Boris Johnson told to recuse himself from picking new London police chief

British Prime Minister has until next week to answer police questions about attending alleged lockdown-breaking parties

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been sent a questionnaire by police asking if he attended parties in Downing Street during lockdown. Photo: AP
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to recuse himself from involvement in picking the next London police chief while under investigation for possible Covid-19 rule breaches.

Lord Ian Blair, a former Metropolitan Police commissioner, described the decision about Dame Cressida Dick’s successor as “an enormously important choice”.

Ms Dick announced she was standing down as commissioner on Thursday after London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he had no confidence in her plans to reform the service.

Home Secretary Priti Patel is responsible for picking a replacement, with input from the prime minister and Mr Khan.

Dame Cressida Dick said London Mayor Sadiq Khan left her with 'no choice' but to resign as Metropolitan Police Commissioner. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

Mr Blair, who led the force from 2005 to 2008, said it would be inappropriate for Mr Johnson to have any say in the selection process because of the "partygate" investigation by the Met.

“That’s a very difficult issue and I do accept that. I think Boris Johnson should recuse himself from being involved,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

“But it’s an enormously important choice and presumably it will take some time to get to being to who the [next] commissioner is, and by that stage presumably he will have filled in his questionnaire and the matter will be over.”

Downing Street confirmed on Friday night that Mr Johnson had received a legal questionnaire from officers investigating events in No 10.

He now has seven days to adequately explain his attendance or face a fine for breaking the coronavirus curbs he set.

Ms Patel said that the new commissioner must be prepared to tackle the policing culture which has left the country’s biggest force reeling from a series of scandals.

She said it would require “strong and decisive leadership” to rebuild public confidence in the force’s “integrity and professionalism”.

Ms Dick’s departure follows a wave of criticism of the force including over its handling of the case of Sarah Everard, who was murdered by a serving officer.

Wayne Couzens used his warrant card and handcuffs to falsely arrest the 33-year-old marketing executive as she walked home from a friend’s house in South London.

The Met also came under fire over its policing of a vigil held in memory of Everard.

Women calling for an end to male-on-female violence were roughly handled and arrested after defying police orders not to hold a gathering in line with coronavirus restrictions.

Despite a barrage of criticism, the force was cleared by a regulator.

More recently, the Met has been criticised for being slow to investigate reports of parties in Downing Street and Whitehall in breach of Covid restrictions.

The final straw for Ms Dick’s career however, was a report by the police regulator which exposed violently racist, misogynist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station in central London.

The manner in which Mr Khan forced Ms Dick out of her job upset the Home Office.

Sources in the department said Ms Patel was angered by Mr Khan’s failure to inform her that he had called Ms Dick to a meeting on Thursday afternoon.

She, however, chose not attend after reportedly being informed that Mr Khan had no confidence in her plans for reform. She later announced her resignation, saying he had left her with “no choice” but to resign.

Home Office sources said Ms Patel considered it “rude and unprofessional” of Mr Khan not to inform her of his plan.

Sources close to the mayor said that it had been a regular bilateral meeting and that it was up to Ms Dick to inform Ms Patel of her decision herself.

The commissioner agreed to stay for a “short period” while Ms Patel seeks a successor.

Updated: February 12, 2022, 2:01 PM