Public officials, even retired ones, should not as a general rule attempt to undermine democracy. Imagine if, for example, a permanent secretary in the Home Office took to the airwaves to persuade the public to sit on their hands in a general election, in the hope that a low turnout would remove legitimacy from the process and let civil servants get on with their jobs without bothersome interference from ministers.
That is pretty much what Lord Blair, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is now doing. Earlier this week, he said that he hoped people would not bother to vote in the first police commissioner elections on 15 November — in the hope that mass abstention would fatally undermine the process. His argument against the elections is disingenuous: he claims that the constituencies are too big, and that it is impossible for one person to represent Slough as well as Oxfordshire. But it’s not hard to guess his real reason: he loathes the idea of the public having a say in how the police prioritise their work.
Ian Blair perfectly embodies what has gone wrong with policing in England. He is marinated in political correctness. As head of Surrey Police, he would write articles worrying about how police have not ‘thought through the requirements of modernity’ which he defined in terms of New Labour platitudes. As head of London’s police, he spent thousands changing its logo from ‘Working for a safer London’ to ‘Working together for a safer London’. Now retired and ennobled, he sees these new commissioners as a threat to what policing has become.
His call for a boycott comes after indications that only a fifth of eligible voters will take part in the elections. They were supposed to take place on the same day as local elections, but the Liberal Democrats vetoed this — thinking that a focus on law and order would disadvantage their council candidates.