Leading article: This latest failure will shake faith in Sir Ian Blair


The release of the two suspects arrested in the Forest Gate raid is an admission of dreadful failure on the part of the Metropolitan Police and its head, Sir Ian Blair. Everyone, including the family of Mohammed Abdul Kahar and his brother Abul Koyair, accepts that the police must act on information about potential terrorist acts. But the way they mishandled the case ought to prompt a rapid rethink about tactics if lasting damage is not to be done to police relations with Muslims who now make up at least 10 per cent of the capital's population. That rethink should include asking whether Sir Ian should remain in his job.

It is extraordinary that after the police launched one of the most high-profile anti-terrorist operations the capital has seen since last summer's bombings that having failed to uncover any of the evidence they sought they were then so slow to admit that they had made a mistake and deliver a full, unreserved apology.

Instead, we had the undignified spectacle of the police hanging on like grim death to the suspects until the last possible moment, and issuing only a half-apology of the most defensive kind to "the community" for any disruption they had caused.

The consequences of these actions and omissions are likely to linger, not least because the hefty compensation the two men will seek will keep the story alive for months.

It has all left a very sour taste in the mouths of an entire community that increasingly feels victimised by the authorities. No prizes for guessing what that may mean in turn: radical groups moving in to feed in predatory style on a mounting sense of grievance.

The damage caused by this operation goes beyond the Muslim community. Another unfortunate legacy of the Forest Gate raid is that it will contribute to a more general crisis of public confidence in the basic competence of the Metropolitan Police.

Tony Blair has tried to stem this, rushing out to proclaim that he supported the police action "101 per cent". John Reid said much the same thing.

But the effect of such statements will not last long. The publication of a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the fatal police shooting last July of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes will bring all the worries about lack of leadership at the top of the London police back to the surface. It will not help that Sir Ian may face prosecution over the killing.

So far, Mr Blair has stuck doggedly by his namesake in New Scotland Yard. So has London's mayor, Ken Livingstone. It was not that long ago, after all, that we were being told that Sir Ian was the breath of fresh air London's police force had long needed, with his wide intellect, cultural interests and apparent sensitivity to racial questions. That may all have been the case, but much more crucially he simply appears not to be able to exercise the control over his force that the public has a right to expect.

The Forest Gate affair has brought all the bubbling questions over his leadership style to a head. We have seen the police briefing against each other, not to mention against the family of the two men, information on the shooting of one of the brothers withheld from the public for no known reason, and then, finally, a graceless withdrawal from the scene without due apology. This state of affairs cannot go on if we are not to end up with riots. As Mr Blair thinks hard and fast about restoring public confidence in the police following this latest setback, he must think equally hard about whether Sir Ian is not now more of a liability than a help.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

PHP Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Develope...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Turkish women have been posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at their deputy PM's remarks.  

Women now have two more reasons to laugh in the face of sexism

Louise Scodie
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star