By Hannah Booth
Kevin Holland meets the new prime minister at the Aylesbury estate, London, June 1997
Tony Blair made his first speech as prime minister here, near Elephant and Castle in south London. The Aylesbury estate is home to about 7,500 people, and has dozens of concrete towers, all interlinked by walkways – the size of a small town. It was riven with crime. “For the past 18 years, often the poorest people in our country have been forgotten by government,” Blair said that day. “And I want that to change.”
I started working as the home beat officer there in 1994. The first thing I did each morning was look at the crimes from the past 24 hours: robberies, burglaries, damage to cars. There were 10-15 crimes a day. At first, I spent a lot of time nicking people. But I gradually became more of a conduit and peacemaker; I opened up communication between the police, security guards and the tenants. My aim was to get on top of the gangs.