Sadiq Khan locked horns with Sir Tom Windsor after the lawyer’s report found the former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police felt “intimidated” into quitting her post.
The findings of the former chief inspector of constabularies’ report into the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick were contested by the mayor of London at a meeting of City Hall’s police and crime committee. His report, published in September, found Khan treated Dame Cressida in an “oppressive and unreasonable” way, ignored “due process”, and “failed to respect [her] dignity”.
The mayor previously claimed Sir Tom’s findings were “clearly biased and ignored the facts”. The Labour politician also quizzed the lawyer on why he had had dinner with the former commissioner shortly before launching the inquiry. NationalWorld’s sister site LondonWorld reported on a series of fiery exchanges, where the ex-top cop inspector and the mayor traded blows in front of London Assembly members while seated yards from each other at the same table.
Legal powers had been used by the committee to summon Mr Khan to answer questions on the matter - with the mayor threatened with a fine or even prison time if he failed to attend. It is the first time a sitting mayor has been formally summonsed.
During the hearing, Sir Tom rejected Mr Khan’s accusations of bias as “absurd” and said: “The idea that the facts have been ignored over 115 pages is just not sustainable. The facts have been gone into, on a minute by minute detailed basis. They could not have been more painstakingly and thoroughly analysed. The idea that I have political affections or allegiances is absurd.”
Dame Cressida resigned on February 10 after a series of scandals that saw public trust and confidence in the force decline, including the Operation Hotton report into misogynistic, racist and bullying WhatsApps sent by officers at Charing Cross police station. It came after the mayor said he had lost confidence in her ability to clear up under-fire Scotland Yard.
Sir Tom, the then-head of what was Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMCIC), was asked by then home secretary Priti Patel to establish the “full facts” of her departure. While working on the report, he told the committee, he requested an interview with the mayor nine times and was only given 90 minutes to question Mr Khan and two other people.
Whereas Dame Cressida spoke to him for five hours on three occasions, Sir Tom said, adding that the inquiry was meant to take six weeks and was ultimately extended to over five months predominantly due to Mr Khan and his policing office “failing properly to engage”.
Sir Tom told the assembly: “The mayor says that my close association with Cressida Dick is well-known. Well, it’s not well known to me or, I think, to her. In 12 years in policing, I think I have had one social occasion with Cressida Dick. That is when she invited me for dinner at the very end of my term of office as chief inspector of constabulary to say thank you for 12 years of service. It was a pleasant dinner – we didn’t discuss this.”
He continued: “There have been no other social occasions. The idea that we are friends is just not sustainable.”
He also told the committee he had had close associations with senior Conservative and Labour party figures and had been a member of the Labour Party “on and off, for 30 years - indeed I became a member 10 years before the mayor was old enough to vote.” He added: “I was appointed as rail regulator and international rail regulator by John Prescott, who is hardly some soft-Left New Labour apparatchik.”
His comments came in response to Khan, who told the committee: “The view of me and others is that the process is flawed, the investigation is biased, it ignored many facts. We all know - it is a matter of public record - Sir Tom’s close association with the former commissioner. We all know Sir Tom’s close association with former Home Secretaries.”
He added: “In Sir Tom’s own words, he has given more weight to those of police officers than from others. The conclusions of Sir Tom weren’t a surprise to many.”
At the end of the meeting, Unmesh Desai asked Sir Tom to clarify when his dinner with Dame Cressida took place. He said: “I think it was in the last month of my term of office. I left on March 31 - I can’t remember exactly when. I was asked by the Home Secretary to do this report on March 25. The dinner with Cressida Dick was before my appointment to do this work.”
Asked whether he would like to write to the committee to clarify his words, Sir Tom said: “That’s my answer, I don’t need to clarify it. It’s perfectly clear.”
And speaking to LondonWorld after the hearing concluded, he reiterated his position. He said: “I pressed the mayor for an interview nine times and he gave me 90 minutes.
“He had every opportunity to say much more. Everything he sent me we went through very carefully. I put to him as much as I could in the time he allowed me. He didn’t give me long but that was his choice.”
Sir Tom declined to comment on whether the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick had been a positive step for the force - and the capital - but said “of course” the force needed reform and he had worked closely with her replacement, Sir Mark Rowley, during his time at the inspectorate.
“Yes, of course it needs reforming - if you look at the things that have happened,” he said. “I think [being] chief of the Met is possibly the second hardest job in the country after the prime minister.”
After the meeting, committee chairman Susan Hall said “questions around the full circumstances remain”. The committee has also summonsed documents from the mayor’s office relating to the commissioner’s resignation.
She said: “We thank the mayor and Sir Tom for taking questions from the committee today, given the seriousness of the review’s findings. “We have statutory powers to summons the mayor and believed it was important to do so in order to get a full picture of events surrounding the resignation of the former commissioner.”
It is understood the committee hope Sir Tom will return to discuss the second part of his report before Christmas - along with the former commissioner Dame Cressida.