Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeCulture WarPostcard from the London Borough of Culture (and knife crime)

Postcard from the London Borough of Culture (and knife crime)


IT IS not often that the left give me a laugh these days but a sardonic chortle was provoked by an item in my local newspaper.

I worked for the said organ long ago and in the intervening years it has hurtled downhill, hugely damaged by loss of advertising revenue in the digital age and the BBC’s expansion into local news. Last week’s issue carried a grand total of seven stories. The front page showed a picture of a large knife with a headline saying: ‘Fight against knife crime, page five’.

On my way to page five I stopped at page three and the attention-grabbing headline: ‘Changes set for the borough in 2023’. Experience has taught me that such banal-looking stories often contain the most extraordinary nonsense. I was not disappointed. Lo and behold, there it was, 11 paragraphs down: ‘Croydon will be this year’s London Borough of Culture’.

Yes, Croydon, south-east London, with its council that has gone bankrupt three times and its well-deserved reputation for murder, violence, drugs and urban decay, is the capital’s citadel of culture for this year – because Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Mayor of London, says so. The council, by the way, is currently Conservative controlled though much of the spending malfeasance was committed under Labour administrations. Of course, as with the national government, it scarcely matters which party is in charge: we are all going one way – down.

I turned to the knife crime story on page five and my laughter stopped. In 2021 Croydon had the most teenage murders of any borough in London, figures from the Mayor of London’s office showed. Five juveniles were killed in the borough’s streets, including one aged 14. Police recorded 11,969 knife crime offences, equivalent to 32 a day. The item tried to be optimistic by saying that no teenagers had been murdered in 2022 and that knife crime offences were down 22 per cent to 6,843, equivalent to 18 a day. So that’s all right, then.

There was a quote from a youth worker who opined that the appalling youth violence figures were caused by ‘young people’s mental health being really impacted by being locked down’. I do not dispute that lockdown was a disaster but truth would be better served if the youth worker had mentioned drug use: the borough’s young are saturated in skunk, which is known to cause violent episodes as well as serious mental illness.  Skunk is the street name for a very strong form of cannabis which was hybridised under artificial growing conditions decades ago. From being a novelty item among Nineties druggies it has become the industry standard, and the trade is said to be worth at least £1billion a year.

Unless it is dealt with rigorously by the law, the drug will remain a potent causative factor in Britain’s social decline, albeit one that the establishment has gone soft on, with Times and Tory grandee Lord Finkelstein writing a silly article boasting that he had tried the drug in America and was ‘quite sympathetic to legalising it’. 

Police chiefs have taken a similar line and unofficially decriminalised the possession and selling of skunk, and the growing of it. Naturally, the Conservative Party, that bunch of careerist Blairite hedgefunders, show no sign of doing anything about it. For his part, Mayor Khan has visited America to learn about drug legalisation.

The irony is that skunk is easy to police: anyone carrying it, never mind smoking it, reeks of its earthy, floral aroma, hence the nickname. More often than not when I board a bus in Croydon, I can smell it. Just last week I watched a group of teenagers smoking it with impunity on a bus. They roamed up and down the interior, intimidating anyone they could, before pushing the emergency door release when the vehicle had momentarily stopped and jumping off. The driver took no interest whatsoever. That is a typical incident in the London Borough of Culture 2023 (not long ago I emerged from the station one evening to find two men having a full-on knife fight).

For my sins I have lived in the borough on and off for more than 30 years and have witnessed its precipitous decline. It was never a lovely place, largely due to ugly and disastrous Sixties architecture, but it was a fairly peaceable, prosperous shopping hub. Now it is visibly run down and overhung with a sense of incipient menace and aggro. Sirens are a near-constant threnody.

Major retailers are walking away as shoppers go elsewhere, and much of the centre is boarded up or vandalised (one shop is now a museum about the Empire Windrush financed by the EU.) Wetherspoon have closed three pubs in the area recently and a couple of months ago Waitrose closed their store in a location notorious for overspill trouble from a nearby junk food chain.

Moreover Croydon’s identity as an English town has largely vanished, in part due to the presence of the headquarters of the Visa and Immigration Service. The queues have become so long that the authorities decided to hide the goings-on at Lunar House behind screens – they clearly did not want the public to see what they are paying for. 

The policies – all demonstrably left-wing and all unopposed by the Conservative Party – that have undermined the country generally have viciously come home to roost in Croydon: the decline of the traditional family; the rise of single mothers and fatherlessness; the destruction of adult authority, educational standards and school discipline; the vast growth of welfare and benefits; uncontrolled and unassimilated immigration; the de facto legalisation of drugs and weak policing.

So, this is the sad, shabby place named London Borough of Culture. Of course it’s not, not even on the bureaucrats’ terms: the title is merely something that boroughs can apply for and, if they win, they get a handout – in this case £1.35million. Apparently some of this will be spent on ‘giraffe sculptures’ across the borough; just what you need when the town is bankrupt.

The whole sorry story shows the absolute hell the left can cause and the blithe dishonesty of officials in the wake of it.

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Robert James
Robert James
Robert James is a national newspaper journalist.

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