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A tap on the shoulder of history at New Scotland Yard

PUBLISHED: 16:54 10 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:30 07 September 2010

ONE of the great things about working in journalism is that you re never quite sure when the story is about to change in an unexpected and dramatic fashion. Another immeasurable bonus is that sometimes you re a privileged spectator at the making of histor

ONE of the great things about working in journalism is that you're never quite sure when the story is about to change in an unexpected and dramatic fashion. Another immeasurable bonus is that sometimes you're a privileged spectator at the making of history.

And last Thursday, both things happened at once. Ham&High reporter Charlotte Newton and I were just leaving a convivial reception organised by Haringey Police at the usually inaccessible Peelers Restaurant in New Scotland Yard. As we turned a corner past the famous revolving sign, we were confronted by dozens of television cameras aimed in our direction.

Even though we had toured the Press Bureau less than an hour earlier, we were blissfully unaware that the Met's main man, Sir Ian Blair, was about to announce his resignation.

And on reflection, if the people in the communications team knew anything about his impending resignation while we and a dozen or so other journalists were snooping around their offices, they were doing a spectacularly impressive job of keeping it to themselves and carrying on with business as if nothing had happened, or was about to.

The word on the street after we departed was that Sir Ian's resignation speech was imminent and that he would tell the world from the very spot where we stood.

Over the next half hour it seemed that every passing taxi was disgorging television crews and equipment. Soon the film makers became the filmed, as gawking tourists snapped the growing spectacle from across the street.

Sir Ian finally decided not to take to the streets to explain how he'd been shafted by Boris Johnson, but chose instead to make his statement from within. By the time the announcement came it was all a bit of an anti-climax, but it was history in the making all right. Sir Ian was the first Met chief to resign in 100 years.

Then at the weekend, when Peter Mandelson was brought back into the government to try to save Gordon Brown from a similar fate, I was reminded of another 'under our noses' moment when Mr Mandelson (he tells me off for calling him 'Mandy') was forced to resign from his role as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

As he rehearsed his resignation speech, he was blissfully unaware that half of Northern Ireland's media was already forming ranks in the room next door -not because they were onto something, but because they were paying tribute to retiring political hack Mervyn Pauley, who was at long last putting his Stormont years behind him. Mellow Mervyn barely batted an eyelid when he heard the news just before he made his own leaving speech, and why would he? After nearly 50 years in political reporting, he'd surely seen it all before.

Geoff Martin

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