Mayors have varying degrees of power and influence. But one thing they have in common is a unique position from which they can – and should – speak for and to the people of their cities.
This power might be a purely cultural one, but it is hugely important.
So on this basis alone, the response last week of Cologne’s mayor Henriette Reker to the mass attacks on women which took place on New Year’s Eve and which were then covered up by a dutiful police force and media, was utterly shameful.
Reker put the onus on the city’s women, talking of a ‘code of conduct’ which they should perhaps adopt. By putting political dogma before the safety of citizens, Reker took ‘cultural cringe’ to a whole new level.
If she had any self-awareness, she would be considering her position.
The fact that she felt she could say what she did – that it presumably didn’t occur to her that a more robust defence of her city’s values might be more in keeping – speaks volumes.
Europe’s elites are characterised by cultural self-loathing, combined with a heavy dose of cowardice.
Of course Britain has experienced something similar but different, in the systematic rape and sexual assault of young girls in Rotherham. The multicultural boat could not be rocked, so there was appalling police inaction and cover-up.
Now, across Europe, each day brings new revelations of attacks on women – most recently in Sweden, as reported here by Breitbart London – which have been effectively tolerated and then covered up by the authorities.
The public’s profound unease is completely understandable, as is their consequent diminishing trust in the media.
The contradictions in the public doctrine of multiculturalism are now recognised and openly discussed, from Trevor Philips through to David Cameron and (yes) Angela Merkel. It is no longer beyond the pale to believe that it has caused more problems than it has solved.
Whether it be in the toleration of sharia courts, or the turning of a blind eye to cultural practices which go against our laws, too often it has been women who have been the victims of those problems.
I have always believed that a multi-ethnic society such as ours can be successful if it can be united by a common set of values and sense of identity, instead of a constant emphasis on division.
It’s amazing to think that this was once considered outlandish.
It can be difficult to explain this crucial difference in a city like London. More than one TV interviewer has asked me how, as UKIP’s Mayoral candidate, I can appeal to such a multicultural place as our capital.
But this is to miss the point entirely.
Like anybody else, I enjoy the huge profusion of completely diverse cuisine, fashion and music. Indeed the different cultural influences on our city are so big and ingrained it’s easy to take them for granted.
But this is not the same thing as ensuring and, indeed, standing up for the common values and laws which should and must underpin any cohesive society.
Here, as across Europe, one of those values – enshrined in our legal system – is that everybody is equal before the law regardless of their gender, sexuality or ethnicity.
Mayor Reker should not only have said that the full force of the law would be used to punish those men who systematically abused, robbed and attacked the women of Cologne.
She should also have said that the cultural attitudes from which such actions spring have no place in Europe or its cities, that they will never be explained away in the name of cultural sensitivity, and that they will never be tolerated.
Peter Whittle is the UK Independence Party’s candidate for Mayor of London. You can follow him at @PrWhittle on Twitter