Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sir Ian Blair: isn't it time you left?

The London Assembly has passed the following motion (15 to 8) calling on top cop Ian Blair to stand down;

"This Assembly calls on the Metropolitan Police Authority to take the necessary steps to bring to an end the debate on the position of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, which is to the detriment of policing in London and bring his appointment to an end, if necessary obtaining the consent of the Home Secretary. "Given the lack of confidence in the Commissioner's stewardship of the Metropolitan Police Service, this Assembly also calls upon Sir Ian to reconsider his own position and resign."

In my view they are quite right to do so. Not only has his complicity covering up the real circumstances of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes but he has been a consistently shoddy copper. Whether its statements on the nature of racism, heavy handed over policing, detention without charge, phone tapping, Islam he has fallen well short of an acceptable standard, to the extent that one Muslim recruit would neither shake his hand nor be pictured with him lest it be used as propaganda.

He was also involved in attempting to downplay the cost of pushing Brian Haw around. He cannot continue without the support of the London Authority and will surely be on his way home tout suite.

However, not everyone agrees with this analysis. Jenny Jones, Green Assembly Member has written in the Guardian today on why she supports Sir Ian. She says that, what Blair's faults, the motion was "a political device to undermine the most progressive commissioner we have ever had... He is widely accepted as the most accountable senior police officer ever." Moreover the Stockwell shooting was a "huge blunder and tragedy [which] could not be laid at any one person's door." A blunder which was then covered up and the innocent victim of the Met's shooting policy has been repeatedly smeared, by sources inside the police service.

Darren Johnson - the Greens other Assembly Member - voted to end Blair's reign of incompetence saying "we do need to remember an innocent man died - a brutal and horrible death at the hands of the people who are charged with making our streets safe and actually protecting Londoners. The guilty verdict and the organisational failures it exposed I think now makes Sir Ian Blair's position untenable. I do recognise the huge contribution he has made to policing in London but I don't believe he is irreplaceable. I think we can get a new Commissioner who can still deliver that modern, diverse form of policing that we need for a modern diverse city like London. So I believe it has time for him to go."

On this one I'm with Darren and certainly not with Jenny. It is one of the advantages of a decentralised party that elected members are not ruled with a rod of iron, having to conform to a party line at every opportunity, but I'm disappointed that on, this occasion, Jenny Jones has made what I feel is a serious error of judgement.

Siân Berry, Green Mayoral Candidate, put it like this "The Met can no longer write off the killing of Jean-Charles de Menezes as an unfortunate accident. This verdict shows that the police behaved in a dangerous and trigger-happy manner, and that's the reason an innocent young man is dead. If the responsibility for this disgraceful breach of public duty is not felt right to the top, the next victim could be you, or me, or any of us. Ian Blair must resign immediately to allow us to start to rebuild the trust in our police service.

"It's incomprehensible that, even after it cost the life of a blameless Londoner, the Commissioner refused to end his shoot-to-kill policy. There's no reason to believe that it offers any protection from a suicide bomb; it is simply summary execution by any other name and has no place in a democratic society. There can be no more excuses; shoot-to-kill must end now."

Any misplaced attempt to keep on a "progressive" commissioner will only serve to ensure that hopes of holding the police force to some sort of account will be that much further away. I'd also add that it is an insult to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes that a normally sound Assembly Member should chose to protect his career over a greater sense of natural justice.


Matt Sellwood said...

I agree entirely. I think this is a bizarre decision by Jenny, to be quite frank. I find it pretty embarassing.


Renegade Eye said...

It's unusual in the US for a police officer ever to be reprimanded for anything.

The new template is much better than the other.

You don't link to my blog anymore?

Jim Jay said...

REye: I've been redoing the site - I've put your link up... feel free to suggest others (preferably in the post below designed for this, here)

Adrian Windisch said...

Its a difficult one, clearly the police blundered, and Blair was the head of a flawed institution.

I think the person responsible should be held accountable. That might mean the home secretary, or the police oficers who didnt pass on their information to Blair.

It should be decided by an independent enquiry.

Antipholus Papps said...

The fact that he repeatedly lied about what happened makes Ian Blair complicit in murder.

Cllr Dean Walton said...

What role is there for the Metropolitan Police Authority in giving overall direction to policy in the Met..rather than relying on an individual ultimately appointed by the Home Office?

Also, the argument for keeping Ian Blair because his replacement could be 'scary' is very very similar to that put about by Labour during election times - 'Vote for the Greens and you'll let the Tories in'...

Finally, I am upset by Jenny's description that the vote on Ian Blair is "essentially a meaningless exercise". It may have some truth in terms of strict legal powers completely but it utterly ignores the right of the democratically elected Assembly to take a view on matters of concern to Londoners.

Jim Jay said...

Actually I think the way the previous incumbant in a post leaves has a real impact on what the next person is like.

We're told Blair was much better on racism than previous Commisioners. Firstly that is not saying much. Secondly for any top policeman not to be acutely aware of what was expected of them would have been astonishing - because of the pressure that has been put on the police on this issue.

You can only improve the police by holding them to account over serious issues like these - not letting them off because they may or may not be less awful than the next bloke (although I'd be in favour of his replacement being someone who isn't a racist, liar or utter reactionary - there may be one or two candidates that fit the bill)