Is Blair a time limited liability?

Ex-top cop Brian Paddick on the suspension of the Met's Tarique Ghaffur and how Commissioner Ian Bla

How is that Sir Ian Blair, the embattled Metropolitan Police Commissioner, finds himself in such a mess with Tarique Ghaffur, the most senior Asian police officer in the UK?

Blair’s unique selling points were supposedly his pro-diversity stance, his liberal attitudes and his progressive outlook, in some ways the antithesis of his predecessor in the role, John Stevens.

Why then, in the unprecedented press conference given by Ghaffur to explain why he was taking his case to an Employment Tribunal, was Lord Stevens cited in Ghaffur’s list of heroes while Blair was accused of racism, Islamaphobia and ageism?

This week saw Sir Ian’s number two asking the Metropolitan Police Authority, the only body with the authority to do so, to suspend Ghaffur over alleged disciplinary offences committed by Ghaffur by giving the press conference. They refused.

The following day, the Commissioner appeared to take the law into his own hands effectively suspending Ghaffur himself. The only difference between the Commissioner enforcing ‘gardening leave’ and a Police Authority suspension is that Ghaffur still retains his warrant card and uniform. He has however been stripped of his authority as an Assistant Commissioner and of all his responsibilities.

Whatever the merits of Ghaffur’s case, his ability to successfully lead has been proven. As the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Specialist Crime, the results his department produced were impressive.

A record number of murders were solved and armed robbery and other serious crime were reduced. His officers' record in successfully dealing with kidnap and extortion were close to 100 per cent. Some have questioned Ghaffur’s ability but he is no Keystone cop.

Ghaffur felt that such success should be rewarded with additional resources for his department but the Blair wanted to invest in neighbourhood policing and the political imperative was terrorism. Ghaffur challenged the decision publicly, the Home Office ordered Sir Ian to get tough and Ghaffur was moved to another department.

He was put in charge of traffic, boats and helicopters, arguably less important but with one significant exception - responsibility for security at the 2012 Olympics.

Unbowed, Ghaffur took to his new duties with gusto, not least the Olympics. When this ‘jewel in the crown’ of Ghaffur’s new empire was taken from him, he had had enough and seven years of pent-up frustration finally surfaced in an Employment Tribunal claim.

Sir Ian Blair’s frustration with Tarique Ghaffur is understandable, at least from Blair’s perspective. When Blair asked Ghaffur to investigate the police’s repeated arrests of Delroy Lindo, a black man often stopped, charged but never convicted, Blair apparently decided the report was too damming to be published.

It is widely believed at The Yard that Ghaffur’s evidence in support of Iranian-born senior officer Ali Desai led to the collapse of ‘Operation Helios’, a multi-million pound investigation into alleged corruption led by Blair. Clearly Ghaffur’s press conference to announce his employment tribunal was damaging to Blair but for Blair’s deputy to claim that it amounted to a breach of discipline requiring suspension was stretching things, and the Police Authority agreed.

From my personal knowledge of the players, I believe Blair is being badly advised. Disputes, such as those between Ghaffur and Blair, cannot be dealt with by heavy-handed power-play.

Stevens, when he was Commissioner, was a master of frightening the life out of his senior players and within hours, having his arm around them. He knew the importance of keeping people close. Blair may be saying to his advisors ‘that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into’ but a Commissioner who has allowed himself to get into this position could be seen as a time-limited liability.

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times