The fact that Mayor of London Boris Johnson has become solely responsible for the Metropolitan Police Service will no doubt have gone unnoticed by many.
No doubt Boris will be delighted that his power base now extends to total control of the police. Having been Policing Director for London for 8 years I offer him New Years greetings and this definitely unsolicited assessment and advice. LJ.
Open letter to Boris from Lee:
Dear Boris Mayor of London, salutations greetings and a happy new year!
Just thought I drop you a word of advice given your ever-burgeoning Mayoral Empire. I know you read my blog everyday. Did you know you’re my biggest fan? It’s a love that dare not speak its name. City Hall visits my page more than any other single London institution. Anyway back to business.
With ultimate control of the police resting with you, in the minds of the public, the confusing constitutional fog and maze of tripartite police accountabilities of the Met to Government, the Mayor and Metropolitan Police Authority is finally lifted.
In the old days of course the MPA was made up of Greater London Assembly members, Home Office appointees, and statutory representatives from the Government and the judiciary and broad range of feisty fiercely independent members many of them being black.
I guess yours will be a less colorful affair, but do try at least to make some token gestures; it really does brighten up the place.
In the past the MPS, (in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry), invited in its most ardent critics to work with them on sensitive issues of policing performance and policy.
I note your list: the list of London Assembly members, who, with one notable exception, lacks anyone who can act as an effective and credible conduit to consult with London’s black communities.
My concern Boris, seriously, is that, knowing you as I do; you simply don’t have what it takes to take a balanced approach when dealing with sensitive policing issues in London. You don’t like criticisms; we all know that, much less with the type of critics who will often speak out publically on the policing issues of the day.
In addition, you don’t have a policing adviser, who is capable of ensuring that you’re able to effectively achieve the right balance, deal with public concerns frustrations, demonstrations, unrest and discontent in an effective way.
That was brutally exposed in August when the MPS shot Mark Duggan in Tottenham and the subsequent disturbances. That acute and monumental political failure on your part cost both Londoners and the country dear.
Why do I lay that at your door you may well ask? Well the simple truth Boris is, had Ken been in office, with me as his adviser, those riots would simply not have happened. We would have ensured that we attended Tottenham and dragged the Commissioner with us immediately. Why?
Because we understand the significance of Tottenham, it’s historical context and that of a highly controversial death in custody. Do you remember Roger Sylvester? Same issue, same anger, different outcome.
That’s the price of failing to understand the issue of race and policing in London. Ignorance and ideological blind spots on these issues do not come cheap. The really tragic thing is that people needlessly lost their lives as a result of a series of political and policing errors that could have and should have been avoided.
Of course this is not widely understood and most people’s ire is focused on the rioters but that riot was completely avoidable.
As for you, from here on in, you are going to be put centre stage in any significant debates, on a range of critical policing issues facing London.
Public inquiry into suspicious deaths in custody? From today onward that’s your call.
Police racism, failure to prosecute perpetrators of domestic and youth violence, rape, stop and search and the culture of racial profiling, black officer recruitment, retention, promotion, discipline, cuts to policing numbers and the whole panoply of consultative forums and community groups are all heading your way.
Now I know your great ‘friend’ and confidante, Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse is notionally in charge and no doubt you are hoping that he will act as some sort of political firewall between you and the worst excesses of the MPS. Dream on oh blond one.
You see the clue is in his title ‘Deputy Mayor’. As for reforming the MPS, well down in Brixton we have a saying and that is, that the path to radical reform of the MPS is littered with the white, sun bleached bones, of previous Home Secretaries who have gone before.
The MPS is an empire Boris and you are going to have to work hard to ensure that the tail does not wag the dog. They have endless reserves and an infinite capacity to soak up opposition. I have no doubt in my mind Commissioner Hogan Howe, reading the runes of the previous two Commissioners and his new management team, will be assessing their new political environment and developing contingency political strategies as we speak.
I can’t help wondering, was it your mate Dave or Kit that convinced you this was a good idea? Either way I am reminded of the words (I know you love the classics) of the ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus who wrote
“In every tyrant's heart there springs in the end this poison, that he cannot trust a friend. “or as they say in classical Jamaica philosophy “they hold the handle and you hold the blade”.
So Boris you will be seeing lots more of me in the New Year given your new responsibilities. So just thought Id drop you a line and say hello.
(Picture by Dee Constantine-Simms)