The fatal stabbing of two teenagers in what the Evening Standard described on Friday as “London’s bloodiest day of gang violence” this year has thrown crime back on to the top of the political agenda in the capital’s increasingly acrimonious mayoral election campaign.
In separate incidents on Thursday, one of the youths, 17-year-old Devoe Roach, was stabbed in the chest in Stamford Hill, while the other, 14-year-old Amro Elbadawi, was knifed in the throat in West Kilburn.
News of the killings emerged as Ken Livingstone criticised the media for sensationalising the reporting of crime, with what he described as an “if it bleeds, it leads” attitude towards headline stories.
A spokesman for Mr Livingstone said the mayor had not been made aware of the killings when he made his remarks on a BBC London programme. But his comments embroiled the mayor in fresh controversy, prompting rival contenders for the post to renew their attack on Mr Livingstone’s record.
The Tory candidate, Boris Johnson, who this weekend plans to step up his campaign against youth crime, accused Mr Livingstone of “crass insensitivity” towards the families of the victims.
“Nobody, regardless of their politics, should be dismissive of the terrible violence we are seeing in our streets today,” Mr Johnson said.
The Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick used his website to declare it was time “to call a halt to this senseless slaying of young people on the streets of violence”.
In launching his own crime manifesto this week, Mr Livingstone said an increase in police numbers and extra cash for youth facilities were at the heart of his plans to make the capital safer.
Mr Livingstone admitted that, while there had been a fall in the underlining crime rate in London over the last five years, the same reduction had not been achieved in gun and knife related crime.
“The very serious issue of youth murders remains . . . it is a critical issue,” he said.
While all three leading candidates have pledged to cut crime in the capital, their policies on the issue are broadly similar. Where they differ is on their analysis of how serious the problem is.
While Mr Livingstone has tended to focus on a fall in crime recorded by police as evidence of progress, the two leading opposition candidates have drawn on British Crime Survey figures showing that 28 per cent of Londoners say they are worried about violent crime, compared with a national average of 17 per cent.