Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Norris: I will make London safer

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2003

"There is absolutely no doubt that unless we win in the cities, the Conservatives are never going to win in the country. It is where the vast majority of this country's population actually live but, more to the point, it is where, every single day, people come up against the kind of problems that no political party can ignore if it is wants to form the Government of Britain.

I am absolutely dedicated to the idea that politics doesn't mean anything unless it means you want to improve the quality of life for the people around you, for yourself and your own family, for your own community. In London, I have got another mission as well: you can call it personal if you like. But I desperately believe that London deserves better than Livingstone.

How do you win in cities? The pretty obvious truth is that you do exactly the same as you would do if you wanted to win anywhere else in the country. You wouldn't tell people what was right for them. You wouldn't tell people what they cared about. You would listen. Listen to what they say. I can tell you that if you do listen to people in London - and it's certainly not something Ken Livingstone has done very much over the last three and a half years - you would find out that they all care about the same kind of things.

They care about decent health care. They want it to be available when they need it. They want it to be the kind of quality that impresses them rather than appals them. They appreciate what a national health service means but they know it can be better.

They want decent education for their kids. The vast majority have no alternative to the State and, in too many cases, it is simply not good enough. They just want their local school to be decent and to offer the kind of education their kids can benefit from.

But above all, and I mean above all, what they want is to feel safe on their own streets and in their own homes. That is all. It is not much. Safe on their own streets and in their own homes. And that is what I aim to do something about in London.

Every single conference I have been to over the past twenty years, I have listened to speakers quote me statistics about what's going up and what's going down. - knowing Oliver he is probably too intelligent to feed you statistics about crime - but I do know this I listen to Ken Livingstone and he tells me that crime in London is down. So that's alright then. Livingstone has got some statistic that shows that crime in London is down. He has a problem. Which is that not only do I not believe him but that Londoners don't believe him either. Because they don't feel as safe now as they did three years ago when Ken Livingstone was elected.

They feel less safe in London and that is not because of the murder rate or number of bank robberies. Last Friday night, I was in a part of London called Hornchurch in one of those suburban town centres like a hundred others. It was about seven o'clock. Night was falling. We were walking back from the tube station down the high street. Still a number of people on the street coming home from work or doing some last minute shopping. Cars driving past. And we saw a group of kids about a hundred yards away, coming out of the chip shop, next to the bus stop. Quite a crowd of them. As we were about to get into our car, I glanced over, and saw this kid, not a day over 13 I am sure of that, lift her foot - yes her foot - and just start kicking the hell out of the telephone box. And then she picked up the receiver and began smashing it onto the side. Maybe to get the money out. Maybe just to break it? I don't know.

But she did it without even thinking about the consequences because she couldn't care less. She knew that no-one was going to be there and no-one was going to stop her. Because she knew that if you clipped her round the ear you'd be in court and if that she clipped you, you'd probably be in a local hospital. That is what makes people feel less safe in our capital. Low level crime. Graffiti. Just that sort of petty vandalism, public drunkenness, yob culture.

That's why people actually feel more threatened in their own communities, more threatened in their homes than they did before this massive additional spending which Livingstone has laid on the shoulders of council taxpayers in the capital. And for which the average Londoner feels no benefit whatsoever.

Do you know that Ken Livingstone went to New York last year and he came back and he said, "I feel safer in New York than I do in London". Well Mr Mayor what the hell are you doing about it? Because as far as I am concerned you could never make that statement as Mayor of London without saying, here and now, that's not good enough. That is something that Londoners demand and deserve that the Mayor does something about.

Incidentally, let's be clear about one thing: the Mayor of London has the power and the responsibility to make the difference. The Mayor of London is the one person who can actually make the difference. The Mayor of London controls the £2.7billion budget of the Metropolitan Police. So never ever listen to someone like Livingstone who makes excuses by always saying, "I don't have the power. I wish I could help but I don't have the power." He will always say that, because that's his only excuse for his failure to deliver.

Let's be clear. The Mayor of London has got the power. He who pays the piper calls the tune. He has the budget, the responsibility and the power. All that is needed is the political will and leadership from the top to make it happen.

And here's the good news. It can be done.

Twelve years ago, in New York, you had a city that people said was as out of control. You looked at New York and it was the kind of place you got into and out of as quick as you could. Because it was seen as ungovernable. Crime was everywhere. It was a city where every citizen went in fear. They had Mayors of course: Mayors who didn't make much of a difference; Mayors who made matters worse. Along came a guy called Rudolph Giuliani - a great Mayor - a name, sadly, I suppose, since 9/11 a name known around the world. But what most people know is that what Rudolph Giuliani is actually remembered for by Americans, what his achievement was in the city of New York was that he made it a place that was safe once again.

If it can be done in New York, it can be done in London.

A Mayor can change the perception of a city where people fear living in their own community and make it a city where people feel more safe.

For me this is personal. I am just a Londoner living in a particular part of a great city of seven and a half million people. But over the last three years, I have had my house burgled - I had the door battered down at four thirty in the morning. I have had my car stolen and I have been mugged.

But all of that is just an every day Londoner's experience. Every night, what's the last thing that you do? You put the chain up. You bolt the chubb lock. And frankly if you live somewhere like I do, you put the alarm so that if anyone gets in on the alarm goes off. And it just says that this is not the city that I want to live in.

I want to do something about that.

I will tell you something else too. It's not just people like me. Not just white, middle class men. Because whether you are black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, young or old, whether you live in inner or outer London. You feel the same desire to feel safe in your home and in your street. It's a great mission. It is something that I feel absolutely determined to do in London. I know it can be done.

Some people say but how can it be done? Let me give you just one simple example. Using the Metropolitan Police's own figures, if you divide up the total number of officers deployed in the boroughs, there should on an average day be 600 - yes 600 police officers - in every single borough in London. And yet in any part of London at any time of day or night you'd be lucky to find more than a dozen out on the streets. That is totally unacceptable and is something I am not prepared to tolerate.

I have said to London time and again: if I don't succeed, don't re-elect me. But I know that this time, that while Livingstone promises us fewer pigeons in Trafalgar Square and ignores the fact that Londoners feel less safe now than they did when he was elected, he is selling them short.

London deserves better than Ken Livingstone.

Next year, on the 10th June, I believe we can elect a Conservative Mayor who is going to make a difference and a Conservative-dominated Greater London Assembly that is going to support the Mayor. We are going to show people in this country and in our party that we can win in cities. And when you can win in cities, you can, as we will, win in the country."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech