Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has been criticised after it emerged he had argued that increasing police numbers was "useless" in deterring criminals.

It comes as Mr Bailey prepares to deliver a speech on violent crime in the capital on Wednesday, and gears up to take on Sadiq Khan at the 2020 mayoral election.

In recent weeks, Boris Johnson has made it a flagship policy of his new administration to reverse cuts of previous Conservative governments since 2010 – by increasing police numbers by 20,000.

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During his first speech outside Downing Street, the prime minister said it was his a priority of his to make "streets safer", as he vowed to begin the recruitment process imminently. 

But Mr Bailey's previous comments – pouring scorn on the effectiveness of increasing police figures – were seized on by Labour, who claimed they were a "slap in the face to our overstretched and under-resourced police". 

In a 2005 publication, Mr Bailey wrote: "The police can't deal with the causes of the problem. To expect them to is one of the big myths in our world. Everyone talks about more policemen. Absolutely useless. Anybody who knows anything about criminals will realise that they are not concerned with police, they never have been and never will be."

In the paper, published in the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), he added:  "The only way to cut crime or anti-social behaviour is to change people's attitudes. 

"You know if you put policemen at a certain place, nothing will happen. When they leave, something happens. It's people's attitudes and situations that drive crime."

"What police can't deal with and shouldn't be expected to deal with is your low-level crime, your graffiti, your abusive behaviour, anti-social behaviour. What it does is undermine them."

After being selected as the Tories' mayoral candidate for the 2020 election in London, Mr Bailey criticised the current mayor Sadiq Khan for failing to make the capital's streets feel safe.

He added: "As mayor, my number one priority will be to make sure that it is criminals that feel under pressure, not communities. I recently published a plan in the Evening Standard that outlined how I would put an extra thousand police officers back on the streets." 

Responding to the 2005 remarks, Labour's shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh, told The Independent: "As a former special constable I know firsthand just how important having more officers on our streets is for tackling crime."

She added: "Shaun Bailey's comments are a slap in the face to our overstretched and under-resourced police - who are already suffering from huge cuts Bailey oversaw when he was an adviser on crime to the Tory government. Time and again he's shown why he's not fit to be mayor of our great capital."

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A spokesperson for Mr Bailey replied: "While Sadiq Khan was literally writing the book on how to sue the police and earning a living doing just that, Shaun Bailey was hard at work on the streets as a youth worker keeping young people away from violent crime. 

"Shaun has long argued that tackling crime requires both a police response and a broader effort to address the underlying root causes of crime. You can't have the former without the latter or else long-term progress won't be made, a point Shaun will once again be making in his speech tomorrow. 

"Even Sadiq Khan has admitted that a police response alone isn't enough. To be clear, the only slap in the face being given to our police right now is Sadiq Khan's obstinate refusal to cut his PR budgets and bureaucracy at City Hall to fund an appropriate number of police."

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