Monday, 22 December 2008

Quick Thinking

Our beloved Home Secretary, the ever-delightful Jacqui Smith, today insisted that the Met's counter-terrorism chief Bob Quick, be allowed to "get on with his job of keeping our country safe". This after he was forced to apologise for his bizarre allegation that a story in the Mail on Sunday concerning his wife's wedding car business was part of a Tory plot to undermine his investigation into Home Office leaks. He had called the story "an attempt to undermine an investigation which is legitimate," adding, for good measure, that "the Tory machinery and their press friends are mobilised against this investigation in a wholly corrupt way, and I feel very disappointed in the country I am living in."

This is a quite extraordinary statement - the sort of thing we used to hear from Alastair Campbell when he was Tony Blair's press officer. For a senior serving police officer to start using such inflammatory party-political language is rather sinister. Well, he has apologised, and the Conservative Party say the matter is at an end. But it shouldn't be. Leaving aside for a moment the questions this raises about Quick's judgement in bandying about words like "corrupt", the tradition that the police were politically unengaged is something we used to take for granted in this country. Now, Quick seems to take it for granted that the police should be part of the incumbent government's smear machine. I, too, feel very disappointed in the country I am living in.

Quick now says that it was "never his intention" to make such an allegation about the Conservative Party. To which one might respond that if it wasn't his intention to make the allegation, why did he make it? Had his brain been taken over telekinetically by Lord Mandelson of Foy? He alluded in his apology to the stress which the revelations had caused him - but do we not expect senior police officers, especially those charged with "keeping this country safe", to keep a cool head under pressure? Lashing out emotionally at the party which may soon form the next government is not behaviour likely to instill confidence in his abilities.

Perhaps, though, we shouldn't be surprised, either at the counter-terrorism chief's instincts or at the home secretary's continued confidence in him. Asst Commissioner Quick, known in Met circles as "Boring Bob" for his lacklustre personality, was described by one police insider in an online forum as "Jacqui Smith's favourite copper". A title for which there would seem to be a fair degree of competition, given the success with which New Labour have packed the higher echelons of the Met. Not that many of Bob's colleagues share Smith's enthusiasm. An officer writing on the same forum noted that "Someone who does not engage brain before opening mouth is a bit of a liability in his job," and suggested that he should "consider joining the previous Commissioner who seemed similarly afflicted." Another officer wrote this:


Perhaps he should change his name to Dick, Dick Quick. I'm sorry but the man is not fit for purpose, I always thought you had to have evidence before you started accusing people of wrong doing. He has made himself look an absolute fool, and we have these types running the police force, what hope is there for the rest?

As for Quick's statement that the Mail on Sunday's exposure of his wife's business compromised his personal security, one anonymous police officer described it as "a load of bollocks. If anyone wanted to know where Boring Bob lived, they could just follow him home from work, it wouldn't take a genius to find out where he lived." On the other hand, using his family home to run a private business - one employing former police officers as drivers, apparently - would seem a strange activity for one charged with the sensitive and security-conscious area of counter-terrorism. After all, full details of the location of Mr Quick's home are not only available, they are actually advertised online. Perhaps, though, his title is a little misleading. "I have it on good authority" said an officer at the time of the Green raid, "that counter-terrorist police are a bit under-employed at the moment". They might even be driving Mrs Quick's clients in their spare time.

It is telling that when an unfavourable story about Quick - including mention of his wife's car-hire business - appeared in the Mail on Sunday Boring Bob leapt to the conclusion that someone in the Tory party must have planted it. As though journalists were not capable of (or interested in) looking into his background themselves - and quite why Tory party workers should be interested in Mrs Quick's company seems also somewhat mysterious. More likely one of Boring Bob's many internal enemies - sorry, "usually reliable police sources" - tipped off the hacks. Quick was said to have been in the running for the commissionership. Perhaps it was the same "senior police source" who told the MoS that "Bob Quick needs to ask himself whether he is happy that all this is out and about." Alternatively, the scoop might have come courtesy of "one client of the business, Diane Davies, who booked two cars for her daughter Shelly’s wedding in September" -and, says the report, "was full of praise for the service provided."

‘Nothing was too much trouble for Judith,’ she said. ‘We got chatting while we were making all the arrangements and she told me about her husband’s job.

‘I met him by chance at a garden centre a few weeks after the wedding. He seemed a very nice and friendly man. Judith said he was not involved in running the business.




