Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why ministers should be on top of their departments

No I don't want to talk about the details of John Prescott's appearance in the news today. It's clearly an attempt to bury bad news - though given the way that neither Prescott nor Charles Clarke have escaped it does suggest that even the Not So Very New Labour spin doctors are no longer as effective as they once were. Is no-one in the Labour Party performing properly?

More concerning is the fate of Charles Clarke. Yesterday he offered to resign if it was necessary. Today yet more revelations have led to those who previously did not want his resignation to call for it. At Prime Minister's Questions today it took only a glance at the government front bench to see how isolated Clarke is and Blair was visibly not comfortable defending his Home Secretary. He didn't even hang around in the Commons when Clarke gave a statement in the Commons immediately afterwards and instead gave a pathetic excuse for being elsewhere. Since Clarke's resignation offer was turned down, one has to wonder why Blair is keeping him in the post.

Two thoughts spring to mind. First off Clarke is an increasing rarity in the Cabinet - a heavyweight Blairite. Blairites have repeatedly proved to be the weakspot of the Cabinet - just look at resignations such as David Blunkett (twice), Peter Mandelson (twice), Stephen Byers and so forth. With Patricia Hewitt also under heavy fire over the poor handling of deficits in the National Health Service Blair must be fearing ever more isolation in his final days if he's forced to lose another of his supporters.

But there's also a tactical possibiliy. Labour is expecting to do badly in the local elections and many expect renewed calls for Tony Blair to resign after them. Keeping Clarke on until after polling day would allow him to take the flack for Labour's pasting and then his resignation could be accepted whilst Blair carries on.

Meanwhile the Home Office remains a mess and more criminals are on the street and the public is not reassured. What's more important - shoring up Tony Blair's position or having ministers who are on top of their departments?

1 comment:

C4' said...

Prescott, Hewitt, Clarke and Blair shouldn't resign, Blair should call a general election so that the public can sack them all from office.

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