Met’s false economy

You can just imagine the uproar if the Metropolitan Police had assembled a legal panel littered with the City’s elite.

The News of the World may be gone, but there’s still plenty of scope for media scrutiny.

And with accusations abounding regarding what the Met knew and when – not to mention what it may or may not have paid for that knowledge – you can’t blame the force for taking a canny approach to its panel review.

But in this case it seems the Met may have priced itself out of the legal market – in the wrong ­direction – at a time when the fallout from the phone hacking scandal means it needs more legal clout than ever.

Whether or not the Met will face court action itself, the fact it is so tied up with the goings-on in Wapping means it will certainly have some very tricky questions to answer – and not just in one ­sitting. As things stand it would have little ­choice but to ask a high street firm to help it through this.

Perhaps it’s unfair to assume that no high street firm would be up to the job, but with the small ­matter of an 11,000-page Glenn Mulcaire ­document to review for starters, few would have the manpower.

Which is why so many of the force’s current advisers are bemused by the terms of the tender, with one branding the demand for a ceiling rate of £130 per hour “nonsense”.

For many firms the Met is seen as a trophy client, but every prize has its price. With both public and private sector clients squeezing the life out of ­advisory rates over the past few years, there comes a point at which firms have to walk away. Running a zero-profit business brings ignominy of its own, after all.

Of course, nobody is saying the Met has a right to the ­priciest lawyers in town, especially as many of the cases it might be involved with could be brought on a shoestring budget. But when it comes to defending itself against allegations of ­unprofessionalism on an epic scale, even a publicly funded body should be allowed the choice of a reassuringly expensive adviser.

Anything less would be scandalous.