Political storm over Ian Blair’s resignation as police chief

October 3rd, 2008 - 5:25 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 3 (IANS) Sir Ian Blair’s resignation as London police chief has resulted in a political furore, with the home secretary blaming Mayor Boris Johnson for not following procedures while forcing him out of his job.Incidentally, Sir Ian is the first commissioner in 108 years to quit before his term after James Munro, who resigned after failing to nab the serial killer, Jack the Ripper.

Home secretary Jaqui Smith has pointed out that the correct procedure for removing a commissioner is for the head of the authority to seek the approval of the home secretary. “There’s a process in place that the mayor chose not to respect,” Miss Smith told BBC Question Time.

With the Conservatives fully backing the resignation, the Brown government has its hands full trying to replace Sir Ian. Going by rules, the mayor need not be consulted, but given the current situation, the government has obliquely indicated he may be consulted, The Guardian has said. The mayor has his own preferences about Sir Ian’s successor.

Johnson took over as chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority Wednesday. The first thing he did was speak to the commissioner and informed Sir Ian that he did not have the mayor’s confidence and was not the right man for the job.

The recent high-profile accusations of race discrimination and allegations of Sir Ian handing contracts to friends are thought to have led to Wednesday’s conversation.

Announcing his resignation, Sir Ian said he had wished to remain commissioner until the end of his contract in 2010 but this was not possible “without the mayor’s backing”.

The Conservatives welcomed his resignation as they have long accused Sir Ian of being too close to Labour. He was widely criticised for endorsing Labour’s counter-terrorism policies to MPs.

Having completed 30 years of service, Sir Ian is eligible for full pension. Experts said that after such a length of service Sir Ian was likely to be entitled to a pension worth 160,000 pounds a year - two thirds of his 240,813 pounds annual salary.

The only previous commissioner to resign before serving out his time in office was James Monro, who quit after having failed to catch Jack the Ripper.

After spending nearly 30 years working in the Indian civil service, Munro quit his post to return to Britain as assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police’s Criminal Investigation Department in the mid-1880s. He was appointed commissioner in November 1888.

In 1890, Monro, already facing flak for not being able to catch the serial killer, eventually resigned as commissioner after an argument over police pensions. He returned to India and set up a medical mission near Kolkata. He died Jan 28, 1920, aged 81.

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