Judging by the headline story on the London Mayor’s website his most pressing concern over the last couple of weeks has been to shore up the beleaguered Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair. The Mayor spent Thursday touring radio newsrooms to make his case. One of his silliest lines was that he:
wouldn’t put the irresponsible politicians attacking the police Commissioner within a million miles of running the kind of anti-terror operations London has had to deal with over the last few years.
And still less would anyone put the Mayor anywhere near them either. Don’t forget this is the man who failed to condemn the IRA at the height of their operations and while slightly less mealy mouthed about Islamic fundamentalist inspired terrorism still manages to run with people like Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Over the weekend the tide has been running against Blair and the Mayor. You might ask why is Mayor quite so supportive of Blair? The answer is complicated.
Blair/Livingstone’s one bankable achievement in policing London has been the roll out of Safer Neighbourhood Teams. As Brian Coleman pointed out in the Independent on Sunday the highly political Blair did not baulk about rolling these teams out to coincide with the May 2006 local elections and taking part in a totally integrated comms exercise that included press advertising, to the tune of Â£300K paid for by the Met, but also all Labour council candidates’ election literature. See previous posting.
Whilst we all welcome, certainly here in Northfield, the SNTs the Met had to cut a lot of corners to deliver the teams to a political timetable and beyond this rollout the list of the achievements of Blair/Livingstone are thin indeed. Recently Blair/Livingstone have been trying to talk up falls in crime numbers but have cynically failed to mention increases in in-your-face violent crime – the thing that worries people the most. See previous posting.
Blair is a relative newcomer but Livingstone has had 8 years to reform the Met, confront its Spanish practices and to get our coppers out on the streets on their own rather than going around in pairs (even their ads show policemen going around in pairs). The Mayor knows that appointing a new commissioner over the next six months will throw a spotlight on his lack of achievement in the policing area. The Mayor would rather the Blair/Livingstone media double act continued unmolested as any incoming commissioner is likely to want to distance him or herself from the Mayor and start to set out the considerable room for improvement there is at the Met.