It has always seemed to me faintly repulsive that the commander of an operation who personally ordered the killing of an innocent man on the London Underground, in the mistaken belief that he was a fleeing terrorist, should have been elevated to the top job in the British police.
I find it absolutely amazing that, having been accused of several other major errors in her career, she should have escaped like Houdini from all blame, been honoured and promoted, and has now been called upon to extend her contract as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police when the reputation of the force she has commanded for the past four years has never been so low.
With many people, especially women, now distrusting policemen, following the kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met officer, Wayne Couzzens, and another officer facing a rape trial, it seems clear that Scotland Yard needs a new broom, just as Sir Robert Mark cleared out corrupt detectives in the Flying Squad and set new standards for all Met officers in the 1970s.
The fact that Cressida Dick is a woman and a lesbian is rightly hailed as a symbol of enlightened modernity, but it is meaningless unless she can be more effective than a man of any sexuality in rooting out the sexism and misogyny that appear to be endemic in the ranks.
The Mayor of London, Saddiq Khan, who along with the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, gets to choose the Met Commissioner, had this to say about the culture of the London police: “We must stamp out misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia.” So why keep the leader who has allowed this to develop, or at least failed to halt it?
Priti Patel is setting up an independent inquiry into the episode, asking how a man like Couzzens, a foulmouthed misogynist known as “the rapist” to his colleagues, who was charged with indecent exposure just weeks before the murder, could exist for so long in the Met without any questions being asked. She says the Yard has “serious questions to answer.”
Dame Cressida has presided over this appalling sexist culture for four years without changing it, or evidently even addressing the problem. One thing she did do was have a group of women, including friends of Sarah Everard, arrested and put in handcuffs for mourning her death and deploring the fact that a policeman she trusted had killed her.
The effect of the Home Secretary’s decision, requiring an inquiry to report by the end of the year, effectively gets Dick off the hook, making her contract extension a fait accompli.
Even over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, there are still unanswered questions. One officer admitted destroying a recording in which Dick said during the operation that she wasn´t worried about the suspected terrorist moving freely in the Underground “because he isn´t carrying anything.” Because Dick denied saying that, and the recording had been destroyed, it didn´t count against her at the inquiry.
De Menezes was only a suspect at all because a soldier on secondment to the surveillance team thought he looked a bit like one of the hunted terrorists. He wasn´t able to send a photograph of Menezes to the command centre, which could have been crucial, because he was urinating at the time. As a result, Menendez was executed without being properly identified as one of the men the police were looking for.
The surveillance team had followed him onto a bus and off it before he went to the Underground. Why didn´t they challenge him and search him, instead of following him into the Underground and putting seven bullets into his head without even checking if he was armed?
After the shooting there was an effort to justify it by saying, as broadcast widely, that Menezes had jumped over the Underground barriers and acted in a suspicious manner, which turned out to be wholly untrue. Did Dick authorise this black propaganda to help save her skin?
The Commissioner at the time, Sir Ian Blair, tried to ban an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and deny them an inspection of the crime scene. The Met also refused to hand over dozens of documents from their own internal inquiry into the incident. Why they were not forced by law to hand them over isn´t clear
As the inquiry finally reported, there were “rushed assumptions and actions,” notably by the operational chief, Cressida Dick, and the killing squad she let loose. A committee of MPs said she should “hang her head in shame.”
There is also the Daniel Morgan murder. Dick was personally accused by the team looking into the murder of obstructing their inquiry into police corruption. Again Teflon Cressida was not held to account, but loaded with honours and promotions.
It is plainly time for a change at the top of the Met, as 40 per cent of the public recognise in a poll. Otherwise things are bound to go on much as before, offering the public no reason to stop distrusting, even fearing the police, which is a deeply unhealthy prospect for British society.
Rock star Boris: sage or clown?
What will historians make of Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Party conference? On the one hand, it is seen as “a barnstorming performance that will restore confidence in Boris” and “a rooting, tooting gagfest bonanza.” The word “brilliant” appears many times. But another judgement says; “Boris is in complete denial about the dire place the country is in.”
“Boris the clown” is another verdict, saying he lacks the “moral seriousness” to tell the people honestly about the economic travails to come. Yet an American political expert says; “I´ve never seen a political rick star like Boris Johnson in 40 years.” Then someone else writes; “Captain Boris is sailing straight into a hurricane.” The Daily Telegraph says the Prime Minister has ”lost touch with reality and done virtually nothing about the problems facing our country.” Yet the paper also reports that 40 per cent of the public approved of the speech, though not its own readers.
Make of it what you will. I think the reaction depends on whether the writer liked or disliked Boris to start with. I like him, too, though I can see his many failings, but I can’t see anyone better on the political horizon.
Mistake to tour Australia
It is beginning to look as if England will go to Australia for the Ashes series. The decision of the captain, Joe Root, was obviously crucial.
Personally, although I love watching, cricket, I think they shouldn´t go. They will be walloped without Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer or a Test quality spinner. The effect will be demoralising for English cricket and the Covid restrictions will ensure that they have a miserable time.
Refusing to tour Pakistan, then deciding to go to Australia, smacks of racism, as Michael Holding has bravely said.