Saturday, October 04, 2008

Who will fill Blair's shoes?

I'm not referring to Peter Mandelson's return, shudder, but rather the rumours about who will fill Sir Ian Blair's blood stained boots as the head of the Met and top anti-terrorism policebod.

This man should have been sacked a long time ago. Although I didn't want *Boris* to sack him, as James says, we shouldn't allow the fact he was ousted by a Tory Mayor to blind us to the fact that this was long overdue.

Ken Livingstone is quite right when he points out that "Johnson was unable in his statement yesterday to offer a single good reason for his ousting of the commissioner, which suggests his administration lacks basic political honesty." But that's because Johnson is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons - or at least reasons he cannot voice whilst retaining the support of the traditional Tory heartlands.

But whilst some say that this is using the position as a "political football" but Blair was a 100% political policemen, taking a lead on extending the ability of the police to lock people up without trial - and when Livingstone et al defended Blair after the Stockwell shooting and ensuing police cover up it was itself an extremely political act. One that even good people like Jenny Jones took part in.

The Home Secretary and the police seem disgruntled about the politicisation of the office when it means Blair getting the boot, but when it was a question of defending Blair or using police officers to force through bills in Parliament - strangely they were happy with that. It appears they'd like to have their cake and eat it, and who can blame them for that?

Under the circumstances the job itself is beginning to look more and more like a poisoned chalice though - caught as it is in the battle between Whitehall and the Gherkin. Some people are ruling themselves out of the running already, although it looks like Sir Paul Stephenson is the odds on favourite for successor. According to The Times Stephenson models his management style on Tesco and learned his trade in the RUC during the troubles. Oh joy.

There are rumours that Cambridge's Julie Spence may be in line for the top job, although William Hill has her at 66/1. Blair was an Oxford man, his predecessor was from Cambridge, so maybe it is Cambridge's turn again? Cough. She's controversial but well liked by the press, seems keen on community policing and is tough as nails. At least that's the way she comes across.

I don't want to demonise her, she clearly has good points. However, she's also blamed immigrants for the rising cost of policing, and lobbied the government on this allowing the national press to whip up scaremongering against our foreign guests. Personally I think this was very ill judged, but she's the sort of police officer that could well go down well with both the Mayor (for her refusal to bow to "political correctness") and the Home Secretary (for her community policing combined with a hard nosed style).

Whoever does succeed Blair they will certainly have their work cut out for them and will need to be prepared for flak from every side. Mind you the wage packet of quarter of a million pounds should soften the hard edges somewhat.

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