Sunday, 24 February 2008

Hackney twinned with Soweto?

The Tories have re-released their 'what a dark world we live in, bring in a ray of Tory sunshine' video. About twenty seconds in amongst the 'interesting facts about the world' bit of the video comes the claim 'The streets of Soweto are safer than those of Hackney.'

My close affinity with Hackney forced me to double take. That 'fact' is surely absolute nonsense given that this is Soweto and this is Hackney. Crime plummeting, house prices soaring, more green spaces than any other London Borough and the most improving Council, Hackney, one of the Olympic Boroughs, is flying. It also happens to be home to the fantastic Hackney Community College of which I am a Governor (there, interest declared...)

So what on earth are the Tories up to? It turns out that the 'fact' refers to an absurd claim made by a South African surgeon back in 2002! A South African journalist, Justice Malala, rebutted the claims robustly and convincingly in the Guardian at the time, articulating that what an injustice the accusation was to the actual victims of crime and those who fear of crime in the Johannesburg township. It is also a disservice to Hackney and the people of Hackney.

It turns out that not only is crime rapidly falling in Hackney but it is far from the worst Borough in London: Camden, Islington and even Westminster are worse. None of them can in the slightest way be compared to the Soweto.

So let's have an honest debate about the challenges that face us instead of this outmoded and tenuous stereotyping, Mr Cameron.

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