The MIP in Britain

Sir Ian Blair, the Most Important Policeman in Britain, has begun to develop a media offensive to counteract the unfortunate events that have undermined his reputation. One of the most difficults stains to erase is the death of Menezes but I suspect he will have a damned good try. Grauniad liberals are usually the first to attack the metropolitan bias of those that invite their disdain. Now, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has become "the most important policing job in the country".

Hugh Muir commences his defence in the Guardian today with some gentle descriptive but rather less meat. It takes almost four paragraphs and an unflattering portrait of his predecessor, John Stevens, before Blair is gradually introduced as one of those initiated into the gentleman's club.

But he should have realised that it would be a tougher place for him than for anyone else who has risen to the position. His first few months as the first avowedly liberal commissioner were going to be uniquely turbulent.

In the world of the Guardianistas, there is no time before Blair and there are no liberal Commissioners before the present one. For, the Commissioner is painted as a forlorn reformer, wandering blindly through the mediascape, gaffeprone and unsupported, whilst some universal right wing conspiracy of reactionary coppers and slavering tabloids hound him to resignation.

For the reactionaries in the force and their friends in the press have long memories. They recall the Lawrence inquiry, the defining moment in British policing, when the racism and incompetence they took for granted was laid bare before an astonished public; and they remember above all that as they sought to defend their disreputable positions, they saw Sir Ian on the other side of the barricade.

It was my imagination that the Daily Mail helped track down the killers of Stephen Lawrence. It was a myth that the right-wing media tends to view the police services as inefficient and politically correct, preferring to penalise the middle classes over catching more serious criminals. No, they are allied to the canteen culture and racists in the Met.

Hugh Muir wants a modernised police force that meets his objectives, yet never solves crime. He views Blair as the vanguard of modern policing, and the death of Menezes becomes a sad footnote, where the admirable Commissioner would have to resign, if the inquiry "find him culpable". The moral conduct of the man, his character, is merely an excuse told by the right to pull him down. His position as the most influential liberal in the police force must be safeguarded, according to Muir, since the good that he could do outweighs the slurs and mistakes that surrounded the death of an innocent.

His career is at stake, but so is the future of a kind of policing that many of us would like to see succeed. When Sir Ian puts his foot in his mouth, as he has done once too often, he makes fools of us all.

The methods used have served as a reminder that this most "liberal" and most important of policemen, conscious of the Blairite enthusiasms for media manipulation and cover up, must have found it useful to adhere to the tradition of the constabularies in this area. Indeed, the ideologies to justify authority and control may be in transition, but the methods will never change.