Page last updated at 20:30 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 21:30 UK

Britain's top policeman resigns

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Sir Ian Blair says leading the Met Police was 'the proudest time' of his life

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has announced his resignation, blaming a lack of support from London mayor Boris Johnson.

Sir Ian has faced controversies in the job but said he was not stepping down on 1 December because of any failures.

Mr Johnson said the Met needed "new leadership", but the home secretary said there was "a process in place that the mayor chose not to respect".

Gordon Brown said Sir Ian had made a "huge" contribution to the UK's safety.

The prime minister went on to commend Sir Ian's leadership at the time of the July 2005 suicide bomb attacks on London's transport system.

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Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "I pay tribute to Sir Ian for the massive reductions in crime that his leadership of the Met has overseen and his continuing efforts to tackle gun, gang and knife crime.

"His part in leading neighbourhood policing across London has led to Londoners being safer and more confident."

But she accused Mr Johnson of ignoring protocol regarding the mayor's relationship with the police, adding: "Frankly you should put a bit of time and effort into that before you jump to judgement."

Mr Johnson, who took over as chairman of the police authority on Wednesday, has avoided publicly backing Sir Ian since being elected Conservative Party mayor in May.

Speaking after Sir Ian's resignation, the mayor said: "There comes a time in any organisation when it becomes clear it would benefit from new leadership and clarity of purpose. I believe that time is now."

'No secrets'

Sir Ian's tenure as head of Britain's biggest police force started confidently with reforms including community support officers, neighbourhood police, and a more diverse workforce.

The new mayor made clear, in a very pleasant and determined way, that he wished there to be a change of leadership
Sir Ian Blair

But some senior officers disliked his close relationship with Downing Street when Tony Blair was prime minister, and his leadership style.

There were questions about his handling of events surrounding the 2005 death of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was shot dead at Stockwell Underground station in south London after being mistaken for a suicide bomber.

The Met Police was later convicted of a health and safety offence over the incident.

Sir Ian was also criticised after publicly questioning why the murders of two girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, in Soham, Cambridgeshire in 2002, had been such a big story in the media.

It later emerged he had recorded a telephone conversation with the attorney general without asking his permission.

In 2006, in the course of arresting two brothers who were later cleared of any involvement in terrorism, armed Met officers shot and injured one of them.

Recently, Sir Ian has faced criticism over the racism row involving the Met's most senior Asian officer Tarique Ghaffur.

And Metropolitan Police Authority auditors are in the process of examining Scotland Yard contracts given to consultancy firm Impact Plus, run by a friend.

Boris Johnson says a new start for policing in London is needed

Sir Ian has said he had been "open and straightforward" in informing both the police service and the police authority about the friendship.

Sir Ian, whose contract was due to run until 2010, defended his record as he announced his resignation at Scotland Yard.

"I am resigning not because of any failures of my service and not because the pressures of the office and the many stories that surround it are too much.

"I am resigning in the best interests of the people of London and of the Metropolitan Police Service."

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said Sir Ian had taken the "right decision" in standing down.

HAVE YOUR SAY
It's a very difficult job, and I don't believe that he did badly, but he needs to go
Nic Brough, London

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said the resignation was "long overdue".

But the former London mayor Ken Livingstone said the resignation appeared to make the role of the commissioner more political.

"Whoever is now appointed to replace Sir Ian Blair will know that there's a precedent that an incoming mayor feels they've got the right to change the commissioner of police," he said.

Erionaldo da Silva, speaking for the de Menezes family, said Sir Ian should have resigned three years ago and the decision to do so now should not deflect attention from Jean Charles' ongoing inquest.

The Home Office and the Metropolitan Police Authority will draw up a shortlist for Sir Ian's successor.

Met Deputy commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson will take over as acting head should no candidate be appointed by the time Sir Ian leaves.

The Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank and file police officers, said it was looking forward to building a "positive and constructive relationship" with the new chief.

Sir Edward Henry was the last commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to quit in 1918, following a damaging police strike, the last time officers were allowed to walk out.


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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Rye and Battle Observer Mayor dismisses 'Tory plot' over ousted Sir Blair - 4 hrs ago
Haringey Independent Mayor defends ousting of Met chief - 4 hrs ago
Daily Record Top cop Sir Ian Blair quits after row with London mayor Boris Johnson - 5 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Tony Travers: With the removal of Sir Ian Blair, Boris Johnson's mayoralty has entered a new, more serious phase - 6 hrs ago
Telegraph and Argus Mayor defends ousting of Met chief - 7 hrs ago



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