The Economist handicaps the coming London mayoral race, noting correctly that Boris Johnson currently leads Ken Livingstone in the polls but by no means has things sewn up. But the newspaper’s house politics skew the coverage badly as the article uses this gem of circumlocution to limn Johnson’s achievements as mayor:
Crime has continued to fall and minor improvements have been made to public transport, including a cycle-hire scheme and the end of the hated “bendy” bus.
As much as it may grate on them, the Economist should have acknowledged a key reason why crime is down and public transport quality is up under Johnson: He prohibited drinking on trains and buses. This was a political risk that did not endear him to libertarians. Indeed, some of the opposition went so far as to have a protest/party the night before the ban went into effect. The resulting alcohol-fueled violence and destruction was a vindication for Mayor Johnson.
The amazing drop in crime in New York City started with a change in how low-level antisocial/criminal behavior in the subways was policed. As has happened in London, crime first started to drop in what became a widely used zone of civility. Johnson clearly learned from the New York experience and London has benefited both in terms of fewer assaults on public transport riders and staff and in a greater sense of safety among those who rely on buses and the tube.
The Economist opposes prohibitions on psychoactive substances on principle, but that shouldn’t stop them from admitting when a well-reasoned ban has proved a success. Londoners know better: Three years on, a remarkable 87% of them support the policy.