Labour’s Mitcham and Morden candidate calls for police officers in schools

By Will Cracknell
December 10 2019, 14.00

Labour candidate Siobhain McDonagh wants to instate a police officer in every secondary school to help tackle London’s knife crime epidemic.

Knife-related crime in the capital has risen steadily since 2014/15 from 9,700 incidents to 14,700 in 2017/18 – the highest level in more than ten years.

Ms McDonagh believes crime, alongside protecting St Helier hospital, is the main concern of Mitcham and Morden constituents.

She said: “Building relations between the police and young people is essential. I think we need more police on our streets and an officer in every secondary school.

“We can encourage children to be more trustful of the police by knowing a police officer and working with them.

“I also want to increase the size of the Safer Neighbourhood police teams back to where they were when first introduced under Labour in the 1990s. Each team was a team of six and currently there are only about three.”

The former assistant Labour whip was particularly concerned by the number of police currently patrolling Mitcham and Morden’s streets.

She said: “We’ve lost about 90 police officers since 2010. We need to increase police numbers but it’s important to not only be tough on crime but also to be tough on its causes.

“That’s why I’m campaigning for an OnSide Youth Zone which would be a youth centre open 365 days a year teaching children music, art and skills.

“If we want to distract young people from crime and being part of gangs then we need to give them something good to do at evenings and weekends.”

Since the 2011-12 financial year, government cuts have removed 46% of funding from London council youth services, with 104 centres and projects shutting their doors.

Elsewhere, Ms McDonagh was clearly dissatisfied with leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the anti-Semitism row which has dogged Labour’s election campaign.

She said: “He certainly should apologise and he should have apologised long before now.

“I think our dealing with anti-Semitism has been completely woeful and I’m really ashamed.

“Although we don’t have many Jewish people in Mitcham and Morden, this issue in the Labour Party is one we have increasingly heard on the doorstep because of people’s concerns.

“I have personally always stood up to the problems of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and I am never ever, ever, ever going to turn a blind eye to it.”

However, Ms McDonagh was keen to emphasise the difference between being anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian.

She said: “In being an anti-Semite you’re against people because of their race and religion and because you believe the state of Israel is a racist endeavour.

“Most people who are interested in this believe in the two-state solution. They believe in the existence and the security of Israel but at the same time believe the Palestinian should also have their state.”

Nonetheless, Ms McDonagh emphasised the active role she believes the UK must play in the wider world.

She stated: “I believe Britain has a place in the world. I think withdrawing from the world is a very bad thing.

“We’re seeing that with America at the moment and the way in which they unilaterally withdrew its forces from Syria.

“We found that our allies, the Kurds, became victims of President Assad and his associates. We have a moral duty to be involved.”

When asked whether she had much contact with Labour Party HQ during the election campaign, Ms McDonagh was unequivocal.

She answered: “None. We plan and design our campaign materials. “A lot of the people involved in the campaign are very long-standing and have great skills. We just get on with it!”

Read more about what’s important to south west London constituencies in our 24-page General Election preview special.

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