Saturday, July 05, 2008

UK - Deputy Mayor resigns

Ray Lewis on the day of his appointment

It all started out so well for Boris Johnson, well apart from his trip up the stairs as he took the rostrum at his first press conference. But only a few weeks into his office as London Mayor, the knives are out. And the first victim was his first appointment of Ray Lewis as Deputy Mayor for young people. Accusations of financial irregularities during his time as an East London vicar in the 1990s has forced the Deputy Mayor from office. Lewis said he resigned in order to stop the media circus that was beginning to surround the Mayoral office. "I cannot allow the things going on around me to obscure the important business of this very important mayoralty and for that reason I must step down with immediate affect” he said, adding that the matter should not be “hanging over Boris' head”. Boris Johnson said he was sad to hear of Ray‘s resignation and hoped he would prove his innocence. “The reason I hired Ray Lewis is that we won't solve the problems of this city if we rely on anti-septic yes men” Boris said. The Mayor said his Deputy had “god-given power and ability to inspire young people and to divert them from catastrophic mistakes of guns and knives and I very much hope that he'll now be left alone to clear his name and get on with what he does so well” [BBC].

During his short term in office there have been several stabbings across London. Two recent incidents have become extremely high profile with enormous press interest in the UK. This week saw the stabbing of a soap star’s young brother which drew strong condemnations and broad media coverage. It even brought out hundreds to protest in a call for youths to put down their knives [BBC. Although unconnected with the type of violent street crime that has left 17 dead this year alone, another savage knife attack also made the news this week. Two Frenchmen were stabbed and beaten before the flat they were held was set on fire. Police said one of the men had been stabbed 196 times whilst the other had been stabbed 47 times. Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez had been biochemistry students studying at Imperial College, London [BBC]. While police said they have no possible motive or positive leads they did reveal that they were investigating the possibility the killer stole items before leaving [BBC].

Before the Deputy Mayor left his office he expressed his muted anger at the importance placed on trivial issues rather than being focused on the important issues. "Today again we learn of another murder and yet so much time and attention's been given over to something that may or may not have happened 10-12 years ago, and of course you know that I flatly deny it." Today’s killing in Kings Cross brought the number of youth stabbing deaths to 17 this year [Map]. And it’s an issue also worrying not only the kids on the street but also wife of the former Prime Minister, Cherie Blair who this week said she was “scared for her children” [BBC].

But few politicians have any answers to sole the wave of knife crime hitting parts of the British capital. And of course it’s not just the capital, nor does the death toll reveal the true extent of knife crime on city streets. The injured and maimed are rarely counted and even more rarely reported. But a statement by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in May did reveal how many knives may be on the streets. Sir Ian Blair said in just two weeks nearly 200 knives were seized and 200 people were arrested during stop and search operations across London. But even the outgoing Deputy Mayor who had been recruited to help solve the crisis admitted early on that there was “No magic solution” [BBC].

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