Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to throw his weight behind Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, is a remarkable way to follow up what seems to have been, on balance, a personally successful Labour Conference.
Of course, they are former colleagues. As he told Good Morning Britain: “I’ve worked with Cressida over many years in relation to some very serious operations”.
Presumably this list includes Operation Midland, where the police persecuted Harvey Proctor and other public figures on the basis of allegations levelled by a complete fantasist.
Or Operation Elvenden, a post-hacking scandal trawl that saw dawn raids on journalists’ homes but no convictions. As Lord Ashcroft writes in Red Knight, his biography of Starmer: “ultimately, not one of the 34 journalists arrested or charged under the guise of Operation Elvenden has a conviction on their record”.
But professional loyalty notwithstanding, Its a strange decision. Dick’s faces graces the front pages of no fewer than seven national newspapers this morning. She has overseen a series of scandals which have dramatically undermined confidence in the police. The Government’s decision to extend her contract is baffling.
It is hard to imagine an easier target – especially for a man with a background as a prosecutor. Starmer could have drawn on his experience to argue that root-and-branch reform is clearly needed. Instead, his reflex is to defend the system through which he came up.
One has to feel for him, on one level. After Jeremy Corbyn, one of the most obvious steps towards making Labour more electable was to toughen up their message on law and order, and the Labour leader seemed well-placed to do it. Yet his hour arrives just as the police are plunging headlong into an acute crisis of public confidence. His long association with them may suddenly not feel like such an asset.