By Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham
As readers of this blog will be aware, Lambeth Council has decided to cancel the Lambeth Country Show in its usual form this year – it is to be replaced by a smaller scale event this year but, in 2013, will take place at the usual time in the usual form.
As I have made clear, I believe this was the right decision for the Council to take. My fellow Lambeth colleague who represents the Brixton area too, Tessa Jowell MP, has also publicly said she shares this view.
Large scale events like the Country Show require a greater police presence and at a time – the summer – when incidents of anti-social behaviour and serious youth violence can be particularly prevalent. Unfortunately serious youth violence and gang related activity, though involving a minority, is a particular problem in Lambeth which I have worked tirelessly in and out of Parliament to resolve (in that respect I currently chair the London Gangs Forum). It is worth pointing out that the two constituents we have tragically lost to violent crime since my election – Zac Olumegbon and Nana Frempong – both lost their lives during the summer months.
I have previously raised concerns about serious violence, specifically at the Country Show, having witnessed crowd trouble there myself between two rival gangs at the event three years ago. Hundreds of Police had to intervene, dozens of arrests were made and families fled the area on that occasion. I was contacted by numerous constituents after who spoke of their fears for their safety at the show – I followed this up both with the police and the Council. Consequently, in the lead up to the Show in 2010, I called for the funfair element to be dropped from the programme having been advised that the funfair is somewhat of a magnet for troublesome elements by a number of local police officers. I made it clear again last year that I thought the funfair should be dropped. Thankfully the Show passed peacefully and was as successful as ever in 2010 and 2011.
Given the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee this year will impose additional and exceptional burdens our Police – which will inevitably affect policing in Lambeth – and in light of all of the above, my view was that the correct decision had been made that the Country Show should not go ahead in its usual form in July this year. In reaching this decision, my primary concern has always been the safety of my constituents.
The suggestion that I have adopted a position on this issue for personal political convenience is deeply offensive and I am surprised and disappointed that this blog (which I regard as a useful community forum and blog) should repeat rumour and conjecture from a right wing political blog (with a political axe to grind) that would suggest otherwise. It is also quite wrong to suggest that because I support the Country Show not going ahead in its usual form this year that I do not support the Country Show – it is and will remain an incredibly important and key event in Lambeth’s calendar.
I understand that the position I’ve adopted with regards to the Country Show may not be popular in some quarters and I respect those who disagree with it – I know many residents will be disappointed at missing out on Show in the July. However, I have adopted the position I think is in the best interests of my constituents given all of the information available to me. Whilst this may not always be popular, I stand by it.
Chuka Umunna MP, Member of Parliament for Streatham
covering Streatham and parts of Clapham, Balham, Tulse Hill and Brixton