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Londoners Are More Concerned About Cost Of Living And Housing Than Crime

Sadiq Khan pictured with two police officers (Alamy)

5 min read

Crime is of "secondary" concern to Londoners behind housing and the cost of living, according to Antonia Jennings, chief executive of the Centre for London think tank.

Jennings has said that the cost of living is often "front and centre" in her experience of Londoners' concerns, but polling from Savanta for the think tank found that more than half of Londoners still think that mayor Sadiq Khan has done badly on gangs and knife crime during his time in office. 

The Conservatives have faced backlash this week for attacking Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan’s record on crime in a campaign video. Khan is hoping to be re-elected to City Hall when voters go to the polls on 2 May, while the Conservatives hope that their candidate Susan Hall can unseat him. 

The party has been criticised for a video posted earlier this week that contains claims such as Londoners staying inside scared of violent crime, and Khan having “seized” power, despite having been elected twice. 

Polling data from Savanta for the Centre for London earlier this month showed that more than half (58 per cent) of Londoners questioned think that Khan has done badly at dealing with knife crime and gangs. These figures were more pronounced among older respondents and people who had voted Conservative in 2019. 

According to the data, 47 per cent of 18 – 34 year olds think that Khan has done badly on this metric, compared to 78 per cent of those over the age of 55. Among those who voted Tory at the last general election the number was 71 per cent, compared to 55 per cent who voted Labour. 

Jennings told PoliticsHome that crime is a “natural hook” for the Tories to campaign on, but that even though people do have concerns about crime and how it's handled by devolved regional Government, it is not necessarily their highest priority when considering how to cast a vote. 

"Cost of living is always front and centre,” she said. 

"People predominantly care that they have good housing for example. Housing is always a number one issue that comes up for us, and then followed by cost of living."

While Jennings acknowledged that people did cite crime as a concern in the course of her research, it usually featured on “secondary lists” alongside issues such as transport and the climate. 

“It's an interest of people that we speak to, but I think people are also aware that there have been cuts to policing,” she added. 

In the contentious campaign video posted to Conservative party social media this week, black and white footage narrated by an American accented voiceover described London as “a city now run by the Labour party, its police answer to them”. The campaign argues that London under Khan is “a blueprint for how Labour intend to run the rest of the country”.

But there have been questions over whether the video would be effective as part of the London campaign, or if the Conservatives are using the attacks on London to appeal to their voter-base elsewhere in the country.

Over the last decade, the Conservatives have increased the number of seats they have won in regions away from the south across the north and Midlands, while their vote in the capital has been in decline. At the last general election the only seat to switch from Conservative to Labour in London was Putney.

A similar video was posted about Birmingham on the party’s social media channels on Tuesday evening. The clip attacks the Labour-run council’s financial record in the city, after they declared effective bankruptcy last year. 

“A tale of mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility unfolds in life under Labour,” the video states.

The Conservative vote in London has been in overall decline for the last three decades. The party received 46.6 per cent of the vote in the capital in 1987, but this had dropped to 34.9 per cent by 2015, and was at 32 per cent at the last general election in 2019. 

Khan told the BBC on Tuesday that he believes it is “staggering” that Hall, the Conservative candidate for the London mayoralty, is "just doing our city down” with campaign rhetoric on crime.  

"I think it is unpatriotic always slagging off the capital city,” he added. 

Khan is asking Londoners to elect him for a third term on 2 May, when he and regional mayors across England are up for election. The vote is on the same day as local authority elections across parts of the country, where it is widely expected that Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party will face losses. 

Data from the Centre for Cities earlier this week indicated that Londoners were more likely to vote for their local mayor than people in cities where the mayoralty is also being contested in May. Overall, 70.6 per cent of London voters who were surveyed said that they would vote in the mayoral election. The next highest number was in the West Midlands, where 58.2 per cent of people said that they would vote. 

London also recorded the most recognisable mayor, with 88 per cent of people questioned knowing who the mayor was, compared to 83 per cent in Greater Manchester, 65 per cent in the West Midlands, and 69 per cent in the Tees Valley. 

Conservative mayoral candidate Susan Hall said: “Under Sadiq Khan, crime has spiralled out of control – with more than 1,000 murders since he took office eight long years ago. 

"He hasn't done enough to address this, because he doesn't listen, and he doesn't care.

"London needs a Mayor who listens and will get a grip on crime." 

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