Sir Paul Stephenson made the right decision last night to resign and take responsibility for his force’s mistakes and, at least as importantly, his own mistakes as Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Unfortunately, he tarred his resignation with a nakedly political statement which distracts attention from what I believe is the real reason for Sir Paul’s resignation.
We had hoped that Scotland Yard had left behind the appearance of party political involvement with the resignation of Sir Paul’s predecessor, Ian Blair, whom I helped question last Tuesday only to be told that he was far too important to be aware of alleged industrial scale phone hacking at the News of the World.
Sir Paul though appears to have gone, not by telling the country why he really needed to resign, but by launching a transparent personal attack on Prime Minister David Cameron.
Sir Paul’s suggestion that he kept his appointment of Neil Wallis as a PR adviser secret to avoid giving the Prime Minister sensitive operational information is simply ridiculous. Why did he not just disclose his contract on the Metropolitan Police website – as he should have done when Mr Wallis was first appointed?
Keith Vaz, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee on which I serve, has rightly noted that Sir Paul’s resignation statement does not disclose the real reason for his resignation, saying:
“It is a very brave decision, and I’m shocked by it, actually, because I don’t think there’s anything in the statement in particular that points to any wrongdoing or inappropriateness on the part of the commissioner.”
Keith Vaz did, however, read out a statement last Tuesday which I believe is the real reason for Sir Paul’s resignation, and about which Sir Paul must have known our committee was likely to question him this Tuesday.
That was what Sir Paul said when he was at an ACPO conference in July 2009 and the Guardian published new evidence concerning the scale of phone hacking at the News of the World. When asking John Yates to look into the issue again in light of that evidence, Sir Paul concluded by indicating that he expected it to be dealt with so that a statement could be made later that day.
It seems therefore that the decision to spend little more than eight hours in July 2009 reconsidering evidence of phone hacking, and the failure to review the eleven thousand pages of material which the Met then had from Mulcaire, can be traced to the very top of the Metropolitan Police.