Stephenson is named new Met Police chief

First task will be to form a good working relationship with the Mayor of London

Sir Paul Stepenson was named as the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police last night. The 55-year-old officer, who served as deputy to Sir Ian Blair, will be officially unveiled as Britain's highest-ranking policeman today, after beating Sir Hugh Orde, the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, to the job.

Sir Paul's appointment came after a selection process which lasted more than two months and followed the resignation of Sir Ian, who stepped down after being told he no longer had the backing of the capital's Mayor, Boris Johnson.

The decision to pick Sir Paul was made by the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, and Mr Johnson. The pair made their decision after conducting final interviews on Monday morning. Their recommendation was approved by the Prime Minister before the Queen confirmed the appointment.

Sir Hugh, 50, was widely considered the favourite, and was said to be the choice of most rank-and-file officers at the Met given his history with the organisation. He had served as the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland since 2002 after working for the Met since 1977.

Sir Paul's appointment means he follows in the footsteps of both Sir Ian and his predecessor Sir John Stevens, both of whom were deputy commissioners before taking the top post. Had Sir Paul not have been given the job, it was generally expected that he would have resigned from the police force.

He will be Britain's most senior police officer for the next five years, commanding a budget of £3.5bn and a staff of more than 50,000. His main tasks will be continuing the fight against terrorism in London and the rest of the country, as well as taking charge of security at the 2012 Olympics. The job comes with a salary of £253,000.

The new commissioner will have to build a good working relationship with Mr Johnson, something his predecessor never managed and which eventually led to his resignation. In his short spell as acting commissioner, which began on 1 December, Mr Stephenson has already attracted praise from the Mayor's office.

The Deputy Mayor of London, Kit Malthouse, has previously spoken in glowing terms about Sir Paul. In a thinly-veiled attack on Sir Ian, who was considered to be too focused on public relations, Mr Malthouse said: "What impresses me about [Sir Paul] is that he is very focused on results. I think really good, senior police officers are those who are focused on results rather than their own PR. That's what London needs."

Sir Paul had been tipped for the job since Sir Ian stepped down. But in his first few days as acting commissioner, he appeared to dent his chances for the job when his officers raided the office and home of the Conservative frontbench MP Damian Green. Sir Paul, a Lancastrian, was forced to answer some tough questions after Mr Green was arrested for aiding and abetting misconduct and conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office. The alleged offences were said to relate to documents that were leaked from the Home Office, with the suggestion that Mr Green had solicited the leaks from a civil servant, Chris Galley. The pressure on Sir Paul after the raids and arrest was so severe that he is said to have considered withdrawing altogether from the race to replace Sir Ian, but was persuaded to stay in the running.

Last night, neither the Metropolitan Police nor the Home Office would confirm the appointment. It is expected to be formally announced this morning.