Friday, 27 November 2009

Boris Johnson to become Police Commissioner

The Evening Standard are reporting that Boris Johnson will become Britain's first 'elected' Police commisioner, if the Conservatives win the next election.

Forgive me if this prospect doesn't entirely fill me with glee.

I mean this is the man, who hired not one, but three men who have since had to resign due to allegations of financial misconduct or fraud.

A man who agreed to supply the address of a journalist, so he could be beaten up, and a man who famously gave a character reference for Conrad Black at his trial.

Now Boris Johnson does have many good qualities, and if you're in need of somebody to open a branch of Morrisons, then he's the man for you.

But if London absolutely must have an elected police chief, then it should be somebody with the time, the expertise, and the judgement to do the job well.

In other words, almost anybody but Boris.

Scrapping the MPA

Under the Tories' proposals the body which currently scrutinises the Metropolitan Police, would be scrapped and replaced by the London Assembly.

I heard whisperings of something along these lines well over a year ago.

Now I have lots of criticisms of the MPA, the main one being that they do not have enough powers and sway to properly hold the force to account.

But rather than empower this body, the Tories want to scrap it altogether, leaving Londoners with even less opportunity to challenge the police when things go wrong.

So while the MPA has spent large amounts of time scrutinising the policing of the G20, it is hard to see that how the London Assembly could ever effectively do a similar job.

So is the Tories' main priority here to increase accountability, or to get rid of a possible source of bad headlines for them in the future?

For Boris, the latter may currently seem like a wise idea.

But if and when things go seriously wrong again on London's streets, it will be Boris and not the police who will then take the biggest political hit.

Reactions and Links

Labour's London Assembly police spokesperson Joanne McCartney, said:

"Of course the police need to be held to account, but this would lead to less accountability, not more. Senior officers are rightly resisting this and I don't think there is much public appetite to see Boris Johnsons up and down the country running the police. The idea that we go down the American route of commissioners, mayors and politicians all trying to out tough each other with one eye on their next election is deeply worrying."

Green Party representative on the MPA Jenny Jones said:

"The MPA has always struggled to hold the Met to account, now more than ever under a Tory mayor, but that's because it's a small number of members dealing with a huge organisation. A single person like a mayor, even with a dedicated team, or using the Assembly as a scrutiny body, simply couldn't do the job. If the MPA needs reforming, then it should have more members, not fewer."

Former MPA Chairman and blogger Lord Toby Harris has some fun with the idea and then sets out an alternative proposal

"First, a directly-elected MPA Chair, separate from but elected on the same day as the Mayor of London (this could be Kit Malthouse’s big moment, if he doesn’t become an MP first). Second, retain the MPA with a mixed membership of elected members (drawn from both the London Assembly and the London Boroughs with a Party balance proportional to the votes received by each of the major Parties across London) and independent members (appointed after public advertisement on merit). And third, greater clarity on the role and powers of all concerned."

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:

“Only the Conservatives could believe that bumbling Boris Johnson is the solution to making the police more accountable. Police chiefs are unanimous in their opinion that Tory plans to politicise control of the police will lead to populist pandering of the worst kind. The police need to be more accountable to the community they serve but that is best achieved through an elected police authority that is representative of it.”

"Plodfather" image by Beau Bo D'or


D-Notice said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but wouldn't that conflict with his Mayoral duties?

AdamB said...

Well it certainly would in terms of hours. I think the problem would be that Boris would be the elected police chief in name but Kit Malthouse would actually be doing most of the work and taking most of the decisions.

So basically, we'd have Dogcatcher in charge, and Boris hoping to take all the credit.

John said...

The experience with Damian Green didn't put him off then?

AdamB said...

Tim Donovan on BBC London was just saying that it's not clear yet whether Boris would really be the "commissioner" as such. I think that's right, and this may be a similar situation to the Deputy Mayor's where Boris just handed out vanity titles to existing roles.

Even if he doesn't gain any new powers though, which I doubt, he would still be removing a layer of scrutiny from the police (and himself) and that can only be a bad thing IMO.

Anonymous said...

Did The Conservative Party not learn from the Ray Lewis affair which only happened a very short time ago . Take a look on this link :

It is all very frightening really , especially when Boris Johnson choose to ignore the warnings that he received regarding Ray Lewis's past criminality. We should all be very worried about The Conservative Party plans for the future of London's Policing!

Harold said...

This seems consistent with Boris's vision of london being like Gotham City.
As proved recently, just call for help and Boris will appear and sort out the riff-raff.
Will he wear a mask and change into a cape before he leaves the gla-cave, I ask?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

That is an ace picture!

debt said...

As proved recently, just call for help and Boris will appear and sort out the riff-raff.
Will he wear a mask and change into a cape before he leaves the gla-cave, I ask?