The former metropolitan police commissioner Ian Blair has oft been described as an arch politician, if this session was anything to go by that’s not too wide of the mark.
Given that the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by armed police occurred on Blair’s watch it was a racing certainty that the liberal Hay audience would want to the subject probed, which Nik Gowling did with unfailing determination. You could see the palpable frustration on the face on the interviewer as Blair gave open answers to his questions that added little to what we know and seemed at times rehearsed. At one point Blair even reprised the argument he used so much at the time “what is he had been a bomber?”. This logical impossibility suggests that there is still some level of denial in Blair’s psyche as to the sheer scale of the error.
On other matters Blair was highly persuasive. He argued convincing that he had brought deep and wide ranging reform to the police “abolishing Special Branch created an enormous amount of hostility from within the force”. His opposition to elected directly elected police commissioners was well argued siting serious failings in the US; one elected sheriff justified the use of 68 bullets in shooting a man suspected of shooting a US police officer by saying “that was all the bullets my officers had.”
One other matter that has surfaced in several sessions but hasn’t been investigated in any depth during the festival is the impact of social media on communications. Open communications platforms might have changed the way the de Menezes case was reported and as Nik Gowling asserted “there may be people tweeting in the audience right now”. He was right.