Is it actually possible for every Labour Home Secretary since 1997 to have been utterly incompetent or is there some gipsy curse on the Home Office?
Jack Straw was responsible for some decidedly illiberal laws and allowing General Pinochet to return to Chile without standing trial for human rights abuses and was expected to be demoted in 2001 but was instead rewarded for his incompetence with a sideways move to the Foreign Office.
David Blunkett talked about curbing immigration and cracking down on bogus asylum seekers in public but in reality the Home Office was waving through thousands of asylum claims with only basic checks carried out on their claims. He resigned after interfering in the visa application of his girlfriend’s nanny to speed the process up.
Charles Clarke, aka the Sweaty Baboon, was utterly, utterly incompetent and deeply unpopular. He was responsible for pushing through the ID Cards legislation, for trying to merge English police forces and for trying to give the state the power to detain people without charge for 3 months wiping out one of the main protections afforded to citizens by the Magna Carta. He was eventually sacked for losing prisoners and terrorist suspects.
The current Home Secretary, Scottish MP John Reid, has presided over endless Home Office scandals – inmates walking out of open prisons, prisons full to overflowing, rapists spared prison because there’s no room, foreign criminals walking the streets. The latest scandal to hit the Home Office is the announcement that 147 convicted drug traffickers who were given travel banning orders never had the orders enforced leaving them free to go about their business.
Surely even Labour can’t produce a succession of incompetent ministers for the Home Office over a period of 10 years.