IT’S A SHOCKING FACT that every twelve minutes in every hour throughout the year someone is a victim of a crime in which a bladed or sharp object is used.
There is a pandemic of deadly violence plaguing our communities in Britain. Young people are involved in everspiralling murderous acts against each other, often using knives. They are leaving behind a trail of slaughtered bodies and devastated families. At the same time, out of touch, privileged Westminster politicians are consumed by the toxic issue of Brexit and fail to tackle the youthon- youth violence emergency.
Figures for this year alone of the number of our young people who have been seriously injured or who have lost their lives to knife and gun crime are extremely grim. It’s heart-breaking that since the start of 2019 there have been more than 27 knife crime deaths in London alone. This time last year there were 1,299 stabbings in the capital, many involving teenagers, particularly young black working class men.
Southwark, where I live, is the London borough with the second highest number of knife crimes, with 805 incidents happening in 2018 - some of them murders, according to the Mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime. That is why, in my role as Camberwell and Peckham CLP’s African Caribbean, Asian and People of Colour BAME officer, I have taken the lead in raising the urgent issue.
It’s personal to me. My godson, the teenage son of my closest political comrade, was stabbed in Peckham over a post code feud. Fortunately, he survived. Many others have needlessly been killed.
In November last year I organised a youth-on-youth violence community event that had youth, parents of victims, Labour Party activists, a senior Department of Justice representative and the police, including Southwark’s borough commander, attending. I have made a short awareness-raising and solution-based educational film about the successful event.
For Labour’s London regional conference, I helped draft and promoted a motion on knife crime which my CLP sent to the conference where it was passed with a supportive amendment from ASLEF. I am currently in the process of planning for a follow up community event with the backing of the Corbyn supporting Grassroots Black Left, of which I am co-chair.
It is an outrageous political crime that Britain’s Conservative government has an ideologically-driven austerity policy that’s resulted in cuts to police numbers, the closure of youth clubs, axing of youth workers and a failure to tackle the disproportionate number of black young males excluded from schools. The Tories are part of the problem rather than any solution. They have systematically engaged in a class warfare that has decimated communities and destroyed lives and this must be reversed by a socialist Labour government.
That’s why I have been working with comrades in Grassroots Black Left, John McDonnell’s Labour Representation Committee and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, to ensure that we bring to power as soon as possible a Corbyn-led administration.
I fully support and share Corbyn’s vision for a British society offered to voters in his popular, progressive manifesto where no one is ignored or forgotten. I back Labour’s commitment to address this country’s housing crisis by building one million new homes in its first term of government, half of them council properties, to provide more job security at work, a better funded and wholly public NHS, more spending on education and a firm commitment to tackling urgent environmental issues and action to combat the inequality and income disparities that have fuelled food poverty, fuel poverty and even period poverty. I volunteer at a food bank, so know the level of the crisis first hand.
Top officers like Southwark borough commander Simon Messinger accept police can’t ‘stop and search’ themselves out of the youth violence crisis. London mayor Sadiq Khan says they can, echoing the Tory’s right wing agenda. Khan has an armoury of well–rehearsed, hollow sound bites for the media but no effective strategy for making the streets of the capital safer for everyone. The issues underlying the dysfunctional behaviour of some of our young people are complex and require a multi-agency approach involving the police, community, local and national government as part of a targeted public health policy.
The Labour leadership could make an important start to delivering an effective and sustainable solution to the blight of youth violence by convening an emergency summit of all those in the frontline, including the Labour councils and police and crime commissioners in the thick of it, young people, parents and community leaders. Only through such an inclusive, joined-up strategy will we be able to overcome the murderous problem.
Camberwell and Peckham CLP and Grassroots Black Left (personal capacity)