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Save Charles Clarke!

I am not the fondest of the Home Secretary. But he does serve his providential purpose, which of late has been to bluster to bully and to sneer at anyone who dare suggest there was anything wrong with the Blair administration’s attitude to liberty. This has been a valuable service to the nation, as it seems to have woken the liberal chattering classes from their torpor to realise that People Like Them (the New Labour elite) will do infinite evil with the best intentions. We need to keep Charles Clarke.

On the other hand, the Home Office itself should go. The spiffy new office in Marsham Street should be levelled, and the the glass pieces, broken small, preserved on the site as a sterile three-acre monument, eternally reminding us that it is more useful than what it replaced. Some parts a reasonable state needs, and they could be transplanted to places they might flourish.

What parts of the Home Office would we be better without?

The entire Communities Directorate for a start. Whether you like the CRE or not, it is hard to see any benefit in a subdirectorate in the Civil Service for “Race, Cohesion, Equality and Faith”. Are those things anything a government can, let alone should, control?

Then there is the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, a nasty project to seize control over the Criminal Justice system and get rid of all that inefficient unpredictable matter of fair trials, messily standing between the police and the prisons that the department owns. It is at best Home Office empire-building, at worst a threat to the rule of law.

Everone here knows my views on the Identity Cards Programme by now. The state has no right to determine who you are, permitting it to keep a life-long permanant record on you is a recipe for totalitarianism.

Without a department one would not need a mountain of shared and administrative services. They probably would not be missed. Entirely incidentally, those most offensive bits of the Home Office, the organs that originate sheaves of new criminal offences every year, and continually tweak the law to make convictions easier, would be gone.

What’s left? Crime. ‘Offender Management’. Immigration. Passports. Passports plainly belong in the Foreign Office, whose duty it is to ensure the requests and requirements in them are honoured.

The Immigration Service and Customs are both looking for smugglers, it is usually claimed, so put immigration enforcement there. Nationality and citizenship probably find a space in the DCA (which we will not break up till next week). Visas and asylum are (leaving aside the institutional desire there to suck up to foreign governments) rationally Foreign Office matters.

Which leaves crime. While we can happily revoke the other Home Office empire in the making, and denationalise or halt the nationalisation of police forces themselves, and, with more joy, scrap the Drugs Strategy, Change and Support, SNEN and Strategic Research subdirectorates, something ought to be done about policing and security at the national level. It is a good idea to have some.

I would therefore suggest a new, small, Police Department, whose duty is not to control the country’s local police forces, as the current Home Office attempts to do, but to fill the gaps and provide specialist services. It might absorb the Crown Prosecution Service or it might not. But what it should not do is try to be an unchallengeable legislator, investigator, prosecutor judge, jury and executioner, as the Home Office does.

But the most important factor in dissipating the stench of Home Office authoritarianism from all parts of society is to put the National Offender Management Service out of its (and our) misery. Prisons, punishment and probation belong under the control of the courts, where they might acquire an ethos of fair rule and supporting the justice of the courts – rather than vitiating it by breeding a brutish culture.

There are, at last count, thirty-two non-departmental bodies ‘sponsored’ by the Home Office. By my reckoning one could – without anybody outside them being inconvenienced – scrap 15 immediately. The others either have natural homes semi-detached from the new Police Department, or they belong elsewhere anyway, and should never have been exposed to the shadow of the Home Office.

Do you think Charles Clarke would be happy as minister for policing?

14 comments to Save Charles Clarke!

  • Nick M

    My personal bete noir has to be the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. I’m fairly vague as to what “irritable” Jowell does there although I’m sure it’s either useless or objectionable. It’s probably both.

  • guy herbert

    We can probably take it as read that the DCMS, sorry dcms and the DTI could go. Even the LibDems, no knee-jerk anti-statists, have promised to abolish the latter.

    But what to do with the Home Office, since its baneful culture has assimilated every Home Secretary (except possibly Roy Jenkins) in living memory, is enough of a task for a Sunday morning.

  • Julian Taylor

    Please tell me that F.A.R.C.E (Race, Cohesion, Equality And Faith) isn’t a real government office?

    Regarding Clarke I do agree. He may be a decidedly unpleasant buffoon and as much as I despise “Father Jack” he is a model of libertarianism compared with the Harpy From Hell who would most likely succeed him – Hazel Blears, the Minister of State for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety and one of the principal architects of the database state. Among her many ‘mistakes’ (too numerous to mention here) Blears once maintained that Hansard had deliberately misquoted her as saying on terrorism, “The threat is most likely to come from those people associated with an extreme form of Islam or who are falsely hiding behind Islam” while apparently she claims she actually said “… our anti-terrorist laws were aimed at terrorists not any specific communities, religious or ethnic.”

