Blair vows to stay despite losing confidence vote over De Menezes

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The Independent Online

Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, vowed to remain in his job yesterday after a vote of no confidence in his leadership was passed by the London Assembly following a stormy appearance before its members over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.

The embattled head of Britain's largest police force shrugged off the 15-8 vote by the Assembly calling for him to resign by insisting he retained the support of Londoners, his own officers and key politicians.

The clash with London's elected representatives signalled the beginning of a difficult 48 hours for Sir Ian, which will continue today with the publication by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) of its Stockwell One report into the death of Mr de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was shot dead by armed officers on 22 July 2005 in the mistaken belief that he was a suicide bomber. The IPCC report, was completed 18 months ago but remained unpublished because of the Old Bailey trial that ended last week with the Metropolitan Police Service being found guilty of breaching health and safety laws. The report will provide the first full account of the final moments of Mr de Menezes's life, including testimony from civilian witnesses, before police shot him eight times on board a Tube train at Stockwell station.

It will also reveal the recommendations made the IPCC to the Crown Prosecution Service about possible charges against officers involved in the botched operation, including Cressida Dick, the "Gold Commander" in charge of Scotland Yard's control room in the hours leading up to the shooting.

Sir Ian, 54, used his appearance before the London Assembly to reiterate his belief that because there had been no "systemic failings" in his stewardship of the Metropolitan Police he was right to stay in his post.

Although the no-confidence vote by the Assembly, which was made along party political lines with Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups uniting to win a majority, is embarrassing for the commissioner, the body has no powers over policing and cannot force him to resign.

In a series of combative exchanges, Sir Ian said: "There are three options here. There is resign now and walk away. There is cling on, and be pushed out. Or there is the one that I am going to do, which is survive. Every time I have spoken about this I have apologised for that death."

Richard Barnes, leader of the Conservative group in the assembly, said the conviction of the Metropolitan Police at the Old Bailey for failing to ensure public safety had highlighted "corporate failures on a gigantic scale". He said: "An innocent man died. Someone has to be held responsible, someone has to be held accountable."

Sir Ian said his force would not be appealing against the trial verdict. Asked in what circumstances he would resign, he added: "If I believed that I had lost the support of my officers. I would certainly go but I do not think I have. If I believed that the job was becoming impossible to do and therefore I was ineffective then I would certainly go. But neither of these things have arrived."

Ahead of the publication of the IPCC report, Sir Ian received renewed pledges of support from senior political figures including the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, and the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

The commissioner will learn, in the next few days, when he will face another vote of confidence at an emergency meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority which has the power to ask Ms Smith to compel Sir Ian to resign.