The battle for the soul of the capital's police force was signalled early on in Boris Johnson's tenure, when he installed himself as the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and later defenestrated Sir Ian Blair. But Johnson's control of the force has gone far deeper than previously suspected: Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for policing, this morning bragged that he and his boss had taken over Scotland Yard and now "had their hand on the tiller" of the good ship Plod, with the Home Office tipped overboard without even a lifejacket.
Boris is often derided for not doing enough, but in his approach to policing he's carved out a niche distinct from his predecessor, who was happy to carp at the cops when appropriate but defended the Met over the big issues, like Jean Charles de Menezes. We can't be surprised at the new Mayor's tougher stance: one of his election pledges was to tackle knife crime, which he's approached with a lot of bluster and some evidence, albeit small, of success.
But does the "politicisation" of the police, as it was described by Blair shortly before he was shown the door, actually mean anything? Dave Hill notes that the police has always been a political organisation, and a "decidedly conservative one at that". More interesting will be how such triumphalism plays in the Cameron camp: the relationship between the pair is reputedly fractious at best, and the Mayor's relative popularity means that the Tory leader has to tolerate any unorthodox shapes thrown by his old Eton running mate. Blair's scalping, and today's cocky announcement, are broad brush strokes indicating the extensive canvas Boris plans to paint on the city. We deride him as the do-nothing Mayor with a sideline in bus design at our peril.
Image by DeadMansPit