Socialist Worker

Good riddance to police commissioner Ian Blair

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2121

Ian Blair the chief of the Metropolitan Police force has resigned – and London is a slightly safer place because of it.

It is the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes that casts the longest shadow over Blair.

The unarmed Brazilian was shot dead in Stockwell Tube station in July 2005.

Within 15 minutes of his death, an explosives expert confirmed Jean Charles had no bomb, and his wallet and mobile phone had been found with evidence of his true identity.

Yet Blair claimed for a further 24 hours that the Jean Charles had been involved in the terror plot, even though dozens of more junior police later admitted they knew within hours that Jean Charles had been innocent.

Blair announced at a press conference, ”The information I have available is that this shooting is directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation. Any death is deeply regrettable, I understand the man was challenged and refused to obey'

That was simply untrue.

Blair has admitted that during the shooting and for 24 hours afterwards, he had no idea what was going on. Blair explained that he had not lied he had just been 'almost totally uninformed'

Only 42 minutes after the shooting, Blair gave orders that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was to be excluded from investigating the incident.

It was three days before it was finally allowed to start its investigation. During those three days a police surveillance log was altered. The only reason no prosecution has been brought is that it is unclear which officer did it.

Blair even had to apologise the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, the chair of the IPCC and senior investigator Roy Clarke for taping his phone calls to them after the shooting of Jean Charles.

After two IPCC reports and a conviction at Health and Safety trial, not one officer has been disciplined, not one has faced criminal charges.

In the health and safety case the court did not point the finger at any individual police officer but it hit Scotland Yard with a £175,000 fine.

Blair was asked how the killing could have happened if no individual was to blame and there were no structural flaws in the police force. He responded, 'Sometimes, that's what happens.”

Blair’s resignation has produced a row between New Labour and the Tories over whether he should have had the support of politicians. New Labour have stood by him through every scandal and are continuing to do so. The Tories are trying to make political capital of Boris Johnson being Mayor of London.

First, Blair was far from the “politically correct” cop he is portrayed as. For instance, Suspended Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has accused Blair of racism.

That the Metropolitan Police is at war with its senior Asian officers suggests that institutional racism is still at the heart of the force.

One new Labour trait Blair did adopt was spin. Blair’s image consciousness meant that he stands accused of paying a friend, Andy Miller, £15,000 to advise him of how to make the transition to Commissioner.

It is clear that New Labour and the Tories are trying to outdo each other over who is the toughest on crime. The problem is not the fight over the powers of the Metropolitan Police Authority – it is the reactionary consensus over crime.

The mainstream parties differ over whether Ian Blair was the right man to lead the Met, but they agree that more cops, more repression is the solution.

Blair’s time in charge has seen more attacks on civil liberties, more use of the racist stop and search powers. All things both the government and the Tories agree on.

Whatever the fallout of Blair’s resignation, and whichever bit of the establishment gains most it is a small step but a step forwards nonetheless, for all those victims of the racism and violence of the police.


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News
Fri 3 Oct 2008, 17:22 BST
Issue No. 2121
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