Helen and I were up early this morning and off down to the Civic Centre in Hounslow for the second (and last, before purdah) MOPC event starring everyone’s favourite dog fancier Kit Malthouse. Now, we know from Lee Jasper’s slightly biased report of the first event that the near-total lack of prior publicity meant that the attendance would be fairly pititul. We counted one paragraph in the local paper the day before and some leaflets apparently distributed but which neither Helen nor I had seen, plus some website coverage by Hounslow Council which didn’t originally mention the 9:30am start. They claimed to have mailed out to their 14,000 name GLA list, but as it transpires the kind of people who get involved in local community organisations dealing with criminal and police work are of a generation that isn’t necessarily wired into Twitter and smartphones. This was brought up more than once, in fact.
Having said that, the brutal truth was that I counted 34 people in the room, two of whom were policemen in uniform. Seven of the rest of us turned out to be from MOPC and there to carry pens and things around and chat, and very nice they were too, if a bit wary of being drawn on politics in case we were journalists (we were 100% honest about being bloggers, I’d point out). That said, the quality of knowledge and interest in the subject amongst the speakers was extremely good and genuinely an example of Big Society thinking, not least because many of them were concerned about the effect of Coalition cuts and reorganisations on their area. These people know what’s going on. As for balance, there was a male dominance and and generally 50+ in age but (unsurprisingly being in Hounslow) the ethnic mix was pretty representative of London.
There were three speakers – Kit Malthouse himself, Commander Christine Jones, who seems to be being pushed as a new broom at the Met post-hackgate (not least by Malthouse) and a gentleman from Victim Support whose name escaped me.
Kit’s speech was heavy on the failings of the MPA and light on sudden rush to set up MOPC in the run up to the election. He stressed the new ‘gangs command’ stunt that came in almost as soon as MOPC was set up and was perhaps slightly nonplussed at the lack of reaction. He also mentioned the £90m recently and rather suspiciously bunged by George Osborne to reverse many of Boris’s police cuts without tackling the issue of why there was a drop in police numbers to reverse and who might have been in charge, probably because it was one K. Malthouse. He also rather bizarrely blamed the MPA for not telling him about the August riots quickly enough, which considering he’d been the Deputy Mayor for Policing for over three years by then is a bit rich. Famously, you’ll recall, Boris held off returning from Canada until London was well alight because Kit was on the case and he didn’t need to bother.
Commander Jones started off by reeling off lists of stats, often without context, and by producing what seemed suspiciously like a pre-agreed party line on gangs and the general falling crime rate. She is authoritative and formidable, however, and put some clear blue water between herself and Kit later in the event, reinforcing a suspicion that the senior Met are feeling their way with MOPC.
The first question was, actually, mine, but another gent claimed it, and was on statistics, their trustworthiness and misuse. Boris, of course, is not to be trusted with any fact or statistic and I wanted to bring up the letter from Sir Michael Scholar in which he accused the Mayor of refusing to accept the UK Statistical Authority guidelines. I didn’t, in the end, because it turned out that the whole room seemed to share the same concern about statistics being chucked about and cherry picked and I couldn’t get a word in after suggesting that the public hear police and politicians reeling off context-free stats and immediately assume they’re bullshitting. Kit and Christine agreed that yes, this was terrible, then Kit came out with a context-free statistic about the decline in gun-crime. It’ll take a long time to train politicians to drop the habit, I fear, and with Boris now entrenched as the statutorily responsible person for London’s crime statistics, I wouldn’t give them much of a chance.
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