One in, one out
As Boris is bounced a new Met commissioner is crowned
There is a lot of talk of ‘resetting’ and ‘clean slates’ in London right now.
Obviously the biggest reboot is happening inside 10 Downing Street, but on Friday London finally got a new Met commissioner, a job which arguably has an even busier and more stressful inbox than the Prime Minister’s.
Whenever you reboot something though there’s always that uncertain moment as you wait for all the systems to kick back in and the lights to come on. And that’s how London feels right now: in limbo.
So in today’s issue we take a look at what Johnson’s exit (and his potential replacement) could mean for the future of TfL, and consider what kind of Commissioner Sir Mark might be and what’s on his to do list for transforming the Met.
As always, our Monday issue is free to read, so if you enjoy it please feel free to share it or post on social media:
New boss, same as the old boss?
A few weeks ago, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps signed off his rather bad tempered letter to Sadiq Khan by saying that his government remained open to giving Transport for London a “longer-term capital settlement,” but that it would first “require a reset of the relationship.”
Well, we certainly got a reset at the end of last week, although it probably wasn’t the one Grant was expecting, especially as we’ve now got (checks watch) forty-eight hours until the current funding settlement runs out.
On Friday, the mayor was accusing the government of “using London as a political football,” although some might argue that there aren’t enough minsters left to field a full side, never mind use the transport system as a ball.
To make matters worse, over the weekend Grant Shapps threw his hat into the ring for the PM job, so he’s now busy building campaign microsites and making stirring video for Facebook. Meanwhile, Sadiq and his team are preparing to cut 20% of bus services and 10% of Tube services. (Interestingly, London doesn’t even get a mention in Shapps’ article for the Telegraph, in which sets out his vision for the UK and his argument for being made PM).
The good news is that, with Johnson gone, a lot of those old City Hall grudges have gone with him. There were decisions made by Boris and his team while he was mayor, as well as plenty of claims made after he left, that have made any discussions about TfL’s future much more difficult that it should have been.
The other positive sign is that our new Chancellor (for now) gets on with the mayor. Nadhim Zahawi cooperated very well with Sadiq during the vaccine rollout, and Khan even called Nadhim “fantastic” in this weekend’s Guardian feature about city mayors.
Don’t expect anything miraculous come the middle of the week though. With Government barely functioning right now, the chances of getting anything beyond yet another short term extension are incredibly slim.
Coming up on Wednesday… 📷
In our subscriber-only midweek issue, photographer Johnathan Hall takes a look at the changing face of Deptford and tries to get to grips with the forces of gentrification and its impact on the community around him.
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Pressing reset on the Met
Up until the end of last week, it looked very much like the Metropolitan Police was also going to remain rudderless until a new PM was found. But it seems the decision was “rushed through” before it could be upended by the chaos engulfing the government. Indeed, the Times reported that officials were so keen to get the Queen to sign on the dotted line that they were loitering around the palace, waiting for her Highness “to have lunch so that she could sign off on it.”
So it came to pass that Sir Mark Rowley accepted the role of Met Commissioner (and the £293,000 salary that goes with it) at the end of what the official press release called “a highly competitive recruitment process” (that’s ‘highly competitive’ between the three people they managed to convince to apply).
For the first time in a long time Priti Patel and Sadiq Khan put on a unified front, with the mayor saying that he “looked forward to supporting Sir Mark Rowley and working closely with the Home Secretary” to restore trust in the Met and make sure they’re able to “get the basics of policing right”:
Meanwhile, the Home Secretary said that, under Sir Mark’s leadership, “the Met will once again get the basics of policing right” and that she was “looking forward to working closely with him in his new role to drive real change in the Met to ensure the force is one that Londoners deserve, have confidence in and can be proud of.”
The lone dissenting voice seemed to be Diane Abbott, who tweeted that she was disappointed by Rowley being brought out of retirement because he’d “spent much of his career in the Met” and there’s “no evidence that he is a reformer.”
Who is Sir Mark Rowley?
Abbot does have a point. After all Priti and Sadiq didn’t have to look too far for their new Commissioner. This is the guy who lost out on the job to Cressida Dick in 2017, and he’s a career copper who’s known to have a similarly ‘academic’ approach to the job as his predecessor.
Like Cressida, Rowley is also an Oxbridge graduate (maths) and has spent his entire working life in the force. Rowley joined the police in 1987, going on to to the (now defunct) National Criminal Intelligence Service and then becoming Chief Superintendent in command of the West Surrey Basic Command Unit, where he led the investigation into the murder of Milly Dowler.
He joined the Met in 2011 as assistant commissioner for specialist crime and operations, and applied to be commissioner in 2017 (finishing runner up to Dame Cressida). The next year he resigned to go and work in the private sector (and author a counter-terrorism thriller), but not before he was knighted for his role in leading the response to the Manchester Arena bombing, the Westminster Bridge attack and the London Bridge attack.
What’s he said so far?
Sir Mark has yet to give any interviews, but he did release a statement declaring that his mission was to “lead the renewal of policing by consent” and that he was going to work with the mayor and Home Secretary to introduce ‘urgent’ reforms around things like the “use of technology and data, our culture and our policing approach” (Rowley is rumoured to have “radical ideas” about how the police can better use data).
Rowley also promised to be “ruthless in removing those who are corrupting our integrity” and to “fight crime with communities – not unilaterally dispense tactics”.
What’s on his list?
Right at the top of Rowley’s inbox will be the job of getting the Met out of the “special measures” they’ve been put under by the police watchdog. That means completely transforming the culture of the organisation, not just ‘rooting out the bad apples’; and part of that involves changing the way the Met recruits and trains its officers (i.e. not doing things like this).
The big issue here is that more cases of wrongdoing will undoubtedly crop up over the coming weeks and months. As Jamie Klingler from Reclaim These Streets said to the BBC on Sunday, when you shine a light into dark corners you will find some nasty stuff. In fact, on the very day that Rowley was announced as commissioner, a serving Met officer was charged with rape.
Which brings us on to the issue of women’s safety in London. Since the murder of Sarah Everard there have been a lot of promises, not to mention some ill-advised ‘advice’, but precious little in the way of action. In recent weeks the Met has come under criticism again for the way it handles “lower level sexual offences” in the wake of the series of attacks on Hackney Marshes.
Beyond all that, there’s the issue of knife and gun crime (2021 saw the “highest number of teenage homicides caused by knife and gun crimes in modern times”), updating the way the Met uses tech (without taking away our privacy), and fighting terrorism (something Rowley has huge experience in).
We don’t yet know when Rowley’s first day on the job will be, although it likely won’t be until September. Until then, we’ll have to cross our fingers and hope London’s operating system isn’t corrupted beyond repair.
5 little bits
Just because he’s out of a job, don’t expect the Boris Johnson scandal stories to stop. Over the weekend the Times reported that while he was mayor of London, Johnson “abused his power” by lobbying for a young woman to get a job in City Hall “weeks after meeting her and bringing her back to his parliamentary office”. The appointment was blocked because the two “appeared to have an inappropriately close relationship”.
The largest-ever collection of Moriori remains has been returned from the London Natural History Museum and repatriated to their ancestors in New Zealand. Over 100 skeletons of people belonging to the indigenous tribe of Rēkohu were handed over in a ceremony in Wellington.
The Victoria & Albert Museum has revealed details of what will be in its new East Storehouse venue when it opens next year, and it includes “a three-storey section of the largely demolished 1970s Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in east London.” The V&A bought a section of the Brutalist estate back in 2017 and since then, conservators have spent 1,000 hours polishing it so it can be displayed alongside “the 15th century carved and gilded ceiling of the Torrijos Palace in central Spain”.
The Telegraph (paywall alert) reports that the “lure of the suburbs” has killed off the London flat, quoting a recent Bloomberg study that shows “the value of London apartments has plummeted by 11 per cent since 2020.”
We’ve managed to get this far without mentioning the weather, but yeah… It’s hot. If you’re prepared to brave public transport and venture into central London, Bloomberg has compiled a list of their 13 Best Outdoor Dining Venues. (Our pick of the bunch? Rochelle Canteen, definitely).