Back at the end of January I highlighted how the Met’s impending ownership of water cannon could prove short-lived depending on the outcome of the next Mayoral election.
It’s a point which has largely been overlooked by the national media, including by the Guardian which has appointed itself the final arbiter on the matter.
Luckily we don’t have to leave it to the writers of Guardian editorials to decide whether the Met gets to drastically increase its firepower because we can decide the issue at the next City Hall election.
The typical life expectancy of a water cannon is 25-30 years and the three being bought by MOPAC are already 23 years old.
When Boris leaves City Hall in 2016 – assuming he steps down as expected – they’ll have a maximum useable life of just 5 years.
According Met Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the lead time when buying a new water cannon is “in the region of 18-24 months”. This means Boris’s successor will need to decide whether to replace them no later than 2019.
If those parties currently attacking Boris’s evidence-thin decision really do oppose their deployment, they can stand on a promise not to buy replacements.
A Mayor elected on such a platform would a clear mandate to instruct the Commissioner to mothball the current vehicles and to order their sale.
And of course it would be open to Labour – should they win next year’s General Election – to review and reverse any Home Office decision to licence the use of water cannon.
The next UK and City Hall elections are therefore a perfect opportunity for politicians to prove that when they oppose, they do so out of principle and not for the cheap headline.