The Metropolitan Police Authority is in session and Mayor Boris Johnson is in the Chair.
Before the discussion of the G20 protests and the Tamil demonstrations in Parliament Square could begin, however, John Biggs AM – in full Mr Grumpy mode, although. he was smiling – set a high moral tone, noting that one of the Mayor’s flunkeys had brought him his morning latte (or whatever it was) and that he (John Biggs) was still humble enough to make his own tea.
As the meeting went on, however, the Authority got quite tangled up on consistency: were the police too “rough” with the G20 demonstrators but being too “lax” with the Tamils? How do you police Parliament Square if people are determined to protest and want to be arrested to fuel the publicity for their protest? Should the legislation governing the area round Parliament be changed (apparently representations from the Mayor’s Office have led to the protestors moving from the GLA-controlled part of the Square to the Westminster City Council-controlled part and taking down their catering tent)? No conclusions were reached. It will all be referred to the new MPA Civil Liberties Panel that is to be set up.
This new Civil Liberties Panel is going to be an interesting group. The Panel was the idea of Uber-Vice Chair Kit Malthouse AM – no doubt it seemed like a jolly wheeze when it was first proposed (it would demonstrate the Conservative Party’s new-found enthusiasm for human rights and civil liberties and would be a convenient long-grass repository for difficult issues). However, the Panel is acquiring greater prominence as the weeks go on. There are now enormous expectations on what it will achieve and its agenda grows meeting by meeting.
Yet, the terms of reference are only being approved at this meeting of the Authority and its membership (and even its size – the paper proposes a limit of six members) will not be confirmed until 25th June. Critically who will chair it? It is difficult to see Uber-Vice Chair Kit Malthouse being happy to cede ontrol of the Panel to a Labour, LibDem or Green politician and he doesn’t have much time for the Independent members. However, would one of the Conservative members be acceptable to the rest of the Authority. It looks increasingly likely that the Uber-Vice Chair may have to do it himself.