Met chiefs privately deny feud over pay, but can't help rift showing through in public


Last updated at 22:59 25 October 2007

Sir Ian Blair was forced into a humiliating 90-minute grilling yesterday over claims he has fallen out with his deputy.

The Scotland Yard chief and his number two, Paul Stephenson, were asked by a police watchdog to explain allegations of a rift between them.

It was claimed Sir Ian felt 'bounced' into turning down a £25,000 bonus because his deputy refused a similar payout.

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Sir Ian Blair Paul Stephenson

In a rare move, the Metropolitan Police Authority held the meeting behind closed doors, excluding both press and public.

After the meeting, the chairman of the authority blamed 'incredibly spiteful' leaks from disgruntled colleagues and said Sir Ian would not 'be hounded out of office' by them.

Len Duvall said the force's watchdog was totally united behind Sir Ian and his management team.

He blamed a steady flow of rumour and innuendo from unnamed sources for the latest public spat within the Met.

He said both men had given statements to the authority in which they outlined their good working relationship. Mr Duvall added that the meeting successfully 'cleared the air'.

But the men's body language at the press conference afterwards told a different story.

Mr Stephenson crossed his arms and stared at the floor away from his boss, while Sir Ian rubbed his chin nervously.

However, both men tried to put on a united front for the cameras and Sir Ian denied the two had argued over his bonus.

'We have had a productive and cordial discussion with the Authority following on from extensive recent media coverage,' he said.

'While it is a matter for the Authority to consider bonuses for the ACPO officers, Paul Stephenson, the deputy commissioner, and I have again informed the Authority that we did not wish to be considered last year or this year.

'I also informed the Authority that there was no row about this matter between us and we have an excellent working relationship.

'I'm glad to have the support of the Authority. Paul and I have a job to do and we are going to go and do it.'

The bonus saga signalled yet another crisis in Sir Ian's leadership, which has been beset with blunders.

The latest row centred on claims that Sir Ian accused Mr Stephenson of disloyalty for refusing his bonus without consulting him.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner is said to have felt pressured into turning down his own payment as a result.

Earlier in the week Mr Stephenson was forced to issue a statement claiming there had been no falling out and the two men were on good terms.

He said: 'Sir Ian has never accused me of being disloyal and we have certainly not been on a "virtual war footing for months", as is claimed.

'To suggest otherwise is nonsense and we continue to enjoy a very strong working relationship.'

Mr Duvall also said after the meeting that no vote of confidence in Sir Ian's leadership had been taken and none was requested.

But he did acknowledge that some in the Met were unhappy with the commissioner's actions.

'The continued drip-drip of unattributed briefings - you need to question their motives,' he said.

The all-clear will come as a relief to the Met commissioner, who has faced criticism in the past for taping phone calls with the Attorney General and saying 'almost nobody' could understand why the Soham murders were such a big story.

His force is also currently on trial for health and safety breaches over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in Stockwell tube station.

Glen Smyth, of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the commissioner had the full support of rankand-file officers.

But he said Sir Ian was not being treated fairly and that any complaints about his performance should be dealt with properly, rather than leaked anonymously.

Mr Smyth added: 'Backstabbing has no place in all this as far as we are concerned. We do not like backstabbers and we do not like bullies.'