Sunday, June 04, 2006

Birds of a feather

Sir Ian Blair is far more like Tony Blair than Tony would want to admit, but not in the way Sir Ian would want to admit.

In the beginning, and still up to a point, Sir Ian Blair was subject to a steady flow of vitriol from what might be described as the Richard Littlejohn tendency - the Police Federation, the Daily Mail, Simon Heffer, the Conservative Party and the man himself. Sir Ian had, lest we forget, been promoted to run the Metropolitan Police after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and its exposition of not just the famous institutional racism, but also incompetence and possible corruption (one of Lawrence's probable killers' father was a well-known gangster, known to have "friends in the force", something no-one now remembers). This meant pissing off the Knackers of the Yard and the racist tendency, and in the fullness of time ran him into conflict with the Home Office as it swung steadily rightwards post-2000.

He was branded as a wobbly liberal, setting a match to the foundations of the police force that would one day shake it asunder, wasting public money on a variety of supposed causes recovered from the file marked "Loony Left - 1983".

This was always silly. For a wet loony-left flabbler pandering to political correctness, blah, blah, he had made his career in a very noticeable manner. It was Ian Blair, pre-knighthood, who marshalled hordes of private security goons alongside his constables to wallop road protestors for Michael Howard, after all. It was his Thames Valley force that played cat and mouse with sound systems along the M4 corridor for years, in the same cause. By 1997 Michael Howard, motorway building schemes bigger than anything since the Romans, legislation against music, and the rest was going out of fashion. It was time to trim, and trim he did all the way to New Scotland Yard.

Once there, however, he soon detected that the climate was changing. In the time of terrorism and David Blunkett, the new Sir Ian was deeply unfashionable. More than that, great bureaucratic opportunities presented themselves - more powers and more budget. So he became Mr Security, and eventually took on something approaching an independent political role when briefing MPs before the vote on the Terrorism Bill. He could now count, again, on the support of Chief Inspector Knacker, Richard Littlejohn, and the Home Office top bureaucracy - he could even offer the chip butty squad a resumption of stop-and-search powers. In return, he gave the politicians what they wanted - sending 78 cops to harass Brian Haw and keeping the bill quiet, for example, and taking the lumps for the execution of de Menezes.

Unfortunately, some people don't spot the changing times, or don't want to. Hence last week's decapitation mission. Neither Brian Paddick nor Tarique Ghaffur have any place under the new Sir Ian, and it's only surprising it took so long.

I don't presume to determine which is the real Sir Ian, the trendy schoolteacher or the overweening bully. Rather, I suspect, he doesn't feel any attachment to either. You can do that for a while, of course - keep the bases covered through constant manoeuvring. But in the end, you are left with no allies on either side. Just like Tony Blair.

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