Rudderless Met Crippled by Liberalism

Article excerpt

Byline: James Slack's ANALYSIS

WHILE London was ablaze and looters raged through the streets with impunity, Sir Paul Stephenson - the police officer best equipped to deal with this carnage - was sitting at home, his vast experience going unforgivably to waste.

Caught in the grip of the political class's lust for media blood, former Commissioner Sir Paul - acknowledged by all in the police service as a 'good copper' with an iron will - was driven from office over a link to the phone-hacking scandal.

He had employed an ex-News of the World executive - which, in sane times, would have earned him nothing more than a modest carpeting.

He also accepted free hospitality at a luxury health spa that also employed the said executive, Neil Wallis - but it must be noted that this was while recovering from surgery to remove a pre-cancerous tumour.

Ask residents of Croydon, Enfield, Tottenham and Lewisham if they would rather have had Sir Paul at his desk during the mayhem of this week, and it's not hard to guess the answer.

Undoubtedly, the Met this week got its tactics shockingly wrong, from its ineffective handling of the initial Tottenham riot last week, to standing off while the fires burned on Monday.

For all his good intentions, the less experienced acting commissioner, Tim Godwin, cannot have the authority of Sir Paul, who showed his mettle after his officers blundered over the handling of last year's student riots.

In the wake of those disturbances, Sir Paul ordered a full review of tactics, which led to police being far more aggressive, using snatch squads to drag troublemakers from crowds of protesters at subsequent demonstrations. In April this year, he returned early from sick leave - after the operation to remove the pre-cancerous growth - to mastermind security for the royal wedding.

Anarchists had been threatening to wreck the event but, due to tough police tactics - including pre-emptive arrests of known troublemakers - the day was entirely peaceful. It was considered a huge policing success.

Contrast it with this week, when officers sent on to the front line were wondering how much force they could deploy to protect property, not to mention life and limb. …