Discover more from London in Bits
The Met's multiple misfires
Plus, the Tory mayoral team sheet starts to come together
We were going to start this issue with the sentence ‘Well, it’s been a hell of a week for the Met…’. But then we thought, when isn’t it a hell of a week for the Met?
Quite honestly, it sometimes feels like there isn’t much point to writing about some of these things, because something even more shocking and perverse will undoubtedly happen before we can properly digest it and publish it. But, at the same time, it feels important to keep up with what exactly is going on and to get the facts straight, no matter how many facts there are and what speed they're coming at us. So, depressing as it might be, here’s our best attempt at a summary of Met-related stories from the last week.
Friday 5 May: Met arrests volunteers for trying to help vulnerable women
In our April 20 issue we wrote about Lee ‘30p Lee’ Anderson (the Tory’s deputy chairman) and his insistence that the Met should be ‘sorting out’ peaceful protestors because of their ‘anti-social behaviour’. At that time, Met commissioner Mark Rowley told Anderson that his officers couldn’t go around arresting people just for protesting.
Cut to nine days after that conversation, and Met officers still weren’t arresting people for protesting… Instead, they were arresting nighttime safety volunteers for handing out rape alarms in Soho.
Here’s a link to the tweet the Met put out in response to Mic ‘Conquest of the Useless’ Wright’s reporting of those arrests on the night of Friday 5th. In it they say that officers had “received intelligence that indicated people were planning to use rape alarms to disrupt the Coronation procession - with concern from the military that this would scare their horses and cause significant risk to the safety of the public and their riders.”
Because of that ‘intelligence’, The Met arrested a 37-year-old woman, a 59-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man, who were wearing the “distinctive pink reflective vests” of the Westminster City Council’s Night Stars volunteers (vests which carry the Met’s logo), who were handing out rape alarms to at-risk women… in Soho… hours before the Coronation was due to start… as they have been doing for years now.
If this was a dastardly plot to scare military horses, these guys had been playing a hell of a long game.
Somehow, the three volunteers were held for 14 hours, before being released on bail “pending further enquiries”.
A few days later, Westminster council released an update confirming that the three would “not face any further action” and that the Leader of the Council, Adam Hug, had “written to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, setting out the reasons for our concerns about the handling of this matter. He has also requested an apology is made to the three volunteers.”
So far, no apology has arrived. Instead, a few days later, Mark Rowley wrote a public letter to the Mayor defending the force’s actions by claiming that a Met inspector had contacted a Westminster City Council police liaison worker “at the time of the stops and arrests to ask about the volunteers’ organisation”, but “the council officer could not confirm knowledge of the organisation”.
Now, we know Westminster Council has only recently come under Labour control, but to suggest they haven’t yet got round to realising that they have a night time support team called Night Stars is a bit of a stretch. Especially as it’s a pretty straightforward Google search.
Westminster council’s chief exec, Stuart Love (yes, the pair at the top of Westminster Council are called Love and Hug - this will never not be funny to us) responded to Rowleys’ claims by, basically, saying he was making the whole thing up:
“We simply do not recognise the version of events put forward by Commissioner Rowley, but dispute over the detail misses the point. These three volunteers were giving up their time to help keep the city's streets safe. They did nothing wrong, should not have been arrested and are owed an apology.”
As of Friday, one of the volunteers still hasn’t had his phone returned to him.
(N.B. As for 30p Lee Anderson, he “came down heavily on the side of the Met” tweeting that “If you do not wish to live in a country that has a monarchy the solution is not to turn up with your silly boards. The solution is to emigrate”.)
Saturday 6 May: Met arrests Republic protestors for no good reason
In that same letter to Sadiq, Mark Rowley also lays out the force’s reasons for arresting six members of the anti-monarchy group, Republic on the morning of the Coronation.