So here we have a man, charged with "keeping this country safe" from infinitely subtle and well-organised (see Glasgow airport) network of terror which continually threatens it (and, more importantly, from Tory moles at the Home Office), who nevertheless finds time to engage in small talk with his wife's clients. More worryingly, Bob has so successfully trained his wife in the importance of security that she thinks nothing of telling everyone who employs her services all about his job. Staggering. And when, somehow, the news about this potentially serious security lapse makes the papers - not before time, I might add - what is Bob's initial reaction? That it must be the work of those dastardly Tories. This is the reaction of a mind of someone who is not merely politically compromised, but also somewhat paranoid.

Quick's words shed further light on the highly partisan manner in which the Whitehall leak investigation has been conducted (as shown in the decision to raid Damian Green's parliamentary office and home). They suggest a deep-seated distrust of the Conservative Party which is wholly inappropriate for any top-ranking police officer, let alone one charged with such a sensitive inquiry. His comments also suggest an acquaintance with the dark arts of political spin of which a serving policeman ought to be innocent. Dirty tricks, personal attacks on opponents, suggestions to friendly journalists regarding fruitful lines of enquiry - these are the hallmarks of the New Labour smear machine. To my knowledge, the Conservatives have not developed anything so ruthless or unethical: certainly, there's no evidence of such tactics being used in the way New Labour went after the likes of nonagenarian hospital patient Rose Addis or, most tragically, Dr David Kelly. Nevertheless, Bob Quick, like some of the more rabid elements on the political left, seems to imagine that the Mail is the slavish creature of Conservative Central Office, while the Tories emply a crack team of investigative reporters devoted to digging up dirt on their political opponents. Such as senior police officers.

But then the Met don't have an entirely clean record in this regard: witness the attempts to portray Jean Charles de Menezes as a drug-using illegal immigrant vaulting over ticket barriers while wearing a padded jacket. Nor have they ever been short of tame journalists happy to regurgitate their PR spin as "news" or to turn up at four o'clock in the morning when some high-profile person just happens to be arrested. So perhaps Quick thought the Tories were acting in the way any self-respecting senior plod would and playing dirty. After all, these wicked Tory subversives were quite capable of orchestrating a systematic and potentially illegal leak network at the heart of the home office. And Bob knows all about exposing the cunning tactics of terrorists and spies. No doubt his counter-terrorism expertise is coming in handy. Al Qaeda, Iran, Damian Green, the Mail on Sunday: such are the threats which have to be neutralised in order to "keep this country safe".

This whole business speaks volumes about the close sympathy of mind that exists between New Labour and the higher echelons of the Metropolitan Police. This is more than a pragmatic alliance based on a shared desire to control the population. They see the world in much the same way, they have the same siege mentality, they react instinctively to embarrassing situations by detecting imaginary plots and smearing their opponents. They depend on each other. Hopefully when New Labour are finally thrown out their cronies in the police "service" will go the same way. But it will take an act of political courage to take the politics out of policing, so firmly has it now taken root.

7 comments:

Jackart said...

Nothing to add to that.

Any idea how the politics can come out of policing?

The Heresiarch said...

Very little, to be honest. The temptation for the next Tory government may be to replace NuLabour's placemen with its own: I hope they resist it. The present set-up confers professional advantages on police chiefs who are closely associated with government policies and initiatives. The system should reward officers who respond to local concerns and priorities, not the Whitehall mood music. More political accountability at a local level ought to mean less political toadying at a national level. The most important thing, though, is to have government ministers who don't abuse their power.

Jacqui Smith's support for Quick looks blatantly partisan (calling him "Bob", as though he's a government colleague); a wise minister would have advised him to resign, or at least seek a transfer to another department.

Praguetory said...

He looks like Jacqui too - do you think they are related?

septicisle said...

"They suggest a deep-seated distrust of the Conservative Party which is wholly appropriate for any top-ranking police officer, let alone one charged with such a sensitive inquiry."

I think you've missed an in before the appropriate.

The Heresiarch said...

Thanks. Sadly I'm not able to employ my own proofreader.

valdemar squelch said...

Just listened to R4 interview with the IPCC ex-employee who blew the whistle on the Met's lies about the Stockwell shooting. It seemed obvious to me that Ian Blair's dishonesty about the killing of JCdeM shocked her and her colleagues and made what she did seem not merely justifiable but essential. The Met has a hell of a long way to go before it becomes a proper police force again.

SickOfItAll said...

By "The present set-up confers professional advantages on police chiefs who are closely associated with government policies and initiatives." you presumably mean a self-serving bunch of authoritarian pro-police state, pro war on terror lackeys who will do the bidding of zanu labour, no questions asked.

There is overwhelming evidence that the Met is fundamentally compromised, has engaged in coverups and has endemic widespread corruption, yet Parliament is doing nothing when it should be having hearings on the matter.