A fixation with speaking to reporters is at the heart of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair’s fall from favour, according to a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary.
In this “audit” on the record of Blair, Daily Mirror political correspondent Kevin Maguire asks whether Blair will become the first commissioner to be forced out of his job since the man who failed to capture Jack the Ripper.
Maguire told Press Gazette: “The future is very bleak for Sir Ian Blair, who may not survive. A surprising number of his colleagues and other people close to him, both within the police service and in politics, used a phrase that kept coming up in conversations — ‘dead man walking’. People can’t see where he can go and how he can recover his authority.” Maguire gives the impression that a climate of fear has arisen among the media since Blair took over. He mentioned that numerous people backed out of taking part in the documentary after possible pressure from the Metropolitan Police. The tension between the media and the Met rose to its highest point, according to Maguire, after an ITV journalist was arrested over leaked documents relating to the De Menezes shooting.
Maguire said: “The police were very heavy over that and were obviously making a statement. They were protecting their own on those arrests. That was an excellent, award-winning piece of journalism, but it did feel as if they were warning journalists off. As if they were saying: ‘Don’t mess with us or we’ll get tough with you.’” Maguire said he frequently came across a sense of disappointment in Blair, that the man who was supposed to be the “great reforming copper” has ended up seeming “incapable of open-
ing his mouth without putting his foot in it”.
Maguire said: “Speaking to the media is becoming an occupational hazard for him and is preventing him from doing his job properly.” The programme also includes recent events in Forrest Gate, where two young Muslim men were arrested and one was shot.
He said: “What was interesting in the Forrest Gate case was that he hid.
He didn’t come out and say anything to the media at all; he sent one of his assistants out.
“The crux of it is that he made such a mess when he was the mouth of the Met, he’s now trying to say next to nothing, and that’s not right either.” Maguire’s 30 Minutes documentary is the first in a 10-part series on Channel 4 in which high-profile authors give their take on current affairs. It will be broadcast on Friday, 7 July, at 7.35pm.