According to today’s Evening Standard the Tory Shadow Home Secretary has been talking about making Boris the first elected Commissioner of the Met with the scrutiny role of the Metropolitan Police Authority being transferred to the London Assembly.
Grayling promises that: “no reform we introduce will allow any elected politician to interfere in operational policing and we will make absolutely certain that the independence of operational policing is protected in law.”
It’s not a universally popular idea, several Assembly Members have already spoken out against it:
Labour’s Joanne McCartney says: “Of course the police need to be held to account, but this would lead to less accountability, not more. Senior officers are rightly resisting this and I don’t think there is much public appetite to see Boris Johnsons up and down the country running the police. The idea that we go down the American route of commissioners, mayors and politicians all trying to out tough each other with one eye on their next election is deeply worrying.”
Green Party AM has issued the following statement: “The MPA has always struggled to hold the Met to account, now more than ever under a Tory mayor, but that’s because it’s a small number of members dealing with a huge organisation. A single person like a mayor, even with a dedicated team, or using the Assembly as a scrutiny body, simply couldn’t do the job. If the MPA needs reforming, then it should have more members, not fewer.”
Both make fair points and I’d want to see the finer details of Grayling’s policies before endorsing them too enthusiastically but the general idea of London’s Mayor having control over such a vital service is something I’ve been in favour of long before Boris was enjoying the view from City Hall.
There’s no reason why a beefed up, properly resourced Assembly couldn’t hold ‘Commissioner Boris’ to account. To properly fulfil such a role it’d need more cash and staff but, more vitally, will require AMs from all parties to set aside the time wasting personal jibes they currently indulge in long enough to research the issues they’re debating.
A lot of thought would need to go into making such a radical change work but ultimately Londoners deserve to be trusted with responsibility for their own policing and those committed to meaningful devolution for the capital should play their part in making any changes work.