This time, the Met couldn’t claim that somebody else should have known Republic were planning a lawful protest at the event, because they themselves had been speaking to the group about it for months. Yet, on the day, half-a-dozen people were arrested for possession of the luggage straps they were using to tie their placards to things.
The Met claimed these could be used as ‘locking on devices’ - something which is prohibited by the box-fresh Public Order Act (passed into law just 72 hours before the arrests - something Rishi Sunak might do well to remember when he claims that “the police are operationally independent of government”).
The Met later issued another of its trademark non-apology apologies, expressing ‘regret’ at the arrests and (in the same breath) complaining that “It was not clear at the time that at least one of the group stopped had been engaging with police protest liaison team officers ahead of the event.”
In his letter to the mayor, Rowley says that this lack of clarity came about because the Protest Liaison Team, who had been engaging with Republic in the months ahead of the Coronation, “were not the arresting officers nor were they present in St Martin's Lane at the time of the arrest.”
Protestors: if you’re going to get yourselves arrested, then please make sure that it’s done by someone who you’re on first name terms with. Also, don’t even think of using anything which could conceivably attach something to something else. You know, like Velcro, string, Blu Tack, or gravity.
All the members of Republic who were arrested have since had their bail cancelled and three offices went to visit Graham Smith at his house to give him back his phone and luggage straps and to apologise “while wearing a body cam”. Smith “made it clear” that he didn’t accept the apology and that he’d be taking legal action.
We should point out here that it’s not just the Met and Mark Rowley who deserve our scrutiny for these arrests. The policing minister Chris Philp, stood up in parliament last Tuesday and said that, “clearly, when the arrests were made, the police reasonably believed that there were grounds to do so,” before having a bit of a dig at David Davis for “asserting that those people were wrongfully arrested”. The next day, the Telegraph printed an editorial stating that, even though few of those arrested on the day had “been charged and some have been exonerated,” that did not “make the police action wrong and nor has it turned this country into a neo-fascist state, as some of the more absurd reactions have suggested.”
The Met did achieve one good thing last weekend though. Since the arrests membership of Republic has almost doubled.
And things haven’t slowed down since then…
On the evening of Sunday 7th, Met officers responded to “reports of a woman being attacked by a dog in Commercial Road” in Poplar. When they arrived, a man was tasered and then arrested, while the two dogs he was holding were shot dead.
All of this was filmed by someone nearby on their phone.
The owner of the dogs, Louie Turnbull, was charged with “being the person/owner of a dog that was dangerously out of control and being in possession/custody of a dog whilst disqualified from owning or keeping a dog.”
Shortly afterwards, the Met released a statement saying that “police have a duty to act where necessary before any further injury is caused. The Met’s directorate of professional standards will review the circumstances of the incident.” That review did happen and declared that it was “satisfied that there are no concerns around officer conduct”. By Friday though the Independent Office for Police Conduct announced that it was launching an investigation into what happened, saying that it was “appropriate” that complaints linked to the incident should be “independently investigated.”
Meanwhile, a Change,org petition to “hold the Met Police criminally accountable for the barbaric killing of two leashed dogs” has so far gained over 300,000 signatures (warning: there are some graphic stills from the video on that page).
Then, at the end of last week, two Met officers were served with gross misconduct notices by the IOPC “for potentially breaching police standards of professional behaviour”. The two officers had been called to a flat in Peckham last month where a man was threatening to jump. After one of the officers discharged his Taser, the man “fell five floors to the ground” and died. The IOPC has said that body-worn video footage is being reviewed as part of the investigation but “it does not necessarily mean that criminal charges or disciplinary proceedings will follow".
And, finally (for now), a few days ago the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services said it had uncovered new “you cannot be serious, you are really letting that person in?” cases of unsuitable people being recruited during an inspection of forces including the Met. The examples included recruits with “a history of allegations of domestic abuse against several partners,” some with “family members jailed for drug dealing” and others involving “serious sexual offending”.
