Sir Ian Blair Resigns

Sir Ian Blair profile picture


Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair during a press conference at New Scotland Yard, London, where he announced his resignation. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/ PA

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, today announced that he is to step down after losing the support of the mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Blair said he would have liked to continue as Britain's most senior policeman until his contract expired in 2010. But he said that at a meeting yesterday Johnson had told him in a "pleasant but determined" way that he wished to see a "change of leadership".

"Without the mayor's backing I do not think I can continue in the job," Blair told a news conference.

Johnson paid tribute to Blair's record in cutting crime in London but said it was time for "new leadership" in the force.

The mayor said there was "no particular story or allegation that was uppermost in our considerations.

"He and I agreed that this was an opportunity – with me taking over the Metropolitan Police Authority chairmanship – for a clean break and a new start for policing in London."

Blair has faced pressure to step down over a number of issues, most notably the botched anti-terrorism operation in July 2005 which saw a Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by police who mistook him for a potential suicide bomber.

Johnson's predecessor, Ken Livingstone, backed the police chief resolutely, but the new mayor was always lukewarm in his support, making Blair's position ultimately untenable.

Blair, who was appointed as commissioner in 2005, defended his record as the head of the Met and said it was the duty of the commissioner to lead the force "through good times and bad".

He said he would leave the job on December 1 after the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, had "reluctantly but graciously" accepted his resignation.

Smith said she had accepted Blair's resignation "with regret" and paid tribute to his contribution to policing at a local and national level, including cuts in crime rates and tackling gun crime and terrorism.

"Sir Ian has always had my support," she said.

She announced that Sir Paul Stephenson – the bookmakers' favourite to replace Blair - would serve as acting commissioner until his successor was appointed. Smith will appoint the new commissioner after consultations with Johnson and the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Livingstone criticised the way the commissioner was forced from office.

"I think this is a political decision and in that sense I regret it. The long term legacy of this political decision will be bad for policing," he told Sky News.

Brian Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner in the Met who ran as the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor, said it was a "sad day" for policing.

However, the shadow home secretary, Dominic Grieve, welcomed the news.

"We have been calling for Sir Ian to step down for almost a year," he said, criticising "a serious lack of judgment about the leadership of the most important police force in Britain".

Blair's decision comes after allegations in today's newspapers about inappropriate use of public money in sharpening the commissioner's image.

The Daily Mail claimed this morning that Blair employed a close friend to give him PR advice prior to taking the job. He denies acting improperly.

Blair's problems stemmed from a series of high-profile mistakes, most notably his handling of the shooting of De Menezes in the wake of the July 2005 bomb attacks on London.

He was criticised for an initial insistence that the shooting was "directly linked" to anti-terrorism operations, despite widespread worries at the time among other Met officers that an innocent man had been killed.

The family of De Menezes, who are in London for the ongoing inquest into the 27-year-old's death, said Blair bore "responsibility for the lies told about Jean and the cover-up by police".

Outside the Oval cricket ground, where the inquest is taking place, De Menezes' cousin, Erionaldo da Silva, said: "Ian Blair should have resigned three years ago when he and his men killed the wrong man."

More recently, Blair has had to deal with two high-profile cases of alleged discrimination by his force. In June, the Met's most senior Asian officer, assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, said he would sue the force for racial discrimination and victimisation.




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