Amid the claim and counter-claim, the huffing and puffing and the machinations detailed by Tom Winsor’s report on the ousting of Cressida Dick, one thing is clear: there definitely was a political hit job. The mystery is: who was the target?
Winsor’s version has Dick, a hard-working Metropolitan police commissioner, taken out by an ambitious local politician, when the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, had no good reason to.
Khan – three years from re-election – fears the scandal of hate messages at Charing Cross police station will damage his political fortunes. As one experienced London political operative put it: “Three years out, it does not make sense.”
Winsor’s case rests or falls on a 19 January meeting when Khan praises the Met. Dick and her allies – and Winsor – say the praise was about the Met as a whole. Khan’s team insist the praise was restricted to the fall in serious violence, and claim their note backs that up.
Three weeks later, by 10 February, Dick is gone, and Winsor says nothing in between had happened to explain his collapse in confidence other than the Charing Cross report. That alone was not enough to merit the mayor’s actions, Winsor says, according to the legislation governing the removal of a commissioner.
That conclusion requires forgetting about – and Winsor says it is right to – the litany of scandals engulfing the Met when Dick was in charge, and the Met’s loss of public confidence and trust under Dick. It was such a steep fall one senior chief constable described it as a “hard swing” downwards that happened “so quickly” for a major institution.
The advert to replace Dick, agreed by the Conservative-led Home Office and the Labour-led City Hall, delivered a damning state of the Met after Dick’s five years in charge.
“It has become evident that significant and sustained improvements need to be made within the [Met] to restore public confidence and legitimacy in the largest police force in the UK,” it read.
Khan’s version has Winsor – who had publicly praised Dick and her commissionership – delivering a cascade of smears on behalf on Conservatives willing to use any dirty trick to make political points.
Winsor, a Labour party member for 30 years until 2006, rejects this.
One veteran observer of City Hall and the Met described them as “dysfunctional” and, as the dust settles, all the key players win and lose a bit.
Dick gets some validation over her ousting being unfair, her hero status is newly gleaming in the eyes of those sections of policing who hate Khan – but ousted she remains.
If the Conservatives wanted a political hit job, Johnson has taken some lumps out of his successor as London mayor. But he is out of a job from Tuesday, and so, probably, is his home secretary, Priti Patel.
Winsor has his ears ringing from accusations of bias, but is forging a new working life after a decade as chief inspector of constabulary.
Khan is the villain of a report emboldening his critics, and has been served a reminder that, while he has some power, his opponents have more. But ultimately he is criticised over a popular decision that saw sections of the left and right applaud his stand to end Dick’s commissionership.
The Met – which suffered public confidence in freefall – gets a fresh start a week on Monday when Mark Rowley takes over. He will vow to implement change and new ideas, while the mayor of London will be effectively on notice to behave.