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Islington Tribune - by TOM FOOT
Published: 7 March 2008
Emily Thornberry
Emily Thornberry
MP’s angst at mugging claim

We have to do something, get more coppers on the beat – Emily Thornberry

EMILY Thornberry MP has told how she feared for her political career after her claims that teenage crime was out of control appeared to bolster the Conservative mayoral election campaign.
The Labour MP for Islington South had raised fears that all teenagers in London had been mugged, sparking a media frenzy.
She said: “It is hard to imagine a teenager in London who has not been mugged. We have to do something, get more coppers on the beat. It’s becoming an acceptable way of life.”
Following Ms Thornberry’s remarks, Ken Livingstone’s main opponent Boris Johnson immediately issued a statement congratulating the Labour MP for denting the mayor’s campaign to be re-elected.
Mr Livingstone has repeatedly claimed crime statistics show he is winning the war against teen muggers.
Ms Thornberry said she was left with a lump in her throat.
“I got a call from LBC radio at seven in the morning and was told that Boris Johnson had released a press release welcoming what I said,” she said. “After the call I put down the phone and thought ‘uh-oh!’”
Mr Johnson’s statement read: “How refreshing to hear a Labour politician speak some truth for a change. At last a Labour MP has punctured Ken Livingstone’s complacency.”
The mayor’s office said they would not comment on Ms Thornberry’s statement.
Ms Thornberry insisted she had the backing from her party.
She said: “I am not interested in statistics. I am only responding to what I am told. The mayor has said there will be 1,000 more officers.
“That is great – but we could always have more.
“We need some serious dosh pumped into youth services to address this. Islington is lagging behind and that is because youth services is not top of the council’s agenda.
“I think the caricature is that an MP simply toes the party line. But we are all grown-ups. I am entitled to my opinion and the others are entitled to theirs. No one has criticised me from within the party and I think that speaks for itself.
“Politicians must be free to express themselves.”
Islington’s new superintendent, John Sutherland, said he welcomed the debate as long as it was based on accurate figures.
He said statistics printed alongside Ms Thornberry’s comments – showing 61 per cent of muggings last year were of teenagers – were inaccurate.
They now say of the 1,229 robberies in 2007, 499 involved teenage victims.
“It is more like 40 per cent,” Spt Sutherland said.
The crime statistics are marginally higher than neighbouring north London borough Camden, where 35 per cent of victims of robbers were teens.
Spt Sutherland said: “There are around 40,000 teenagers in Islington and there have been 500 robberies. It is not an epidemic.
“I do not know if there has been any Machiavellian political move behind Ms Thornberry’s statement. I think she is probably responding to personal experience.
“I welcome the debate – it is profoundly important. If there was one issue out of everything I would like to debate it would be youth crime.”
He said he was genuinely impressed by Islington’s progressive approach to tackling street crime in teenagers.
“Every secondary school has a PC attached to it and every primary school has a PCSO affiliated to it,” he said. “We are the only borough in London that has such extensive policing of schools.”

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