In the run up to the 2006 local elections in London there was what seemed to be a concerted plan on the part of the London Labour party, the Mayor and the Metropolitan police to use the Met’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams as a political tool.
Clearly Labour are at it again in 2008. Harriet Harman’s stab-proof vest walkabout fiasco, reported here, is linked to the Home Office spending £150,000 (I suspect rather more) on full page ads in national papers yesterday puffing Safer Neighbourhood Teams, see here.
Harman’s walkabout took place yesterday in Peckham in London at a time when she knows full well that we are in “purdah” for the London Mayoral elections. This is a period when all public servants know that they must do nothing that could be misconstrued as offering support to a particular political party. The police officers should have known better and it is certain that Harman did know better.
With these ads the Home Office seems to be collaborating with Labour against the spirit if not the letter of election law. With the walkabout the Met seems to be at it too. The Met has previous for this.
On 10th January 2006, weeks before the May 2006 local elections, the Met Commissioner and the Mayor jointly announced:
The MPS currently has 285 Safer Neighbourhood teams operating on some wards on every London borough. Today’s announcement means that the remaining 340 wards will initially have teams of four staff in place by the end of April this year and each team will be expanded to six members by April 2007.
This was a considerable acceleration of the SNT programme which was due to be rolled out a year later than this. This letter from the Commander in charge confirms that it was pulled forward.
This announcement was backed up by a £485K ad campaign that ran in February and March to tell everyone that these teams would be in place by the end of April in time for the election on May 4th. This e-mail confirms the ad bill went up from £300K to £485K. Typically of the Met one of the ads showed policemen going around in pairs.
Labour ran this as the main story in their election material in May 2006. A triple whammy of Met ads in local papers, headline stories in the Mayor’s Londoner freesheet and local election leaflets demonstrated the police and Labour party working together to fool Londoners. It didn’t work in 2006. It won’t work today.