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, 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.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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The age of loneliness

Profound changes in technology, work and community are transforming our ultrasocial species into a population of loners.

Our dominant ideology is based on a lie. A series of lies, in fact, but I’ll focus on just one. This is the claim that we are, above all else, self-interested – that we seek to enhance our own wealth and power with little regard for the impact on others.

Some economists use a term to describe this presumed state of being – Homo economicus, or self-maximising man. The concept was formulated, by J S Mill and others, as a thought experiment. Soon it became a modelling tool. Then it became an ideal. Then it evolved into a description of who we really are.

It could not be further from the truth. To study human behaviour is to become aware of how weird we are. Many species will go to great lengths to help and protect their close kin. One or two will show occasional altruism towards unrelated members of their kind. But no species possesses a capacity for general altruism that is anywhere close to our own.

With the possible exception of naked mole-rats, we have the most social minds of all mammals. These minds evolved as an essential means of survival. Slow, weak, armed with rounded teeth and flimsy nails in a world of fangs and claws and horns and tusks, we survived through co-operation, reciprocity and mutual defence, all of which developed to a remarkable degree.

A review paper in the journal Frontiers in Psychology observes that Homo economicus  might be a reasonable description of chimpanzees. “Outsiders . . . would not expect to receive offers of food or solicitude; rather, they would be fiercely attacked . . . food is shared only under harassment; even mothers will not voluntarily offer novel foods to their own infants unless the infants beg for them.” But it is an unreasonable description of human beings.

How many of your friends, colleagues and neighbours behave like chimpanzees? A few, perhaps. If so, are they respected or reviled? Some people do appear to act as if they have no interests but their own – Philip Green and Mike Ashley strike me as possible examples – but their behaviour ­attracts general revulsion. The news is filled with spectacular instances of human viciousness: although psychopaths are rare, their deeds fill the papers. Daily acts of kindness are seldom reported, because they are everywhere.

Every day, I see people helping others with luggage, offering to cede their place in a queue, giving money to the homeless, setting aside time for others, volunteering for causes that offer no material reward. Alongside these quotidian instances are extreme and stunning cases. I think of my Dutch mother-in-law, whose family took in a six-year-old Jewish boy – a stranger – and hid him in their house for two years during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Had he been discovered, they would all have been sent to a concentration camp.

Studies suggest that altruistic tendencies are innate: from the age of 14 months, children try to help each other, attempting to hand over objects another child can’t reach. At the age of two, they start to share valued possessions. By the time they are three, they begin to protest against other people’s violation of moral norms.

Perhaps because we are told by the media, think tanks and politicians that competition and self-interest are the defining norms of human life, we disastrously mischaracterise the way in which other people behave. A survey commissioned by the Common Cause Foundation reported that 78 per cent of respondents believe others to be more selfish than they really are.

I do not wish to suggest that this mythology of selfishness is the sole or even principal cause of the epidemic of loneliness now sweeping the world. But it is likely to contribute to the plague by breeding suspicion and a sense of threat. It also appears to provide a doctrine of justification for those afflicted by isolation, a doctrine that sees individualism as a higher state of existence than community. Perhaps it is hardly surprising that Britain, the European nation in which neoliberalism is most advanced, is, according to government figures, the loneliness capital of Europe.

There are several possible reasons for the atomisation now suffered by the supremely social mammal. Work, which used to bring us together, now disperses us: many people have neither fixed workplaces nor regular colleagues and regular hours. Our leisure time has undergone a similar transformation: cinema replaced by television, sport by computer games, time with friends by time on Facebook.

Social media seems to cut both ways: it brings us together and sets us apart. It helps us to stay in touch, but also cultivates a tendency that surely enhances other people’s sense of isolation: a determination to persuade your followers that you’re having a great time. FOMO – fear of missing out – seems, at least in my mind, to be closely ­associated with loneliness.

Children’s lives in particular have been transformed: since the 1970s, their unaccompanied home range (in other words, the area they roam without adult supervision) has declined in Britain by almost 90 per cent. Not only does this remove them from contact with the natural world, but it limits their contact with other children. When kids played out on the street or in the woods, they quickly formed their own tribes, learning the social skills that would see them through life.

An ageing population, family and community breakdown, the decline of institutions such as churches and trade unions, the switch from public transport to private, inequality, an alienating ethic of consumerism, the loss of common purpose: all these are likely to contribute to one of the most dangerous epidemics of our time.

