Leading article: An air of instability hangs over this force

Share

Many people will greet the revelation that a powerful person has made a recording of a chat with another powerful person with equanimity. Some might take the view that, when this happens, the chances of finding out what is going on behind the curtain of secrecy that still hangs around the work of the state is increased. Such recordings usually find their way into the public arena, after all.

In this respect, the news that the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, secretly recorded one of his phone conversations with the Attorney General might be regarded as no cause for scandal. There is also something rather artificial about the reported outrage of Lord Goldsmith, of all people, over being taped. The conversations of ministers are recorded by civil servants as a matter of routine. And if Sir Ian had jotted down this interchange in shorthand, there would have been little grounds for complaint.

Yet it was foolish of Sir Ian to have made this recording, and the affair betrays a worrying lack of judgement - not for the first time. Surely the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police can understand the need for confidentiality in his private conversations with senior figures in politics, the law and the intelligence services. Despite the apology issued on Sir Ian's behalf, anyone who has had dealings with him will wonder whether they were secretly being recorded; inevitably, they will wonder why Sir Ian felt the need to make such recordings. He has betrayed people's trust, undermined his office and, perhaps worst of all, given the impression that he does not even understand the significance of his mistakes.

This affair adds to the air of instability around Sir Ian's position. The very fact that the Metropolitan Police chief feels it necessary to use Nixonian recording techniques betrays a worrying paranoia. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that Sir Ian also taped conversations with officials from the Independent Police Complaints Commission who are investigating his conduct in the wake of the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting. The outcome of this case could, in theory, spell the end of his career. In the absence of a plausible explanation of why he made these recordings, many will assume they are some sort of insurance policy.

The revelations also raise questions about the extent to which the most senior policeman in Britain is in control of his organisation. This becomes less clear by the day. The reason we know about these recordings is because their existence was leaked to the press - an indication that there is an internal battle going on within Scotland Yard.

Sir Ian has had an astonishingly poor first year in office. His unsuccessful attempt to lobby MPs to support the Government's proposals to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days came perilously close to politicising the police force. And his emphasis on good public relations at the expense of good policing has repeatedly landed him in hot water. This is the second time Sir Ian has had to make a public apology. Just six weeks ago, he was forced to withdraw some insensitive comments over the Soham murders. And all the while the outcome of the IPCC inquiry hangs over him.

The Metropolitan Police needs to be on the very top of its game. Last year's bombing of the London transport system demonstrated the scale of the terrorism threat facing the capital. It is ironic that Sir Ian's phone call with Lord Goldsmith was about whether phone-tap evidence ought to be admissible in terrorism trials. Once again, Sir Ian's clumsiness has pushed a serious issue to the margins. If this trend continues, the Metropolitan Police will soon require a new leader.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
Illegal African migrants arrive at the port in the Tunisian town of Zarzis, some 50 kilometres west of the Libyan border after Tunisian fishermen rescued 82 African migrants off the coast of the town aboard a makeshift boat bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa  

Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

Andrew Grice
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own