Friday, 3 October 2008

The pitiful Home Secretary

When I started this blog in June my first offering was a rather limp piece of waffle about the inadequacies of those in senior positions in our government. As the months have passed not a single cabinet member has done anything to make me think well of them. This is a rather sorry state of affairs. Admittedly Parliament has been in recess for a couple of months but events have been moving swiftly in the real world and there has not been a single glimmer of original thought from the twenty three most senior government ministers whose combined ministerial salaries approach £2million. Tonight Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, was exposed on Question Time and produced a quite pitiful performance.

She had the perfect opportunity to show authority today. As Home Secretary she was the recipient of Sir Ian Blair's tender of resignation, it was for her to accept or reject his offer to go. She accepted his resignation, read a prepared statement in which her praise of him was unqualified and then criticised Boris Johnson for saying he did not have confidence in Sir Ian. I am just a simple fellow, but if she had confidence in Blair she should not have accepted his tender of resignation, she should have met or phoned Boris Johnson and made her position clear. There would have been nothing Boris could have done other than argue his case; he might have persuaded her, he might not, but as it was she capitulated to Boris's view and then had the effrontery to criticise him for taking that position.

I am not quite sure what to make of Jacqui Smith's decision to accept Sir Ian Blair's resignation. Did she agree he had to go? If so her praise of Blair and criticism of Boris do not fit. Did she think he should stay? If so, why not fight the case? The inference I draw is that she wanted Blair to remain in place but felt his position was so compromised that she could not win an argument to keep him in place, so she tried to turn it into an opportunity to score a political point.

If I am right in that, it tells us a lot about our Home Secretary. The holder of one of the great offices of state places political point-scoring above principle. More than that she puts political point-scoring above giving leadership. That links into her whole performance on Question Time tonight. Whatever the issue debated, her answers were defensive and shallow. Maybe there is more to her than I have seen, but all I have seen is a party functionary completely out of her depth in an office which requires vision, leadership and authority. Perhaps that is what Gordon wants so that he has control of everything, but that is no excuse.

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