The Prime Minister wants to see a UK police review in into Madeleine
McCann's disappearance because it is "clearly an exceptional case".
That's according to his spokesman, who today rebuffed several potential
criticisms of the decision - that David Cameron is bowing to the tabloid
press, that it amounts to political interference by the Home Office, and
that it will be costly.
Mr Cameron considers it "exceptional" because of the significant public
interest, the length of time Madeleine has been missing and the
international dimension to the case.
If there are doubters, they may point out that it is perhaps only the
first point that is truly unique - there are other children who have
been missing a long time, others who are missing abroad.
And has the Home Office interfered by making this "request" to the Met?
It is claimed not - because it was not "direction" and the force agreed
But, as Paul Waugh over at
points out, this is a particularly sensitive issue in the light of the
Government's hopes for directly elected police commissioners.
The Lords voted to change this policy earlier this week (though this
will almost certainly be overturned by the Commons...) and one of the
main criticisms centres on fears these hugely powerful individuals could
make politically-motivated interventions.
In a draft protocol
on commissioners, published by the Home Office, it says its "strong
commitment to ensuring that the operational independence of Chief
Constables will remain".
But when does a "request" become an instruction?
And lastly, the cash. The investigation won't be paid for by the cops,
but by the Home Office, thanks to "unallocated" money in the budget
which will be given as a "special grant".
But at this time of fiscal austerity, it may be a surprise to some that
there is any leftover cash at all. I've asked the Home Office for more
details on how much there is and what it is normally spent on - I'll
update this post when I get a response.
A quick search suggests in the past this pot of cash has been used to
fund an investigation into a fatal fire and policing events such as
political party conferences, plus there are reports the Government would
help pay for the inquiry into the Cumbria shootings this way.
David Cameron will be more than aware of all these issues and clearly
believes it is the right thing to do and that all those involved have
His open letter to Kate and Gerry McCann, published in the Sun,
indicates he is reacting partly as Prime Minister and partly as a
Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has welcomed the McCanns'
request for information and the authorities' decision to do everything
in their power. This suggests while there might be questions about how
the Government has responded, there's unlikely to be a row.