Of London, Elections and Police

Controversy is raging tonight – is the Metropolitan Police Authority witholding publication of its report into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes for political reasons or not? The Evening Standard (who, remember hate Ken Livingstone’s guts, and Ken is Sir Ian Blair’s biggest political patron) says:

Today, however, the Metropolitan Police Authority admitted publication of the report had been delayed because of “political sensitivities” surrounding the mayoral and London Assembly elections.

A spokesman said the report into the 2005 shooting had still not been completed but had been held over because of the election “purdah“. The spokesman added that there was the possibility of “people making political capital out of it”

Could it be that the report is damning towards the Met’s behaviour and their apologist leader at a time when Ken Livingstone is fighting for his political life? Wouldn’t withholding publication at such a vital time be pretty shady? But wait, that’s not all that’s going on. Another spokesman (the same one? A different one? A *cough cough* real one?) contradicted the normally *guffaw* reliable Standard, saying:

“It is a gross misinterpretation to allege that the MPA Stockwell scrutiny report has been delayed because it is critical of the Commissioner, or for political reasons.”

“The scrutiny was set up to look at lessons learnt and new processes put in place to prevent such a tragedy happening again. It is not specifically about the Commissioner.”

“Scrutiny panel members have not seen a draft report and therefore it is completely misleading to make any assumptions about the contents.”

“The timetable for completion of the report has slipped due to the huge volume of evidence presented to the panel and the meticulous analysis required to complete the report. The panel members unanimously decided to extend the timetable for the production of the report.”

“The report is not yet written, work is ongoing and we will present the report to the full Authority before the summer. The report will be publicly available.”

But the damage is done. Lib Dem Brian Paddick (who has ruthlessly attacked Ken Livingstone), has used the story to further his platform of demanding the ousting of Blair and his unconditionally supportive patron Livingstone. In an election where the issues of crime and accountability of the Metropolitan Police are significant, the timing of this report (whatever the truth is) couldn’t be worse for Blair. We can only hope, despite the target of the Standard’s attack having been Livingstone. Whatever the truth is, Brian Paddick is right when he says:

“Londoners deserve to know the truth. If this report has been withheld for political purposes, this proves there is need for radical change in the way London and the Metropolitan Police Authority are led.”

There’s need for it anyway. The Metropolitan Police is anything but accountable, in very large measure because of Sir Ian Blair’s failure in reforming the service, stemming directly because of his dishonest behaviour in trying to block the initial investigation into Jean Charles de Menezes’ murder, and Ken Livingstone’s refusal even to criticise him one iota. The elected London Assembly tried to impeach Blair, but the MPA voted against a motion of no confidence in him shortly afterwards. Brian Paddick and Boris Johnson have both said if they win they will chair the MPA themselves; Johnson saying he would remove Blair, Paddick already voicing putative successors’ names. I hope that, should Ken yet win, he’s listening, but there’s no indication of anything but unconditional support for a force and Commissioner which are failing Londoners.

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