Boris 2012 claims police numbers are up. But are they?

According to Labour campaigners, the Mayor's re-election website has inflated the number of Met offi

Boris Johnson has made a point of opposing police cuts, publicly urging David Cameron to scrap the cuts in the aftermath of the riots last summer.

Indeed, policing is set to be an area on which he will fight this year's mayoral election. A press release from his team just this week says that Johnson has "overseen a massive increase in police on London's streets since becoming Mayor".

But is it actually the case that Johnson has presided over a big boost to the Met? Labour Matters thinks otherwise. According to their analysis, Johnson's re-election website, BackBoris2012.com is over-claiming the number of police currently operating in London. Johnson's website says that there are 722 more officers than official Metropolitan Police figures show.

According to Labour Matters, BackBoris2012 over-claims for 28 of the 32 London boroughs. The biggest discrepancies are in Westminster (the site claims there are 110 more police officers than there actually are), Southwark (inflated by 80) and Lambeth (51).

In nine boroughs -- including Brent, Camden, Croydon and Tower Hamlets -- where official figures show that the number of police officers fell between 2008 and 2011, the relection website claims that numbers rose.

For long-time critics of the Mayor, this is unsurprising. London blogger Adam Bienkov tells me:

Boris was elected on a ticket of cutting knife crime and getting to grips with the Metropolitan Police. His record on both has been pretty shaky so it's not surprising if his campaign are now trying to bend the figures in his favour.

I spoke to BackBoris2012 this afternoon. A spokesman for the re-election campaign questioned the source of Labour Matters' figures, and said:

The figures [on the re-election website], showing a rise in police officers under Mayor Boris Johnson helping lead to a fall in crime across London, are official Metropolitan Police figures for the latest available full financial year.

In line with standard practice, this year to year comparison provides the most reliable figures for an organisation the size of the Met Police whose staffing levels fluctuate on a daily basis.

But whatever the comparison -- be it a logical year to year comparison or a randomly, cherry-picked comparison -- there is no disputing the fact that police numbers across London have increased under Mayor Boris Johnson and that crime is down by 10 per cent.

As standard practice we will be updating these figures at the end of this financial year, which is March 2012.

There is that assertion again: police numbers have increased under Johnson. But this fact has been disputed. Indeed, it has been disputed using these very terms -- of daily fluctuating numbers. Following the Mayor's intervention on police cuts in August, Channel 4's FactCheck blog concluded:

The Mayor has always been very careful to couch his claims over police numbers in a very specific way, saying that by the time his term of office finishes next year officer numbers would be up on the total he inherited.

. . .

It's clear that Mr Johnson has presided over budgets that have cut Met Police office numbers, and his legacy after 2012 will be one of further cuts.

It appears that claims that Johnson has hugely boosted police numbers may be disingenous.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Labour's trajectory points to landslide defeat, but don't bet on a change at the top any time soon

The settled will among Jeremy Corbyn's critics that they need to keep quiet is unlikely to be disrupted by the result. 

Labour were able to tread water against Ukip in Stoke but sank beneath the waves in Copeland, where the Conservatives’ Trudy Harrison won the seat.

In Stoke, a two-point swing away from Labour to the Tories and to Ukip, which if replicated across the country at a general election would mean 15 Conservative gains and would give Theresa May a parliamentary majority of 40.

And in Copeland, a 6.7 per cent swing for Labour to Tory that would see the Conservatives pick up 52 seats from Labour if replicated across the country, giving them a majority of 114.
As the usual trend is for the opposition to decline from its midterm position at a general election, these are not results that indicate Labour will be back in power after the next election.. That holds for Stoke as much as for Copeland.

The last time a governing party won a by-election was 1982 – the overture to a landslide victory. It’s the biggest by-election increase in the vote share of a governing party since 1966 – the prelude to an election in which Harold Wilson increased his majority from 4 to 96.

To put the length of Labour’s dominance in Copeland into perspective: the new Conservative MP was born in 1976. The last Conservative to sit for Copeland, William Nunn, was born in 1879.

It’s a chastening set of results for Ukip, too. The question for them: if they can’t win when Labour is in such difficulties, when will they?

It’s worth noting, too, that whereas in the last parliament, Labour consistently underperformed its poll rating in local elections and by-elections, indicating that the polls were wrong, so far, the results have been in keeping with what the polls suggest. They are understating the Liberal Democrats a little, which is what you’d expect at this stage in the parliament. So anyone looking for comfort in the idea that the polls will be wrong again is going to look a long time. 

Instead, every election and every poll – including the two council elections last night – point in the same direction: the Conservatives have fixed their Ukip problem but acquired a Liberal Democrat one. Labour haven’t fixed their Ukip problem but they’ve acquired a Liberal Democrat one to match.

But that’s just the electoral reality. What about the struggle for political control inside the Labour party?

As I note in my column this week, the settled view of the bulk of Corbyn’s internal critics is that they need to keep quiet and carry on, to let Corbyn fail on its his own terms. That Labour won Stoke but lost Copeland means that consensus is likely to hold.

The group to watch are Labour MPs in what you might call “the 5000 club” – that is, MPs with majorities around the 5000 mark. An outbreak of panic in that group would mean that we were once again on course for a possible leadership bid.

But they will reassure themselves that this result suggests that their interests are better served by keeping quiet at Westminster and pointing at potholes in their constituencies.  After all, Corbyn doesn’t have a long history of opposition to the major employer in their seats.

The other thing to watch from last night: the well-advertised difficulties of the local hospital in West Cumberland were an inadequate defence for Labour in Copeland. Distrust with Labour in the nuclear industry may mean a bigger turnout than we expect from workers in the nuclear industries in the battle to lead Unite, with all the consequences that has for Labour’s future direction.

If you are marking a date in your diary for another eruption of public in-fighting, don’t forget the suggestion from John McDonnell and Diane Abbott that the polls will have turned by the end of the year – because you can be certain that Corbyn’s critics haven’t. But if you are betting on any party leader to lose his job anytime soon, put it on Nuttall, not Corbyn.

 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.