Mourners of Kodjo Yenga, 16, walk through Notting Hill in 2007. Photo: Getty.
Show Hide image

169 London teenagers killed in a decade: can prosperity prevent murder?

The link isn't exhaustive, but more deaths have occurred in more deprived areas. 

“A teenager has been stabbed to death in east London,” the BBC reported yesterday. The murder was the 169th of a London teenager in the past decade.

It’s easy to glide over such simple statistics. But Citizens Report, a site which has spent years tracking the data, has a picture and name of almost every one. As with prisoners, the vast majority were male – 88 per cent. But 20 – or two a year – were women. A fifth of all those murdered were under 16.

A dozen were beaten to death. 32 were shot. Most – 125 – were stabbed. But where were they killed? And does the poverty of an area make murder more likely?

At first glance, the murders are clustered around east-central…

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 16.40.35

…and south-central London.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 16.44.56

And the most deadly boroughs are in those areas: Hackney and Newham north of the river and Southwark and Lambeth to the south. At least ten teenagers have died in two other boroughs: Enfield far to the north, and Croydon well to the south. Those may sound vaguely familiar as areas at the lower end of the housing market, but are they London’s most deprived? Here are the murders plotted on a detailed ward-by-ward map of London, colour-coded by deprivation.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 17.30.47

Is there a relationship between deprivation and deaths? There appears to be some link: just over a third of the variation in death rates is explained by deprivation.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 13.32.17h

Now causation doesn’t mean causality. Any sententious statistician will tell you as much. In this case, they would mean that deprivation isn't necessarily the cause of murders – a different, unidentified cause could be.

No teenagers have been murdered in six London boroughs, and five of those are among the city’s ten least deprived.

And as this site entertainingly shows, many completely unrelated things can be shown to correlate (for a decade deaths by asphyxiation have risen in line with US spending on science & tech). But no teenagers have been murdered in six London boroughs, and five of those are among the city’s ten least deprived. No more than four teenagers have been killed in any of those ten.

In contrast, the two most deprived boroughs – Newham and Hackney – are two of the four most deadly, and at least five people have been murdered in each of the ten most deprived.

There is a link, but it is only a starting point for any analysis. The team at Citizens Report went on to test the relationship between ward-level deprivation and deaths, and were surprised at how little of one existed. But they are using the location of deaths as the only barometer of where a murder “took place”.

There is a link between deprivation and these deaths, but it is only a starting point for any analysis.

The wards are so small – rarely encompassing more than a few streets – that murders in one ward could plausibly have really been the end of a conflict that began in another.

A borough-level analysis irons these differences out. This conclusion is not exhaustive but it is inescapable: the best way to prevent another decade of death is to improve the boroughs these children grew up in.

Explore the dormant Citizens Report for wit and iconoclasm. (“Many say a robust anti-gang approach through policing is essential - you have to fight fire with fire. Most people who deal with fires say the best thing to put out a fire is water.”)

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

Photo:Getty
Show Hide image

Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

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