Yes, I do mean dangerous. The stress response triggered by loneliness raises blood pressure and impairs the immune system. Loneliness enhances the risk of depression, paranoia, addiction, cognitive decline, dem­entia, heart disease, stroke, viral infection, accidents and suicide. It is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and can be twice as deadly as obesity.

Perhaps because we are in thrall to the ideology that helps to cause the problem, we turn to the market to try to solve it. Over the past few weeks, the discovery of a new American profession, the people-walker (taking human beings for walks), has caused a small sensation in the media. In Japan there is a fully fledged market for friendship: you can hire friends by the hour with whom to chat and eat and watch TV; or, more disturbingly, to pose for pictures that you can post on social media. They are rented as mourners at funerals and guests at weddings. A recent article describes how a fake friend was used to replace a sister with whom the bride had fallen out. What would the bride’s mother make of it? No problem: she had been rented, too. In September we learned that similar customs have been followed in Britain for some time: an early foray into business for the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, involved offering to lease her posh friends to underpopulated weddings.



My own experience fits the current pattern: the high incidence of loneliness suffered by people between the ages of 18 and 34. I have sometimes been lonely before and after that period, but it was during those years that I was most afflicted. The worst episode struck when I returned to Britain after six years working in West Papua, Brazil and East Africa. In those parts I sometimes felt like a ghost, drifting through societies to which I did not belong. I was often socially isolated, but I seldom felt lonely, perhaps because the issues I was investigating were so absorbing and the work so frightening that I was swept along by adrenalin and a sense of purpose.

When I came home, however, I fell into a mineshaft. My university friends, with their proper jobs, expensive mortgages and settled, prematurely aged lives, had become incomprehensible to me, and the life I had been leading seemed incomprehensible to everyone. Though feeling like a ghost abroad was in some ways liberating – a psychic decluttering that permitted an intense process of discovery – feeling like a ghost at home was terrifying. I existed, people acknowledged me, greeted me cordially, but I just could not connect. Wherever I went, I heard my own voice bouncing back at me.

Eventually I made new friends. But I still feel scarred by that time, and fearful that such desolation may recur, particularly in old age. These days, my loneliest moments come immediately after I’ve given a talk, when I’m surrounded by people congratulating me or asking questions. I often experience a falling sensation: their voices seem to recede above my head. I think it arises from the nature of the contact: because I can’t speak to anyone for more than a few seconds, it feels like social media brought to life.

The word “sullen” evolved from the Old French solain, which means “lonely”. Loneliness is associated with an enhanced perception of social threat, so one of its paradoxical consequences is a tendency to shut yourself off from strangers. When I was lonely, I felt like lashing out at the society from which I perceived myself excluded, as if the problem lay with other people. To read any comment thread is, I feel, to witness this tendency: you find people who are plainly making efforts to connect, but who do so by insulting and abusing, alienating the rest of the thread with their evident misanthropy. Perhaps some people really are rugged individualists. But others – especially online – appear to use that persona as a rationale for involuntary isolation.

Whatever the reasons might be, it is as if a spell had been cast on us, transforming this ultrasocial species into a population of loners. Like a parasite enhancing the conditions for its own survival, loneliness impedes its own cure by breeding shame and shyness. The work of groups such as Age UK, Mind, Positive Ageing and the Campaign to End Loneliness is life-saving.

When I first wrote about this subject, and the article went viral, several publishers urged me to write a book on the theme. Three years sitting at my desk, studying isolation: what’s the second prize? But I found another way of working on the issue, a way that engages me with others, rather than removing me. With the brilliant musician Ewan McLennan, I have written a concept album (I wrote the first draft of the lyrics; he refined them and wrote the music). Our aim is to use it to help break the spell, with performances of both music and the spoken word designed to bring people together –which, we hope, will end with a party at the nearest pub.

By itself, our work can make only a tiny contribution to addressing the epidemic. But I hope that, both by helping people to acknowledge it and by using the power of music to create common sentiment, we can at least begin to identify the barriers that separate us from others, and to remember that we are not the selfish, ruthless beings we are told we are.

“Breaking the Spell of Loneliness” by Ewan McLennan and George Monbiot is out now. For a full list of forthcoming gigs visit:

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood