The verdict on Sir Ian Blair’s autobiography: not a rattlingly good read

I have already commented about the accuracy (or lack of it to be more precise) of the autobiography produced by former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair.  However, a review in the Observer by Andrew Anthony should hasten the remaining stocks of the book to the discount shelves.

Apparently, the book is “plodding and pompous”:

“Blair does not fit the traditional mould of a policeman. He sees himself as a bit of a Guardian-reading liberal and he studied English at Oxford. A pity, then, that he didn’t come up with a more dynamic title for his book than Policing Controversy. But it points to a prose style, by turns plodding and pompous, that defeats casual interest. The reader is required to care as much as the author, and the author, like anyone who feels they were unfairly dismissed, cares a great deal.”

According to the Observer, the writing is “prone to incoherence” and there is too much self-justification:

“Blair never reconciles these contradictions, but he does conclude with a spirited defence of police independence in the face of Tory plans to make constabulary chiefs answerable to elected mayors. He envisages a future in which wealthy communities become increasingly well policed, while the poor and powerless are neglected. “The security of the citizen,” he writes, “should not be a commodity.” It’s noticeable that when articulating a belief, Blair can be spare and precise, but when explaining an action, he is prone to incoherence. It’s a shame that he didn’t concentrate more on justice and less on self-justification.”

However, even the self-justification is unconvincing in the sections dealing with the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes:

“The pall of suspicion stemming from that incident hung over Blair for the rest of his time as commissioner and almost certainly helped bring his term to a premature end. It wasn’t the errors resulting in Menezes’s death that undermined him so much as the belief that he played a part in trying to cover them up. In this memoir, Blair makes a detailed but not always convincing attempt to answer his critics. Essentially there are two charges against him, the first being that he denied and then delayed the Independent Police Complaints Commission access to the scene of the crime at Stockwell.

Blair maintains that this was necessary to prevent further lives from being placed at risk. It’s easy to make rational judgments in hindsight, but this seems dubious. Far more likely is that he didn’t want to upset his armed response teams with an investigation while the terrorists were still at large.

The second charge concerns when exactly Blair learnt that his officers had killed an innocent man.  He insists it was on 23 July, the day after the shooting, which would explain why he issued a press statement late on the 22nd specifying that it wasn’t clear whether the dead man was one of the failed suicide bombers. But several senior officers knew hours before he issued that statement that De Menezes was not one of the wanted men. So why didn’t Blair?

I think it’s probable that Blair didn’t know, yet that in itself is an indictment of his leadership. Surely the top man should have been warned as soon as it became apparent that the wrong man had been shot? Blair struggles to explain the procedural logic of why he wasn’t informed at the earliest opportunity, but in doing so he paints a picture of a divisive, top-heavy management structure steeped in intrigue and resentment.”

Oh dear …..

One thought on “The verdict on Sir Ian Blair’s autobiography: not a rattlingly good read”

  1. When the Met killed someone by mistake, perhaps on the basis of probabilities, fraught in a desperate situation, I can understand that.

    When a reviewer operates in the same manner for tendentious reasons I understand and do not approve.

    Great that Bojo admitted early in his time as mayor that Sir Ian and Red Ken had done great jobs, crime down etc.

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