Friday, 3 October 2008

Bye Bye Blair

. The Guardian is shedding many tears over the demise of Sir Ian Blair this morning. It is absolutely true that his dispatch at the hands of a Conservative mayor is unfortunate however all this tells us is that there is deficit when it comes to democratic accountability for the police. Whether he was a "true progressive within the police" is a contention that can be debated.

Leaving aside the highly contentious response to the Stockwell shooting for one second; Blair has stepped-out in defence of highly controversial measures to detain terror suspects without charge for longer than 28 days and the introduction of ID cards. Surely this should be enough to call into question his reputation as a "liberal policeman". Indeed, as the Guardian's editorial points out itself Blair frequently meddled in politics so there is something deeply ironic and almost just about the manner of his demise.

Returning to Stockwell and his role in the shooting of unarmed Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, it really doesn't matter how critical you are of the police to still be able to find fault with Blair's response. His first instinct was to tell the Home Office that the Independent Police Complaints Commission should not be allowed to investigate; in other words his first response was to thrawt due process because it didn't suit him. Mutterings about possible cronyism regarding a company owned by a friend of Sir Ian which won a contract for Met-funded work; the loss of confidence of London's governing political power, all this made his position completely untenable.

It should be a matter of deep regret to progressives that it was left to Boris Johnson to wield the knife. Labour Party members in particular should be ashamed they have put the upkeep of a political pet before holding the police to account. Clearly our case for the democratic accountability of policing needs to be heard; it is the only way police will become more responsive to the communities they police. However, my overwhelming reaction is that I am glad Sir Ian has gone; we should make sure it's us who wields the axe not a bigoted Tory shock-jock.

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