Sunday, August 21, 2005

Met head defends Menezes handling

How can Sir Ian Blair's claim possibly be true? The Met officers on the scene knew they had not killed a suicide bomber the moment they searched his body after killing him. Or did they assume he was "off duty"? No doubt seven or eight bullets to the head made enough of a mess that they could not identify the face. But the suspect with whom they had confused Jean Charles de Menezes was of Ethiopian origin - very very black. Have we finally achieved the "colour-blind" police force we have aspired to for so long then?

Unless the Metropolitan Police are incompetent to a degree previously unimaginable, the officers involved knew they "had a problem" within minutes. Sir Ian's only viable defence is that they kept it from him. The trouble is that he is accountable not just for his own behaviour, but theirs.

The Home Secretary's support for Sir Ian was reported to be strong, but the words used were very carefully chosen. Anyone who has followed the conduct of New Labour in Government can read between the lines. Everything Blair and his minions do makes perfect sense only if interpreted from the point of view of "news management". Charles Clarke must, from that point of view, be seen to be the sort of boss who stands behind his team. Once the enquiry throws up more evidence of Sir Ian's dishonesty/incompetence, Clarke will "regretfully" throw him to the wolves.

Everyone concerned knows where this is going, but the news must be managed so that public opinion does not turn dangerously against our rulers. It may even be that Sir Ian is being encouraged not to resign so that New Labour can win PR brownie points for firing him in due course.

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