Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Police Politics

Paul Stephenson, acting Met. Commissioner, and Bob Quick, head of the anti-terrorist unit, have both put their names forward to be permanent heads of the Metropolitan Police in succession to the ill fated Ian Blair. Experienced, well qualified policemen, they have something else in common. Both played significant roles in authorising the arrest of Tory frontbench MP Damian Green, thus creating a storm around the Met yet again.

It is true that the head of the Met should be apolitical in terms of party or ideological adherence. But he cannot be apolitical in terms of appreciating the consequences of his actions, and those of the Met as a whole. The London police chief has to work with politicians of different stripes (just take the Home Secretary and Mayor of London as two of the most significant), to say nothing of a range of politically diverse community groups. He also has to be canny enough to appreciate the impact of media responses on public attitudes to police work. It seems that Stephenson and Quick both fall at these hurdles. It will, however, be fascinating to see if the Home Secretary summons up her courage to appoint one of them regardless - possibly Stephenson - thus bearing out the conspiratorial view that some have of the recent action which is to believe that the senior police officers cannot have been acting without tacit political approval, and may even have been hoping to curry favour. After all, it is not so long ago that John Scarlett was made head of MI6 as a reward for his supine subservience to the political requirements of Alistair Campbell and Tony Blair when they needed an excuse to invade Iraq. The fact that the intelligence services have still not recovered their credibility is an ominous sign of things to come for the Met unless they find a genuinely non-partisan chief.

4 comments:

Comrade MAjor said...

The problem that is troubling me, is what would you cry if it was vice versa and the Tories were in power and a Labour minister got arrested...

GM said...

The same obviously - I'd like to think!! But please note the points in the linked European referendum blog comment as I think they are a useful corrective!

Anonymous said...

It made me a bit apathetic with the system given that all of them were so deliberately trying to point-score with the crowd. Made politics seem quite shallow.

But nonetheless it almost inspires you to try yourself and be better

Anonymous said...

Oh i meant this for the conference blog - i suppose if i have the potential for gaffes this early on i would be fine in Westminster.