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.