Ministers claim that Boris Johnson's mayoralty has been an effective trial for elected police commissioners. If so they have been shown to fail in the light of further hackergate revelations and the plans should be ditched.
One of the more serious questions following the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament was from Caroline Lucas concerning the government’s plans to roll out elected police commissioners next year. She asked David Cameron:
“Will the Prime Minister immediately put on hold his plans to introduce elected police commissioners while we learn on the lessons of the last week. Because we should reflect on the risks of things being swept under the carpet if we put someone whose sole political fortunes depends on a force which they are in charge of holding to account.”
The Prime Minister responded that it was precisely because of situations like the hacking scandal that police commissioners were needed. One would think the government would have evidence from trials to show this. Well, in fact, ministers claim that elected police commissioners have been trialled. On BBC 1’s Politics Show on June 5, police and justice minister Nick Herbert said:
“We believe that the trial has already effectively taken place in London because the Mayor is responsible for the police now in London… we’re not going to pilot this, the first elections will be held in 2012.”
That would be the mayor who stepped down from his role as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, because, what with having to write a £250,000 per year Daily Telegraph collumn, he just did not have time – and on whose watch the phonehacking scandal continued to go without being properly investigated.
In fact, as has been well-documented, Boris Johnson claimed the entire idea of there being more to the phonehacking scandal than two rogue reporters was “codswallop“. This is a scandal that now involves allegations not just concerning the illegal activities of a newspaper, but the ability of that newspaper to ensure that it wasn’t held accountable, either through close contacts with the police or outright bribery.
We are talking about nothing less than the failure to uphold the rule of law in the capital. It is partially Boris’s failure, either due to his own personal performance or the problems attached to elected heads of police. If, as Nick Herbert is right, it has been trialled, it follows that it has failed.
Just when we need to be erecting firewalls between the police, politicians and the press, the government is tearing them down.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.