy problem, which has caused vast amusement in Team Boris. These aren’t “Tory police cuts” at all. They are part of Project Herald, which was proposed in 2004, under (cough) Ken Livingstone, and whose first stage was agreed in February 2008, three months before Ken lost office. Here are the minutes of the relevant Metropolitan Police Authority committee meeting (see item 96).

The specific decision to cut 455 police officers, though approved a month after the election, was made not by a “Tory led MPA” but by a committee chaired by none other than… Labour’s Len Duvall, who remained chair of the MPA at that point! Here are the minutes of that meeting – see item 9. And here is the agenda item which explains it.

The intention of Project Herald is to reduce police officer involvement in the custody process – so it certainly will result in fewer police officers inside police stations, booking prisoners, and fewer officers in the force overall. But the MPA claims it will result in more officers on the streets.

A spokesman for the MPA said last night: “The decision to streamline the staffing of custody suites throughout the Metropolitan Police, releasing 550 police officers from administrative duties and replacing them with dedicated detention officers was discussed several times by members during 2008 and the final decision to go ahead was confirmed by the Co-ordination and Planning Committee, chaired by Len Duvall, then Chair of the Authority.

“The net effect of the custody reforms is the availability of an extra 550 police officers for front line duties. The linked reduction of 455 in overall policing numbers must be measured against the increased hours of duty on the streets of London.”

We’ve already had a campaign by Ken Livingstone against public transport fare rises – even though he raised, for instance, the single Oyster bus fare by 25% in 2007 alone.

We’ve had a campaign by Ken against evil bankers – even though, when mayor, he was actually to the right of New Labour in arguing against tighter City regulation and saying that non-doms should not have to pay even a token amount of tax “or the City will suffer.” Now we have this.

Question: is Ken shameless – or just clueless?

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