The sudden interest displayed by the right-leaning press in the welfare of the BAME communities in London has largely gone unquestioned, despite knife (and, to a lesser extent, gun) crime being a problem which affects all the big cities. Why the exclusive focus on London, and, indeed, given that those kinds of crimes are hardly new on the scene, why now? Ah well. Here we see the press mindset at its crudest and nastiest.
There are a number of factors driving the attack, none of which have anything to do with the press wanting to see instances of knife and gun crime come down (unless it affects them). Those factors have to do with political expediency, and underlying bigotry. So let’s take them one at a time, starting with the reason the campaign is at its height right now.
One, there is a round of local elections next month, in which the Tories are expected to do very badly indeed, and especially in London. The potential for The Blue Team to do badly could extend to losing Wandsworth to Labour, and even see the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea suffer serious Tory losses. Knife crime is an opportunity to indulge in a little Labour blaming - trying to pin the problem on London’s Mayor.
, the Tories are mainly responsible for cuts to Police budgets, having been in power either in coalition, or alone, for almost eight years now. As Danny Shaw from the BBC has found, “between March 2010 & Sep 2017: Met lost 2,496 police officers, 3,261 PCSOs & 6,174 police staff. That's 11,931 in total, 23% reduction. Since 2014, when murders fell to below 100, total workforce down 4,287 (Home Office figures)”.
Three, there is also a campaign, looking towards the next General Election, which could come rather sooner than 2022, of trying to delegitimise the Labour leadership. Hence the attempt to focus on London and pin the upsurge in crime on the Labour Mayoralty. This part of the attack entails convincing voters that Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn are more or less interchangeable - they’re just Rotten Lefties (tm).
The delegitimisation, as Paul Mason has noted, is already at work: “Corbyn was supposed to be a Czech spy; next a Russian stooge, ‘betraying our country,’ as the defence secretary Gavin Williamson alleged; then he was smeared as an anti-Semite, his support group Momentum described as ‘neofascist’ by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid”.
And Four, the attack on Labour in London is easier for the right-wing press because of their inherent bigotry. Sadiq Khan is a Scary Muslim (tm), he is part of “the other”, and it is therefore legitimate in the press’ eyes to insult and otherwise smear him. Hence the deeply unsavoury Rod Liddle calling Khan a “vacuous dwarf” yesterday. Sayeeda Warsi was right: Islamophobia is still “acceptable” at metropolitan dinner parties.
The reason the press establishment bangs on about the “metropolitan élite” is that they are it. They find Muslim bashing to be acceptable. Hence their ease at using Sadiq Khan as their scapegoat: he’s Labour, he’s in power, he’s too popular for the press’ liking, and he’s a Muslim. Thus the likes of Amber Rudd and Theresa May, who really are responsible for Police budget cuts, are cowering behind him, aided and abetted by their press pals.
Our free and fearless press don’t really give a damn about the BAME community. But they do care about indulging in low and dirty politics. No change there, then.