So, the top dog of the Met police is gone. No, I haven’t been living in a timewarp (I accept its 2 weeks since the event itself), I just haven’t had enough time to blog about it. But it is a momentous moment, and presents both positive and negative situations. Positive because, no matter how much spin is spun, its clear why he’s going, negative, because in some ways it undermines the separation between the police and specific political motives, potentially paving the way for future Mayors to cherry pick a police chief to their liking once elected.
I suppose I’d say I’m nervously celebrating the demise of the figure who brought us shoot-to-kill policies, loved every minute of SOCPA and wilfully failed to tackle a smouldering race conflict in his own force. Yes, its great to see a head roll for once, especially given the obvious sense that the closest relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes can feel some kind of justice has been done.
What I worry about is the potential for police cheifs to become too much a matter of political taste for the parties that take power. Worst case scenario: what would happen if, and yes, its unlikely, a BNP mayoral candidate won. Would this be the excuse to install a racist thug at the top of the police force, ready to deploy riot police into areas like Southall to continue the race riots that would likely accompany such an occurance.
However, whilst its important not to further politicise the police force, it should be noted that Sir Ian Blair had become quite hard to distinguish at times from the New Labour onslaught of cuts in civil liberties and the rampant rise of the “Anti-Social Behaviour” paradigm of community policing. Sir Ian was often hard to distinguish from the the Blair government, and his attitude of “being the national police force” (i.e. policing outside the capital when its felt to be a serious issue) didn’t exactly make him the most politically neutral of characters. Indeed, his approach to branding – a total rebrand so that “Making London Safer” could be written out as “Making London Safer Together” – was one of semi-Orwellian frivolity (if such a thing is possible), and cast even more suspicion over his motives.
But in a time when getting people in political positions to resign over their mistakes and errors of judgement is becoming more and more difficult, and in which the political establishment seems determined to prop itself up no matter how bad things get, its welcome news that someone has paid a price for the dire failure of judgement that lead to a state-sanctioned assisination in cold blood.
Yes, moral reasoning alone should have caused the man to consider his position untenable months, if not years, ago. Yes, it does look a bit like a Tory popularity grab, especially with the black communities he so greived. But if it needed Boris to do it, then thats now water under the bridge, and London has finally had one of its most notorious police cheifs removed. Hopefully the next one will have the sense to keep out of the limelight, not go off on crusades, repaints, or indeed anything else that undermines human liberties. Sadly, I think thats a tall order, and things could get a lot worse, but at least we know its still possible to see the back of someone for moral reasons.