Metropolitan police commissioner caught up in ‘pleb’ row is praised as ‘role model for single-minded crime fighting’
Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner who is at the centre of a row over a confrontation between armed officers and Andrew Mitchell in Downing Street, is knighted in the New Year honours.
Hogan-Howe, who succeeded Sir Paul Stephenson as commissioner last year after winning widespread praise as chief constable of Merseyside, is lauded in the official citation as a “role model for single-minded crime fighting”.
The knighthood, awarded to every Met commissioner since 1890, comes at a sensitive moment for Hogan-Howe. He had to break off his Christmas holiday last week to check on the welfare of officers involved in the fallout of the confrontation with Mitchell in Downing Street in September.
Senior Tory MPs claimed last week that Hogan-Howe was “completely compromised” after saying that nothing made him doubt the account of two armed officers who claimed in an official log that Mitchell had described them as “fucking plebs”. These claims were repeated in an email by a fellow member of the diplomatic protection group who claimed to have witnessed the incident as a member of the public.
Doubts were raised about their log and the email when CCTV footage showed that only one member of the public appeared to stand at the Downing Street gates at the time of the incident. This was contrary to their claim that “several … members of public looked visibly shocked”.
There were reports that officials in Whitehall considered last week whether it was possible to cancel, or delay, the knighthood until the conclusion of the investigation into the police conduct. This was being discounted on the grounds that ministers have gone out of their way in the past week to express complete confidence in Hogan-Howe.
The citation for his knighthood says: “Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM is a role model for single-minded crime fighting. He oversaw a 30% fall in crime over three years as chief constable of Merseyside; anti-social behaviour fell by 20% in a single year. Now Metropolitan police commissioner, he has brought new energy to action on gangs, guns and knife crime, using zero-tolerance tactics and sustaining frontline visibility. He oversaw the policing of London during the diamond jubilee, and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The commissioner said: “I am very proud and thrilled at this recognition of the hard work of colleagues in the Metropolitan police, South Yorkshire, Merseyside and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. I couldn’t have achieved this without the love and support of my wife Marion, and my mum, who hasn’t seen the day.”
The knighthood for Hogan-Howe came as four Tory donors were awarded in the New Year’s honours. Michael Heller, who gave £30,000 to the party between 2001 and 2003, is awarded a knighthood for charitable work.
Heller’s citation says: “Michael Heller is an extremely generous philanthropist. He founded two charities (one jointly with his late father) whose donations have straddled educational research and humanitarian causes, including to cancer research; establishing bursaries to enable medical students to engage in the arts and humanities; widening participation in university life; and supporting the Chichester festival theatre.”
Terry Bramall, who has given the party £60,000 over the past decade, is given a CBE for charitable works. Johanna Waterous, of Venture Capital Investor, who gave £4,000 to the party in 2006, is awarded a CBE for services to Supporting Business Growth. Tony Pidgley, chairman of the Berkeley Group, who gave £2,300 to the party in 2005, is awarded a CBE for his work on housing.
Margaret Beckett, Britain’s first and so far only female foreign secretary, is made a dame. Beckett, who served as a whip in Harold Wilson’s government and as an education minister in Jim Callaghan’s government, became the Labour deputy leader in 1992 and served as leader in 1994 between the death of John Smith and the election of Tony Blair.
Angela Watkinson, the Conservative MP for Upminster since 2001, is also appointed a dame. Richard Shepherd, the fiercely Eurosceptic Tory MP for Aldridge Brownhill since 1979 who was one of the Maastricht rebels in the early 1990s, is knighted.
The awards to the political veterans show the prime minister is keen to maintain political honours after he was criticised for knighting four male ministers who lost their jobs in the September reshuffle. Cheryl Gillan and Caroline Spelman were not given awards when they lost their posts, though they will be entitled to go to the Lords as former cabinet ministers.
Michael Cashman, the former actor who is now Labour MEP for the West Midlands, is awarded a CBE for his “public and political service” as a parliamentarian and campaigner for gay rights. Malcolm Harbour, a long-serving Tory MEP for the West Midlands who played a central role in driving through the services directive, is also awarded a CBE.