After intense speculation this afternoon Sir Ian Blair has confirmed he is standing down as Metropolitan Police Commissioner with effect from December 1st. In a statement Sir Ian said he was resigning ‘in the best interests of the people of London and the Metropolitan Police Service’.
Sir Ian said he would have preferred to stay on until 2010 but said Boris Johnson had yesterday told him he wanted to see a change of leadership.
Sir Ian faced criticisms almost immediately after he succeeded John Stevens in Februrary 2005 and had to be warned by the Liberal Democrats against expressing his views on the introduction of ID cards during the General Election period.
In March 2006 Len Duvall, the then chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, branded as “unacceptable” Blair’s recording of telephone conversations with Lord Goldsmith the Attorney General and members of the IPCC.
More recently he has recently been embroiled in accusations of racism by the force and faced media claims that he paid public money to a close friend to sharpen his image.
Sir Ian was always able to rely on the support of senior Labour politicians including Tony Blair and former Mayor Ken Livingstone. Last November Mr Livingstone accused those calling for Sir Ian’s resignation of “playing political games regardless of the impact on the Metropolitan Police Service’s ability to deal with terrorism.”
Those comments followed the force being found guilty of health and safety failures in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July 2005.
However since the election of Boris Johnson there has been intense speculation that the relationship between the new Mayor and Sir Ian was less healthy and there have been reports that Johnson and his ‘deputy’ Kit Malthouse had investigated their ability to remove Sir Ian from his post.
Last month Sir Ian denied reports that his contract wouldn’t be renewed when it expired in 2010. Speaking at the time he told reporters: “I have a job to do – I am getting on with it and will continue to do so.”
Today that job came to an end and many in the force will hope that the force can now move on to a less controversial relationship with politicians and the media.
On Monday Mayor Johnson will chair his first meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority at City Hall. The meeting will be the first of the full Authority to be held since new powers enabling the Mayor to chair the Authority or appoint a chair came into effect on 30 September 2008. Previously the Authority elects the chair from within their membership.
Appointing a successor
Sir Ian’s successor will be appointed by the Home Secretary after consultation with key stakeholders including the Mayor of London and Metropolitan Police Authority.