Daniel Hannan

Pick your own police chief

Daniel Hannan says communities would get the policing they want if they were allowed to elect local sheriffs

You’d be surprised how many champions Sir Ian Blair has. Ken Livingstone thinks he’s terrific. So does his Oxford contemporary and namesake, Tony Blair. The Guardian has devoted a huge amount of space to telling us what a good job he is doing. According to one of its columnists, the clamour against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has been whipped up by ‘the reactionaries in the force and their friends in the press’, who have never forgiven his enthusiasm for the Macpherson reforms.

Hmmm. I’d have thought Sir Ian’s critics had plenty to go on without needing to dredge up what he said seven years ago. The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, and the spin that followed, was the worst breakdown in British policing that I can remember. For several days, while the real Tube bombers remained on the run, stories were circulated about Mr de Menezes having been an illegal immigrant and having jumped the ticket barrier. When Sir Ian was finally forced to admit that his officers had killed the wrong man, he insisted that police action was not ‘the underlying cause’ of Mr de Menezes’s death. Not the underlying cause? What the hell else do you call holding someone down and loosing five bullets into the back of his skull?

The comment was typical of Sir Ian’s infelicitous turn of phrase. An hour before the bombs went off on 7 July, he was telling the Today programme that his force ‘set the gold standard in counter-terrorism’. A week after the atrocity, he spoke of his officers having ‘big grins’. Most recently, he claimed that the extensive coverage of the Soham child murders reflected the media’s ‘institutional racism’ — an observation, incidentally, that was not borne out by comparisons with the column inches dedicated to black murder victims.

My guess is that Sir Ian’s enemies are less upset by his political correctness than by the suspicion that it is distracting him from what ought to be his main business, viz harrying scoundrels.

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