Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said he is determined to tackle the problem of homophobic hate crime in the city.
In an exclusive interview with PinkNews.co.uk, Johnson said there was a “nasty undercurrent” of hate crimes against gay people and detailed police plans to help stamp it out.
His comments came just after shadow home secretary Chris Grayling revealed that Johnson will be installed as the first elected police commissioner if the Tories win power.
Speaking about the plans, Johnson told PinkNews.co.uk: “It already has happened in the sense that I am the mayor. As mayor, I have the right of appointment and there already is this democratic accountability over policing in London.
“And secondly, I can appoint the chairman of the MPA [Metropolitan Police Commission] and that gives me, again, a direct line of responsibility and a direct line of accountability over what happens with policing in London.
“What’s really happening in that story is that, I think the Tory plan is to echo them around around the country so you have a greater amount of political accountability in the police.”
However, he stressed that he would be accountable for police performance but would not have operational control over the service.
On homophobic hate crime, he emphasised that London was generally becoming safer for everyone, including gay people, but added that there was a “nasty” upsurge in low level incidents.
He said: “London is becoming safer but there is no question there is a particular issue around homophobic hate crime and I’m determined to tackle it. I raised it with a couple of months ago at the MPA, after the tragic death of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square.
“And my feeling, my instinct, is that two things are going on. The police say to me there’s a increase in reporting because people feel more secure about reporting it. That’s obviously a good thing and I think Stonewall and others have also said that. I’m also keen to encourage more reporting.
“But I think, and the police think, there’s something else going on. There is something very nasty. There is an upsurge of low level hate crime. But it’s very important to stress that, with the exception of the tragic death of Ian Baynham, the figures I have show that high level crime has not increased.”
Explaining the measures put into place by the Met to tackle the issue, he said: “There’s a lot going on to counter it. The police say they’re increasing their staff training and reporting systems, they’re trying to put up the LGBT liaison officers and trying to promote the reporting of such crimes and get people to feel confident about it. And they’ve been working with bodies such as Galop [gay and lesbian anti-crime group] and so on.”
He said: “On the whole, homophobia has radically diminished in our society. It’s a fantastic thing. In my lifetime it has hugely reduced. If it wasn’t for this nasty undercurrent, we’d be moving into a post-homophobic age. We’re not there yet and we need to work on it.
“London’s gay community is incredibly diverse and you can’t pigeonhole people. To generalise, you could say one of the great strengths of London is that it attracts people from all backgrounds and all communities and people from the gay community feel very at home in London because it’s such a welcoming and generous place.
“London’s gay community, as far as you can call it a community, is an expression of the genius and dynamism of London, just because they help to incarnate the diversity and tolerance that makes this city the best city in the world to live in.”
When asked whether Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir’s recent article on gay Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, which received a record number of complaints, could encourage more hate against gay people, he said: “I don’t want to give the Daily Mail any more publicity. It was a thoroughly nasty article. If I could say nothing about it, that would be even better.”
PinkNews.co.uk asked Johnson where he thought homophobic hate crime, especially in young people, was coming from.
He said: “I think we’re living in an age that is increasingly generous and tolerant, but there will always be people who feel insecure about themselves for one reason or another. People who have trouble in their own lives, people who don’t feel quite happy in their own lives for some reason or another.
“And they will take it out on people they think are different. And there is something very horrible about that. But I’m afraid that’s been part of human nature since the dawn of time.”