Labour warns Johnson to stay out of police head selection process

Claims ‘senior ally’ said police must be wary Downing St party verdict does not topple PM

Boris Johnson is under pressure to stay out of the selection of a new commissioner of the Metropolitan Police while he remains under investigation over possible breaches of the law at parties in Downing Street during lockdown. Cressida Dick resigned as Met commissioner on Thursday saying that London mayor Sadiq Khan had lost confidence in her ability to reform the force after a series of scandals.

Dame Cressida's successor will be chosen by home secretary Priti Patel in consultation with Mr Khan and the prime minister does not have a formal role in the process. Mr Johnson was widely reported, however, to have been influential in the decision to offer Dame Cressida a renewed term in her post.

Labour's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, noted that a newspaper this week quoted a "senior ally" of Mr Johnson warning that police should be wary of making a decision in the Downing Street party investigation that could lead to a prime minister being toppled.

‘Rule of law’

“This raises very serious questions about both the rule of law and basic standards of government,” Ms Rayner said.


“If the prime minister and his allies are going to publicly lean on the police to try to get him off the hook for an offence, he cannot then get involved in appointing a commissioner who would decide whether to charge him. The government should make clear that no one under investigation will be involved in any way, and the prime minister must say now if he will recuse himself or explain how public confidence will be maintained in a fair process.”

Dame Cressida's resignation came after an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report found that officers at Charing Cross police station had shared messages with jokes about rape, hitting women, the deaths of black babies and the Holocaust. Susan Hall, the Conservative chair of the London assembly's police and crime committee, criticised Mr Khan for pushing Dame Cressida out of the job.

‘Defensive and dismissive’

“Ninety-nine per cent of officers are very good, brave officers, and they’ve been absolutely rocked by the latest IOPC reports into misogyny. They need confidence, they need support and, to have done this in this way, I think Sadiq Khan is completely wrong,” she told the BBC.

“It will leave a void at the top as opposed to a properly managed handover, which is no way to run a service like this, no way to the Metropolitan Police.”

Andy George, president of the National Black Police Association, praised Dame Cressida's years of service but said she had been an impediment to reform. He said she was the most defensive and dismissive leader he had come across in the police, making it difficult to report inappropriate behaviour.

“The officer reporting discrimination can often find themselves being targeted for speaking out,” he said.

“Defending the indefensible and failing to tackle the widespread issues of racism, misogyny and bullying allows bullies and poor behaviour to thrive and does a disservice to the many hardworking police officers across London and the UK. I have the privilege of speaking to many leaders in policing and I found Dame Cressida Dick to be the most defensive and dismissive leader I meet.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times