I worked with Iain Blair for five years when I was a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He was Deputy Commissioner to John Stevens when I arrived. It was clear throughout the years he was deputy – that he was more than focused on succeeding to the top job when Sir John retired. And that’s what happened.
It is awful really to have watched him make errors of judgement – virtually since day one. He clearly set out to do things differently and to be the best-ever top cop – and it has all gone so horribly wrong.
And his errors have been the big ones and the public ones. He also politicised the police unforgivably when it suited, and made some very inadvisable media decisions – such as participating in Question Time.
There is no hiding place for him now and I don’t truly understand why he is hanging on rather than going gracefully. I guess he feels that it’s not fair to be judged on the extraordinary but tragic incident shooting of one person rather than the rest of his record where crime has fallen overall in London.
But – firstly – with us all paying for extra police and those extra police and PCSOs now on duty – it would be rank failure if there weren’t crime figures he could point at. And – secondly – the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes happened under him. The findings are damning in terms of the number of mistakes that were made. An innocent man died.
Blair has to go – because he carries the responsibility for overall whether the Met is up to scratch or not. And those damning findings of a catalogue of mistakes tell us the answer – it wasn’t.
In the end – getting the organisation right, the procedures and processes in order, helps the policeman (or woman) on the front line when they face that split-second decision as to whether to pull the trigger or not – because with the right systems they can make their decision confident that it is the right one. If the system behind you isn’t up to scratch, you can’t.
That’s why Iain Blair has to go – so that in future our lives will be protected, including by a proper and effective deployment where necessary of armed police.