The last Metropolitan police commissioner to resign, James Munro, did so in 1890 after failing to apprehend Jack the Ripper. Sir Ian Blair's departure may not be the result of so egregious an oversight, yet the reasons behind it have inspired much debate on Fleet Street.
The Times is in no doubt that Mr Blair's resignation is the result of a "Tory coup" engineered by the Mayor. The Guardian agrees, and even has Boris Johnson vowing that no permanent successor need be appointed "until the Conservatives take over in Downing Street" - a presumptive if not implausible scenario, but one that could leave London without a chief of police for eighteen months. The paper describes Johnson's putsch as an "attempt to put himself above the law and appoint the next commissioner", a move to which the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has responded vehemently. Their verdict on Blair's time at the top describes him a "force for good" whose tenure was marked by poor judgment and bad luck.
No such hedging of bets over at the Mail, where long-time Blair bête noire Melanie Philips rips into the "Labour stooge" whom she considers "one of the most ill-starred and destructive top appointments" in British policing history. In less hectoring tones, the Telegraph notes that he commanded little respect among his officers and waspishly suggest that, by resigning "in the best interest of London", he'd finally got something right.
Ultimately, the Blair departure will be seen as the first serious skirmish between a Tory mayor and a Labour government. While Boris did not sack his chief of police - he has not the jurisdiction to do so - the removal of political support, and his decision to chair the Metropolitan Police Authority (a decision that David Cameron was unimpressed by) meant Blair's resignation was inevitable. Playing politics with such a high-profile role shows a breathtaking irresponsibility to London's safety, and irrespective of the mistakes that have blotted Sir Ian's time in charge, this shambolic changing of the guard sets a troubling precedent.