UK's top cop survives no-confidence vote

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LONDON, Nov 22 (Reuters) Britain's most senior police officer, London Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, survived a vote of no-confidence today over the fatal shooting of a Brazilian electrician mistaken by officers for a suicide bomber.

After an often heated and angry four-hour special meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees London's force, members rejected the motion by 15 votes to seven.

Blair, who sat in near silence and listened to highly critical comments about his running of the country's largest police force, said he welcomed the backing.

''I haven't enjoyed hearing all of it,'' he told the MPA, which could have begun a process to force him out had the motion been passed. ''I hope this ends months of speculation.'' On Nov. 1 Blair's force was found guilty in an unprecedented trial under workplace health and safety laws of failing to protect the public over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by officers on an underground train on July 22, 2005.

They believed he was one of four men who had tried to carry out suicide bombings on the capital's transport system the day before, but they failed to stop him before he boarded the train.

Blair was criticised by an independent watchdog for trying initially trying to block their inquiry into the killing.

Almost since he took over the job Blair has faced calls for his resignation and those have become increasingly political and vocal following the trial.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour government has given backing to Blair, a key ally on issues such as extending the time terrorism suspects can be detained without charge and introducing compulsory identity cards.

Opposition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have called for his head, saying his position was now untenable.

At today's MPA meeting, Conservative members repeated their calls for him to resign. Richard Barnes, who put forward the no-confidence motion, said there had been catastrophic errors over the de Menezes shooting.

Another Conservative, Tony Arbour, said Blair was a lame duck.

But the majority gave the police chief their backing.

''I am not a lame duck Commissioner. I will be in office, I will be in power with your help I hope,'' Blair told the MPA, saying he would have gone if he had believed the issue was a resignation matter.

''I am a man of honour. I would not have offered my resignation. I would have just resigned.

''I hope that all members of all parties will seek ways to work together as a service and as an authority.'' De Menezes's family, who attended the meeting, said they believed Blair's position was untenable but added they did not think a vote on party-political lines would resolve their concerns.

A poll last week indicated that more Londoners thought he should stay than go. According to the YouGov survey, 37 per cent of respondents backed Blair's sacking while 44 per cent said he should not lose his job.

Reuters RSA RN2115

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