  • Interesting thesis Guy: his noble actions clearly warrant reward.

    Might ennoblement be the thing?

    Joke: yes. And seriously: what he could do there might be interesting.

    Best regards

  • Department of Culture, Media and Sport,is that some kind of oxymoron?

  • Nick M

    I say don’t save Charles Clarke, screw him.

    Perhaps a job best left to Prezza, the virile member for Hull East.

    Hope I haven’t put to many Samizdatistas off their dinner.

  • guy herbert

    It’s real Julian. And it’s been piloting the G/government attempts to take over remaining pockets of civil society (more tentacles of corporatism) in the guise of “promoting active citizenship”. See here.

    I think Blears hasn’t the capacity to get a real cabinet post – she’s a reliable front, who will spout on script without conscience. Hence the rumours that she might go into the cabinet as minister for respec’. On the other hand Clarke’s arrant contempt for the opinions of others is partly founded in his being really very clever, and partly as a side effect of the application of steely will to subverting his own more liberal leanings for the good of the party.

    Though Tony McNulty’s not much in favour, he has real ability, and if they are stuck they might go for him, and take up a young former civil-rightist such as Kitty Ussher, Emily Thornberry, or Sadiq Khan in the reshuffle to be baptised in the blood of Satan. (Or whatever it is they do when you join the Home Office. I suspect it really involves being led down a long anonymous corridor to somewhere under Millbank where an anonymous middle-aged person shows you a thick file containing very frightening ‘security’ things.)

  • Verity

    A fatwah upon Guy Herbert for suggesting Sadiq Khan be baptised!

  • You most certainly don’t want to merge the Crown Prosecution Service into the Home Office; being an executive agency gives this organisation a greater degree of the independence it needs and deserves. I for one would willingly pay more tax to make sure that the people who decide whether to prosecute most criminal offences are not sharing a building or an org chart with the Home Office, the Police, or the judiciary.

    The bad news is that HMG is trying to nationalise defence lawyers, by changing their rate of pay through manipulating legal aid and forming some sort of National Defence Service.

  • guy herbert

    I’m unsure whether the CPS serves any useful function. If fair trials and the independence of the court are retained, then prosecutors will have to behave. It doesn’t matter where their offices are, as long as they don’t control the trial process.

    I quite agree that the approaching nationalisation of criminal defence is an appalling scandal. But it is just a part of the evil that is OCJR – a move towards the Saudi or Soviet approach to justice, where the function of a trial is not to determine whether the accused is guilty, but to rehearse the accusation, justify the punishment and exhibit the triumph of morality over the evil-doer.

  • Rog

    Agree OCJR is in league with the Evil One.

    One of their plans is to enable Courts & Police & CPS to receive a percentage of the assets recovered from an accused if they convict him. Payment by results to get the conviction rates up!

    This concept has already been partly pioneered with speed camera partnerships of course – they pay Police & Courts although payments are not tied to conviction rates but to overall activity.

    I can provide detail on speed partnership payments, and references to OCJR plans if anyone’s interested.

    Mr.Herbert I wish I had your campaigning ability & industry (as shown by no2id) in addition to my modest backroom number-crunching skills. Sir I salute your indefatigibility ((c) gorgeous plc).

  • Verity

    Interesting news over on Guido Fawkes. (Link) It looks as though the scum who shot the policewoman in Bradford was a Somali who’d been released. They didn’t want to send him back to Somalia because he would have been “at risk”. So. bloody. what?

    Anyway, things are closing in on Charles Clarke, according to Sky.

  • Julian Taylor

    Latest pundit puts Alistair Darling the odds-on favourite to succeed Clarke at the Home Office after Thursday, when of course Blair can blame both Clarke and Prescott for the disastrous turn out at the local elections.

  • Verity

    Julian Taylor – Stephen Pollard says Alan Johnson.

    More coming out about the vile Prescott. Tracey Temple says the “affair” only ended a few weeks ago, not two years ago as 2shags claims. Two other women in government have been involved with him, and there is another, much younger one who has been put on a boat to China. No clue as to her name, but Guido Fawkes (Link) has some thumping great clues for the other two.
    Could be more.

    Guido also claims when 4shags heard he was going to be outed, he confessed to his wife, but he confessed the wrong woman! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!