One of the most interesting points raised in today’s London Assembly hearing into the Met’s hoped-for acquisition of water cannon came from Labour’s Jennette Arnold.
As Boris and Met Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley repeatedly insisted the three trucks would hardly ever be seen or used, Jennette pointed out that given they’re just three years away from their end of life they could end up being bought and never used – hardly a great use of public money.
The limited lifespan of the three German vehicles the Met has its eye carries with it some important political consequences.
One of the consequences of the policing accountability changes in London is that City Hall has to approve any high value or contentious purchases by the Met – the force won’t be able to just go off and order a new set of cannon whenever they like.
This means the next Mayor – or their Policing Deputy – will have to decide whether to buy replacements soon after taking office in 2016.
We could end up with a situation in which Boris’s successor opposes the equipping of the police with such weapons and so refuses to hand over the money for replacements.
Of course, this Mayor would risk facing the questions Boris today said would be asked if he failed to give Police the resources needed to deal with the very occasional extreme circumstance in which the cannon might be useful.
But the fact that Mayors hold the pursestrings shows that the operational freedoms Met Commissioners and their senior teams sometimes boast about are in fact heavily constrained by the funding decisions of politicians.
It may be that the Met should look upon these water cannon as a brief indulgence which will soon be snatched away by their next political master.