Leading article: Failure of leadership

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The transfer of Brian Paddick from the Metropolitan Police Force's territorial policing division to a role helping to establishing a new information system is an obvious demotion. And it does not take much detective work to understand why the Deputy Assistant Commissioner finds himself out of favour.

The move follows a bitter row in the force last week over the leaking of some damaging remarks by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair. At a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Met's watchdog, Sir Ian claimed that the operation to remove the placards of the anti-war protester Brian Haw from Parliament Square had cost the public purse £7,200. This was a serious underestimate, as became apparent when Sir Ian met senior colleagues the next day.

Unfortunately for Sir Ian, this discussion found its way into the media. A shamefaced Sir Ian was then forced to admit that the true cost of the operation was actually £27,754. Mr Paddick's prompt removal this week from Sir Ian's senior team leaves little doubt as to who the Commissioner blames for the embarrassing leak.

We need not take Sir Ian's outrage over the leaking of this information too seriously. After all, he is hardly averse to the selective releasing of information when it suits him. And, in any case, this is information that the public has a perfect right to know. This operation was hugely inefficient and the involvement of 78 policemen wholly unnecessary. We should also remember that the real issue here is Sir Ian's gross misrepresentation to his own watchdog of the true cost of the operation.

Sir Ian is often criticised for being obsessed with presentation. This has some truth in it, but the real scandal is that he is so bad at it. This row is merely the latest in a long line of public relations blunders for the Commissioner. Earlier this year he was forced to apologise for some insensitive comments about the Soham murders. Just six weeks later he had to do so again when it emerged that he had secretly recorded a phone conversation with the Attorney General. The Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes also continues to hang over his career like the sword of Damocles.

When he became Commissioner last year, Sir Ian set himself the mission of taking on the powerful vested interests in the nation's foremost police force and reforming it from within. No doubt the Met needs such a shake-up. But successive crises have put Sir Ian's basic competence and honesty in doubt. And doubts over whether he is the right man for the job grow stronger by the day.