Sadiq Khan ‘hurls insults on Twitter while our children are dying’, claims Lib Dem challenger
Siobhan Benita says no child will be permanently excluded from school if she is elected
16 September, 2019 — By Richard Osley
Siobhan Benita (right) at the conference rally on Saturday evening with Caroline Pidgeon, the last Lib Dem mayoral candidate
SADIQ Khan has been wasting time with Twitter arguments rather than sorting out London’s devastating rise in knife crime, it was claimed by his Liberal Democrat challenger today (Monday).
Siobhan Benita was speaking on the main stage at her party’s conference in Bournemouth where she directly referenced the three killings in Camden over a space of just five days last week.
She is taking on Mr Khan at next year’s mayoral elections where ideas on how to cut the number of young people dying on the streets of this borough and elsewhere will be one of the key issues up for debate.
“Something has gone horribly wrong,” Ms Benita told the conference. “Just this week three people were fatally stabbed in Camden alone. Every stabbing is a national tragedy and horrific grief for family, friends and community.”
One of the murders last week had actually been a shooting, and two were stabbings. Camden also saw the knife deaths of teenagers or young men in April, July and August.
Ms Benita, who previously stood as an independent candidate to be mayor before joining the Liberal Democrats and making Camden the first stop on her campaign, said: “The current mayor and Tory candidate are wasting time on Twitter hurling insults at each other while our children lose their lives. Sadiq Khan has wasted an entire mayoral term achieving almost nothing on this issue.”
Having resisted requests to come to Camden after a double murder in 2017, Mr Khan was facing fresh calls to come to the borough after the tragic sequence of events last week. Sophie Linden, the deputy mayor of London, an unelected role filled by Mr Khan, did meet police and council leaders on Friday, in Town Hall offices away from the police cordons. The meeting had been planned before the recent deaths.
Ms Benita said in her speech that prevention needed to be the focus of City Hall’s response, as “enforcement by definition is always the result of failure”,” adding: “I will appoint a young mayor for London so young people’s voices are heard in City Hall every single day.”
She told Lib Dem members: “No child in my London will be permanently excluded from mainstream schools. I will push hard for a statutory youth service and I will establish London’s youth happy hour where schools, churches, sports clubs and companies will provide safe spaces and enjoyable activities, so not a single child is vulnerable to crime after school.”
Ms Benita also pledged to make sure “every school has a dedicated police officer”. There are around 3,000 schools in London.
She also said: “The long-standing liberal policy of drugs reform must begin in London,” insisting that she could “end the failing war on drugs and wage war on the criminal gangs and the drug lords.”
Labour’s party conference is in Brighton next week, while Shaun Bailey, the Conservative mayoral candidate, will be given stage time when the Tories meet in Manchester later in the month. The Greens are heading to Newport in Wales at the start of October.
The Labour mayor released a statement on Friday afternoon, as calls grew for him to visit Camden, promising to meet the community.
He said: “I am doing everything I can – from being tough on crime by funding the Met’s Violent Crime Taskforce who are targeting violent offenders, to tackling the causes of crime through London’s Violence Reduction Unit and its public health approach, and the £45 million Young Londoners Fund – both focused on stopping violence before it occurs.”
Mr Khan added: “But I’m doing all this with one arm tied behind my back, in the face of devastating government cuts. The Government must speed up its role in tackling violent crime – confirming how many more officers it will give London and reversing its deeply damaging cuts to youth and preventative services.”