The Tory mayoral line up so far
Last week the Tories officially kicked off their search for a mayoral candidate. Although the election is still a year away (May 2, 2024), the applications for the Conservative’s contender have now opened. Hopefuls have until 24 May to put their name in and after that there’s a culling process to get the things down to a manageable group of eight (with two reserves).
A shortlisting committee then picks the final two or three final candidates who get to do some ‘husting’, before the membership votes and a winner’ is announced on July 19.
It’s still early days of course, but it looks like the Tories might have a tough job picking between the candidates, as they all seem to have a very similar agenda…
The veteran candidate is Minister for London Paul Scully, who hasn’t officially declared yet, but he’s hinted a couple of time that he’s more than keen to go up against Khan on platform of “crime, transport and housing”. And by ‘transport’ he means anti-ULEZ.
Susan Hall, who was Tory leader at City Hall, has confirmed she’s entering the race and declared herself the “common sense” candidate, saying she wants to “make London safer by ensuring our police hunt down and lock up the burglars, muggers and thieves”. She also hates the ULEZ.
The early favourite is Samuel Kasumu, who was Boris Johnson’s race advisor while he was in office and who, at 35 years of age, is even more millennial than Nick. Kasumu has already been endorsed by “party heavyweights Grant Shapps, Steve Baker and Priti Patel” and who has put housing at the top of his agenda. (Kasumu doesn’t currently live in London because he and his wife were “priced out” all the way to Essex ten years ago - so relatable!). Samuel, by the way, has said that he will give councils a referendum on whether the ULEZ should be expanded or not.
The rank outsider is London Assembly member Andrew Boff, and not just becasue he has made five previous attempts to be the mayoral candidate. Boff has 'very ‘libertarian’ views for a Tory, having previously talked about legalising cannabis, self-ID laws for trans people and decriminalising street prostitution. He has said, however, that his very “first mayoral direction” would be to reverse the ULEZ.
The only candidate who hasn’t gone heavy on ULEZ is Duwayne Brooks, the former Lib Dem councillor for Lewisham and friend of Stephen Lawrence, who was with the teenager when he was murdered. Brookes recently told the Guardian that we “live in a London where trust and confidence in the Met has never been so low, housing conditions have never been so poor and crime on the street has never been so high.”
Meanwhile the Reform party (remember them) have put forward the founder of FairFuelUK as their mayoral hopeful. If elected, Howard Cox has promised to “scrap the ultra low emission zone, phase out low traffic neighbourhoods and scale back 20mph speed limits”. He told the Independent this week that “he is not “a one trick pony”.
As of yet, there is no sign of Jeremy Corbyn.
5 Little Bits
The London Assembly Environment Committee has been busy. On Thursday they wrote a letter to TfL, outlining the findings of their investigations into Tube noise and making five recommendations “aimed at improving transparency and enhancing communication with Londoners” about the issue. At the same time, they also released their report into light pollution in London, and called on the Mayor “to put in place London’s first ever light pollution strategy with agreed targets in place to show a true commitment to reducing light pollution in the capital.”
A few days after the Coronation, The Archbishop of Canterbury was convicted of speeding and ordered to pay £510 for exceeding a 20 mile per hour limit near Lambeth Palace on 2 October last year. Justin Welby was also given three penalty points at the private hearing. A Lambeth Palace spokeswoman said the case only went to court because of “admin errors”.
To coincide with the release of the film, Rye Lane, the Guardian has been to Peckham to assess if its “quirky appeal” is being threatened by gentrification and regeneration.
Clapton wine bar P Franco has announced on Instagram that it is going to reopen next month. A crowdfunding campaign raised £19,625 in a month, which will go towards new equipment, stock and maintenance. The “license application is being considered” right now and they’re looking to open the doors in mid-June.
On Saturday, Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong went to Slim Jim’s bar in Islington, found a covers band singing Basket Case, and decided to join in:Tiktok failed to load.
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