Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Boris Johnson, knife crime and his other priorities

This was, we were told, Boris Johnson's 'number one priority' but like his dozen other 'number one' priorities, Boris's youth strategy has been some time coming.

And for all the enthusiasm seen yesterday, it will be some time coming still. 

Firm spending commitments will not be announced until next year, and much of what was announced will be difficult to deliver, or will require the incumbent Labour government to deliver them for him.

Of course the limitations of the Mayoral powers makes this inevitable, and there is nothing wrong with a Mayor using his high-profile to promote new ideas.

But if all that was to come from this was a trailing of potential future Conservative national policy, then an opportunity would have been missed.

Thankfully, this does not seem to be the case and there are some welcome proposals in here.

The most eye-catching, for me at least, is the proposal to provide greater support to Scouts, Guides and other 'uniformed' and 'non-uniformed' groups.

Now if this actually translates to lots of lovely new funding for the Scout movement then it will be warmly welcomed.

As a former Scout myself and as a some-time helper to a couple of Scout groups, I know just what a difference they can make to kids lives, and especially to those who are either withdrawn, unruly or otherwise directionless.

For many years, parts of the movement have been taken for granted and neglected. Many groups have either closed or become ineffective as a result. 

In turn they have turned away and turned off kids who they may otherwise have helped.

If Boris can play a part in reversing that trend then he will have done some good work and I look forward to hearing the detailed proposals in the spring.

Voluntary Compulsion

However, like some other high-profile Johnson/Malthouse proposals, these new ones have already run into some trouble.

The proposal to 'compel' unruly or anti-social kids into attendance at these groups has immediately been rejected by the Scout movement.

A spokesman told the Times:

"The bottom line for us is that we want to work with young people, whatever their background. But forcing them to join just isn’t what we are about."

And he's right of course. The Scouts is an independent organisation which only succeeds with the full cooperation and dedication of it's members and their families. 

If that cooperation isn't there, then the whole thing falls apart.

So while that one probably isn't a flyer, the direction is the right one, and there is lots more in the draft proposals which could work if properly thought through.

Their success or otherwise will depend on the sole dedicated concentration of Malthouse and the political leverage of Johnson, both of which have shown to be variable qualities so far.

But if Boris Johnson's mayoralty is to succeed, then it will depend greatly upon this number one priority, no mater how many others he picks up along the way.

Newsstand Image by Beau Bo D'or


Tom said...

Can I just say, as another former Scout, that I agree wholeheartedly - the movement can be a exceptional force for good in the community, but only if it sticks to its principles and isn't used as a voluntary sector dumping ground for the marginalised. A lot of this smacks of the 'the state has failed, let's fob it off onto someone else' Tory thinking that isn't going to help. What it needs is resources, resources, resources.

How is that LDA economy drive going?

The Troll said...

How this will be financed is crucial as well. If it's all being left to the 'mayor's fund', then it could hit problems as london's bankers aren't really going to be crawling over each other to give up their bonuses at the moment.

Also it will be hard to calculate how much it will be 'extra' money rather than just a nifty way of taking credit for money that would have been donated elsewhere. Time will tell I guess.

Political Animal said...

I have to say that I found the 'strategy' sketchy at best, especially for six months work on the 'number one priority' of the administration. Whilst there are some good ideas, there is little that is ground breaking and a lot that sounds like we are about to relive the ninteenth century heyday of the liberal philantropist.

One section particularly stood out for me, though (p.18)
"There is an awful lot of work going on in London and an awful lot of money being spent trying to sort out young people. Sadly few of
the dozens of groups and charities involved can consistently demonstrate that what they are doing has any significant effect."

An interesting rhetorical approach to take from an administration that we were told wanted to harness the skills and capacity of the third sector - basically insulting their efforts to 'sort out' (are you allowed to say that?) young people. Someone evidently decided it was far more important to carry on fighting the war of Gilligan's Ear over the LDA grants.

The Troll said...

Yes, I also notice a number of other contradictions.

The most obvious of these was the statement that there should not be a 'systemisation' of the voluntary sector and then going on to propose just that.

You're right in saying that it is overly vague in places, but hopefully that will be fleshed out in the final strategy. The key test for me is whether the idea of the mayor's fund will be used as a cover to cut LDA funding elsewhere.

Also I am a little worried that these kinds of policy-floating operations are just an attempt to appear to be doing something, whilst putting it off.

These first six months have seen very little in the way of real action or vision, but it is still relatively early days. I don't think that we should be made to wait for too much longer though.

asquith said...

I believe Boris is moving away from Clarksonism & will do so even more as soon as he realises that right-wing populist bollocks simply won't work in governing a large & complex city.

He probably knows by now that Livingstone was largely a success & he needs to continue many of his policies. If the sort of fuckwits who comment at Tory Home, & libertarian tits don't like it, he won't be shedding any tears.