Paddick: Orde should replace Blair

Former top cop turned Lib Dem London mayoral candidate Brian Paddick explains why Ian Blair cannot r

Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair should be removed from his job and replaced with Northern Ireland's most senior police officer, Hugh Orde, says Brian Paddick.

In an interview with newstatesman.com, Paddick – formerly Britain's most senior out gay policeman and now Lib Dem candidate for London mayor – argued Blair is incapable of modernising the Met into an organisation which has the trust of all London's communities.

“Blair's not having any impact at all. In fact he's making things worse,” says Paddick who argues the way the UK capital is policed increasingly disadvantages black people both under anti-crime and anti-terror laws.

“Why do I say Blair's not effective? He promises much and in private conversations he voices support for a much more liberal approach. In particular support for minority senior officers and yet the highest ranking openly gay officer he forced out of the organisation. The highest ranking Asian officer in the country he moved from being in charge of serious crime to putting him in charge of traffic.”

Paddick left the Metropolitan Police earlier this year ending a career in which he had been cast as something of a liberal villain – the Cannabis Cop who wanted a common-sense approach to drug law enforcement. Then he was the victim of a 'kiss-and-tell' Mail-on-Sunday story in which he was falsely accused of smoking dope himself. He won substantial damages.

Now he is going head-to-head with Labour's Ken Livingstone, Tory Boris Johnson, the Green Party's Sian Berry and others in next year's contest to be mayor – due to be held on 1 May.

“This is a completely new venture – this is a non-politician, someone with no track record either as a politician or as a Liberal Democrat.

“I think being a politician is something which is quickly learnt – the dark arts of politics – whereas it's very difficult to acquire managerial experience and the ability to be a representative in very difficult circumstances like when I was in the police.”

Paddick has managed to fall out with quite a lot of people in his long career, was that in some way his fault? He looks surprised by the question.

“I joined the police to make a difference and if you go into a very conservative organisation in order to make a difference you are going to ruffle some feathers which is inevitably what happened,” he says.

“What I was crap at was managing my own senior officers and at the end of the day I was loyal to my staff and I was loyal to my community. Loyalty to my senior officers came third.”

And in the hour we talked, Sir Ian Blair comes up a lot. An awful lot. Paddick turns up with pages of statistics (“I do all my own research.”) about Blair's first year as Met chief.

“Ian has got the right ideas in terms of a more diverse, more inclusive Met that's closer to the community [but] he's not been able to take his own senior officers with him which is obviously a serious problem,” he says.

“The second serious problem is he's not been able to take the rank and file with him either. [His predecessor] John Stevens was a hard act to follow as commissioner. He was a master at winning the hearts and minds and a master at dealing with the media.

“He was a copper's copper and Ian has been accurately portrayed by the media as the opposite – he's seen as politically correct, he's seen as intellectual in a macho, anti-intellectual culture.”

When I start at the use of the word “intellectual” to describe Ian Blair, Paddick adds with a laugh: “There's a difference between intellectual and intelligent.”

So how easily can an ex-copper – albeit a very senior one – turn his hand to wider political issues? What will his programme be?

Well, he starts with policing.

“The main theme of the campaign for me is getting Londoners on the same side. Labour have used this trite phrase the 'law abiding majority',” he says.

“I adopt a fairly liberal approach to law enforcement basically working on the premise that if you don't harm anyone else you should be allowed to get on with it.

“What we need to do is to get the overwhelming majority of Londoners who don't do anything to infringe the rights of other people on the side of the police. Whereas at the moment and particularly the Muslim community, traditionally the Caribbean community, the gay community – significant portions now of London – don't trust and respect the police.

“And if we could get to a situation where all Londoners have trust and confidence in the police and are proud of the police then London would be a better place.”

He sees the mayoral role as essentially giving a strategic lead across the capital over the “big issues affecting Londoners” be they the growing gap between rich and poor, housing, employment or – indeed – law and order. He talks about “best practice” and “sharing successes”.

“I have a track record of running large organisations with large budgets, I have a good track record on listening and acting on what people say, I have a very hard earned reputation for telling the truth, for telling people exactly how it is. What Londoners want more than anything is somebody they can trust.”

Toward the end of our conversation I ask Paddick about the turmoil the Lib Dems have experienced in recent months and somehow we get back to Blair again.

“In terms of the way in which the party's had a succession of leaders and the circumstances in which those leaders met their demise has not done the party any favours,” he says.

“But it's one of those unfortunate things – it's a bit like Ian Blair being commissioner you can't argue with his principles in terms of what he wants to try to achieve, it's very inconvenient that he's made such a hash of it.

“And it's the same with the Liberal Democrats – it's the policies that make the party, you know, I just cannot disagree with them. The democratic basis of the party – the fact that policy is debated by members and voted on and reflects what the membership feels. But it's very unfortunate that we've gone through the internal machinations that we've gone through.”

As for who he thinks should succeed Sir Menzies Campbell, Paddick leaves his options open.

“I've worked with Nick Clegg before because he was home affairs and I was a senior police officer. I haven't had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Chris Huhne but that's being resolved this week. I'm having meetings with both of them.

“Clearly they're both trying to court me to their side because for some obscure reason they think it will help their campaign if I'm on their side.”

A lesson, perhaps, Ian Blair could have learned.