Croydon and Sutton’s London Assembly member has launched a sensational attack on Sadiq Khan, accusing the Mayor of London of "flexing his muscles" to force the resignation of Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.

Following the announcement this morning that Sir Bernard would be stepping down after five years as the capital's top cop, Conservative Steve O'Connell claimed the commissioner had been "forced out... because [the Mayor] believes that doing so would make him look strong".

He added: "This is the latest mistake by a PR-focused administration that will do nothing to improve the safety of Londoners. It is also yet another example of Sadiq Khan interfering in operational policing."

A spokeswoman for the Mayor of London described the claims as "ridiculous" and said Mr Khan and Sir Bernard enjoyed a good working relationship.

The Mayor this morning thanked the outgoing commissioner "for his years of service and dedication to keeping Londoners safe" and promised to work with Home Secretary Amber Rudd to find a replacement for Sir Bernard before he retires in February 2017.

Since taking control of the country's largest police force in September 2011, Sir Bernard had led the force's response to the London riots, the security operation for the London 2012 Olympic Games and heightened security measures across the capital following the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013.

In February he was handed a one-year contract extension by then Home Secretary, Theresa May, which would have seen him leave the post in September 2017.

Speaking to this website, Mr O'Connell,  who is chair of City Hall’s police and crime committee and a councillor for Kenley, said the commissioner's announcement was "unwelcome news for London".

He added: "He had an extension till September 2017 for good reason because London is under threat from terrorist attacks.

“I think he has been a superb commissioner of the police and we just can't avoid the conclusion that there has been some political interference.

"If you look at the facts, you have got the new mayor coming in at the early stage, flexing his muscles, and you have got the commissioner leaving early."

Mr O'Connell conceded he had no proof of any interference by the Mayor's office in the commissioner's decision to quit, but said the Conservatives planned to question Mr Khan over whether he had any involvement.

Asked if he and the Conservative London Assembly group were trying to politicise the announcement, Mr O'Connell, who in May promised to "work with" the new Labour Mayor, replied: "All life is political.

"We think its [unlikely] that Sir Bernard would want to go early.

“If I was Sadiq I would be saying to him I really want you to see your term out."

A spokeswoman for the Mayor said his office would not be releasing a statement in response to Mr O'Connell's claims, but described the suggestions of political interference as "quite ridiculous".

Announcing his statement announcing his retirement, Sir Bernard said: "I want to thank all the partners we work with in government, in City Hall and across London. And I want to thank the public for the support they show the Met, and have shown me personally, as we do our difficult jobs.

"I came into this job determined to fight crime and make the [Metropolitan Police] the best, most professional police service. I wish my successor well as they take on this amazing responsibility.

"It has been a great privilege to be the Met's Commissioner. I have loved my time in the role and I have loved being a police officer."