Met chief must quit for Soham gaffe, say Tories

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Indy Politics

Tory MPs have demanded the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, step down following a furore over comments he made on the Soham murders.

Sir Ian said he could not understand why the killings of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells had been such a "big story". He has also been criticised for suggesting the media is racist when covering murders and for his handling of events surrounding the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian who was mistaken for a terrorist suspect.

Despite apologising for the Soham blunder, Tory backbenchers yesterday tabled a Commons motion calling for his resignation and accusing him of "belittling the appalling crimes committed at Soham". They added: "We condemn his thoughtless pursuit of self-publicity and call on the Home Secretary to remove him from his position."

Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, who tabled the motion, said: "I want to see the most senior police officer in England concentrating on catching criminals and effectively deterring crime and not continually grandstanding in the media." But Sir Ian won support yesterday from the head of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the running of Scotland Yard, and the Police Superintendents Association, which represents about 350 senior officers in the Met.

An official at the Home Office said: "Sir Ian is doing a good job of modernising the service. The Met is a huge beast and it is not tackled lightly." The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, is understood to believe that Sir Ian's apology had ended the matter. A Whitehall insider said that relations between Sir Ian and Mr Clarke were, "generally pretty good". But he added: "Sir Ian has a weakness in that he isn't as good at handling the media as he thinks he is... and can make ill-informed judgements."

The Met branch of the Police Superintendents' Association issued a statement of support on Scotland Yard's internal electronic message board giving the commissioner its full backing.

Len Duvall, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said Sir Ian was the right man to lead the Met through a series of radical policing reforms taking place in the next few years. He added that the commissioner had no reason to resign, although he acknowledged that "certain opinion formers don't like him for some of his stances" and for his "ill-judged" comments on the Soham murders.

The Met's Deputy Commissioner, Paul Stephenson, denied a newspaper report that top officers were openly discussing how to oust Sir Ian. He added: "He has my full backing and the overwhelming support of his senior colleagues."