It seems clear that one of the reasons why Neil Wallis was appointed as advisor to the Metropolitan Police was that he was close to Andy Coulson who was then Advisor to David Cameron and seemed destined to move with Cameron to No 10 in the very likely event that the Conservatives were to win power. This would then ensure that communication between New Scotland Yard and 10 Downing Street would be enhanced, presumably in part because the previous Commissioner had been seen to be so close to New Labour. It seems that the Met took the view that as Coulson who had already resigned over phone hacking from NOTW was safe enough for No 10 that Wallis was an even safer risk for the Met as Wallis had not been implicated at that stage. Whilst it seems hard to believe that Boris Johnson was unaware of the appointment as he is now suggesting, this raises an issue that will surely make replacing Sir Paul Stephenson a task of gargantuan proportions.
The Met are responsible for a range of activities that go far beyond the local policing of normal London Streets. Some of these are as a result of the Capital being home to the Government, the Royal Family and the foreign Consulates. However some are historical and possibly due to economies of scale, but which extend operationally into every corner of the UK. Finally the role of the next Commissioner will have two specific pieces of work that would intimidate all but the most naïve. The first is to run the Olympic Games and ensure that they are carried off peacefully. The second is to rebuild the force after first rooting out any real or perceived scandal following the NOTW phone hacking.
My personal view is that the compromise that lies at the heart of the Stephenson resignation should also be seen as a basis for a much needed reform of the Met and that this should take place sooner rather than later. Clearly the relationship between the Mayor and the Commissioner is vital just as any force Chief Constable needs to understand and be understood by the leadership of his Police Authority. However the second point of contact for the Met Commissioner is with No 10 both because of London being the seat of Government but also because of the national role played by the Met. If this national role was to be removed from London’s finest, then the need to appoint advisors who understand the thinking in No 10 would also be diminished.
What is needed is a national policing agency that can carry out the work currently undertaken by the Met which does not directly relate to the policing of the Londons Streets as experienced by the vast majority of the 8M residents. It would be this agency that would then single mindedly advise other forces and intervene in other parts of the UK. It would be this force that would relate to No 10 and the Home Secretary in a way that the Met does currently. The Met would then be left free to focus its relationship on the Mayors office. This seperation would also ensure that when matters of a political nature emerge such as this phone hacking scandal, that the policing of Londons Streets would not be left vulnerable when heads were rolling.
All of this would of course stand irrespective of political differences between No 10 and the Mayors Office. What seems particularly odd is that if the appointment of Neil Wallis was a mystery to the Mayor, this suggests that either Boris was asleep when told of Mr Wallis appointment (or that Boris is lying) or else that relationships between the Mayor and No10 were felt to be too complicated to inform him of the decision and background thinking.