Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, is publishing his memoirs which are designed to get his own back on all his enemies “set the record straight” on his Commissionership. The first instalment is serialised in today’s Mail on Sunday.
This is an interesting choice of vehicle for him, given the strained relations he had with the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday when he was Commissioner. No doubt he has had to compromise under the strain of getting by on – according to the Daily Mail – an index-linked pension of £126,000 per annum plus a lump sum of lump-sum payment of £672,000, a golden handshake of £295,000 plus compensation of £100,000 (he earned between £580,000 and £590,000 in his final months at the Met according to Note 4 of last year’s MPA accounts).
I supported Sir Ian Blair during his Commissionership and believe that the Metropolitan Police achieved much during his time as Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, so it was with considerable interest that I looked at the extracts from his memoirs this morning.
I was more than a little angry therefore to read Sir Ian’s description of the “cash for honours” probe and, in particular, these comments:
“Another difficulty was that this was to be a case fought out in the media.
Part of the investigation involved pre-interview disclosure of evidence, which passed through many hands on its way to those who were to be interviewed. The timing of a number of revelations appeared to be linked with this process.
It was obvious to us that, as in the case of David Kelly, the formidable briefing machine of central Government – and indeed Labour interests on the Metropolitan Police Authority and at City Hall – was at work, rubbishing the inquiry.”
The implication seems to be that Labour members of the MPA (and I assume he is including me amongst their number) were privy to details of the inquiry, were leaking them to the media and to key protagonists, and were busy rubbishing the inquiry.
I am not a libel lawyer, but I suspect such inferences are defamatory.
Sir Ian Blair acknowledges that even he was only kept informed of progress on the inquiry on a “need to know” basis.
I would not have dreamed of asking to be informed about any of the details of an inquiry such as this and indeed had I done so would have expected – quite rightly – to be told that it would not be appropriate to provide them.
However, I did go out of my way to defend the inquiry to anyone – including Labour colleagues in Parliament – who asked me about it. This was not always a popular viewpoint. Nonetheless, I took the position that the allegations at the centre of the inquiry were extremely serious and that the Metropolitan Police had no option but to investigate them robustly. I was happy therefore to defend the inquiry, led by John Yates, and the tactics pursued as part of it.
Len Duvall, who was then the Chair of the MPA followed a similar line and I am sure he was subjected to even more pressure than I was on the subject. His view – like mine – was that the Police had no alternative but to follow the evidence. Indeed, it was the duty of the Police to do so, even if that meant interrogating the hard drives of computers in Downing Street or in the homes of officials, or arresting such officials early in the morning at their homes. Not a popular position in the Labour Party at the time, but the correct one.
It would be seriously damaging to British politics if it was believed that such allegations would not be investigated simply because of the seniority of the those accused. (The same principle incidentally applied in the Damian Green case more recently and for that matter to allegations thirty-odd years ago that the Leader of the Liberal Party had tried to have his boy-friend murdered.)
Thus, Sir Ian’s inferences against myself and Len Duvall are not only grotesquely unfounded, but also display a failure to recognise who was actually defending the Metropolitan Police (and for that matter Sir Ian himself) during his Commissionership.
If he is an “unreliable witness” on this, I wonder how much store we can set by the rest of his memoirs.