London Sword Attack Highlights Mayor Khan’s Crime Record Before Election

(Bloomberg) -- A sword attack in northeast London that left a 14-year-old boy dead has propelled Mayor Sadiq Khan’s record on tackling knife crime to the forefront of the election campaign a day before the capital’s voters decide whether to renew their faith in him for a record third term.

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Footage and images of the incident have circulated widely online after the man, wielding a samurai-style weapon, attacked the boy and four other people in the district of Hainault in the space of half an hour on Tuesday. The 36-year-old suspect was subdued and arrested by officers, and remains in the hospital on Wednesday, according to the Metropolitan police.

The horrific attack has raised questions over rising violence in the UK capital, where the mayor oversees policing. Official data last week showed that serious offenses involving a knife rose to 14,577 last year, an increase of more than a fifth in a year. On Wednesday, Conservative Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch accused the mayor of not taking the issue seriously.

“Just a few days ago he was on LBC laughing when the Conservative candidate Susan Hall was talking about machete wielding in London,” Badenoch told LBC on Wednesday. “I don’t think he takes it seriously. He is responsible for enforcement.”

Badenoch was referring to an exchange on the same channel last week between Hall and Khan about gang violence.

Khan’s allies argue that policing in London isn’t entirely his purview: London’s police chief is hired and fired by the home secretary, and the central government — which has been led by the Conservatives since 2010 — has cut the capital’s police funding in real terms while also slashing spending on youth clubs and other services that help prevent crime.

On Wednesday, Khan’s team hit back at Badenoch’s remarks, accusing the Tories of losing “all direction and all sense of decency.”

“It’s quite extraordinary that the Tories are seeking to politicize the awful murder of a child,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.

YouGov polling published Tuesday put Khan at 47% and Hall on 25%, showing he is likely to hold office in Thursday’s vote.

(Updates with context in sixth paragraph.)

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