« stray musing | Main | state-of-the-nation, innit »

June 09, 2012



Or fight back, if you can. Wish I knew how.

(I have an american friend who thinks that moving here would be better than staying in the USA as it umm, changes, over the next decade or two, and another friend ran away to New Zealand a couple of years ago. Maybe that's the best place to go)

Leonard Hatred

"Split up your family or face exile!" Yeah, thanks, I'll call that bluff and take the exile (eventually). Thanks for playing, May.


Is this likely to survive the ECHR? It means plenty of pain in the meantime, of course.


I'm also impressed by how *across the board* hated May is. She doesn't even get credit with the right-wing press, thanks to her attacks on police funding.


Has there ever been a Home Secretary that people *liked*? What is it about the office that attracts sociopathic, power-hungry, paranoid maniacs who secretly wish they could have the SS at their disposal because it would just make everything so much easier?


One theory is that when the new Home Secretary comes into office they are met with a long queue of spies, civil servants and police and such, all there to tell them about the latest threat to the country. Marinate someone in that all day long for months on end and they lose the ability to stand up for civil liberties and anything else.
There is also the point that the last decade or two of home secretaries have been of the political class, which automatically makes them partly authoritarian and in thrall to the mail, so they are starting from a low point in the first place.

Leonard Hatred

I once had Shami Chakrabarti tell us that it were Michael Howard who really started playing politics with immigration and other Home Office concerns. I have no idea if that's actually true, but it's a nice convenient hate-figure/Black Prince of All the Vampires to pin it on.

James: I've been told "no" and reassured on that front, but I still spent most of yesterday angry and panicky.

chris y

But as somebody mentioned on the CT thread, it'll take years to wander through the ECHR and in the meantime thousands of people will be stuffed.

Leonard Hatred

I'm potentially one of 'em. When would this come into force?


Has there ever been a Home Secretary that people *liked*?

the best I can come up with is Ken Clarke, who didn't hang around in the job long enough to cause any serious trouble and had by that point had most of the rough edges knocked off him by picking fights with teachers and ambulancemen.

The mild mannered professor of international law, Alan Johnson, also more or less retained his popularity from the job, although most of what he actually did in the post at the arse end of the Brown years was pretty dreadful.


it'll take years to wander through the ECHR

Surely it won't need to, now that we've got the HRA? It won't need to be taken to Strasbourg, anyway.

Gareth Rees

Wikipedia on Roy Jenkins: "As Home Secretary from 1965–1967, he sought to build what he described as "a civilized society", with measures such as the effective abolition in Britain of capital punishment and theatre censorship, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, relaxing of divorce law, suspension of birching and the legalisation of abortion."

Chris Brooke

Douglas Hurd wasn't too bad, was he?

My grandfather, Henry Brooke, was Home Secretary 1962-64--a job for which he was very ill-suited--and well into the 1990s, the press would speculate about whether someone was "the most authoritarian Home Secretary since Henry Brooke". They don't do that so often, partly because of the passage of time, I suppose, but more because the succession of New Labour horrors in the post quite eclipsed any memories that might remain from the early 1960s.

Chris Williams

My impression of Brooke's era is that it was the Permanent Secretary who was making the running. That might be because most of what I know about the 1962-1964 Home Office is via HO files. Certainly, when it came to the passage of the 1964 Police Act, Brooke was pushing forward the standard Home Office view - though he was in a slightly invidious position because this led to him doing a couple of things (largely, shafting the boroughs) that his predecessor, the slippery Butler, had promised _he_ wouldn't do.

OTOH, I overheard a group of relevant retired civil servants a couple of years ago playing 'worst Home Secretary' and I don't remember Brooke's name coming up. Duncannon has the C19th sewn up, apparently: and I think David Waddington pips Brooke for the C20th. John Reid has already made his mark on the C21st like no other.

Chris Brooke

That's very interesting, Chris. Thanks. It also fits in with what I've gleaned from the family grapevine over the years (more the Butler thing than the Permanent Secretary thing). He was also very unlucky in his timing: he was from the last generation of politicians who were fully formed before TV came along, and he not only wasn't v. good on telly in the early '60s, he also was squarely in the firing line when That Was The Week That Was and Private Eye got going, and they all had great fun with him.

chris y

Surely it won't need to, now that we've got the HRA? It won't need to be taken to Strasbourg, anyway.

They seem to think they've got that covered.


I once had Shami Chakrabarti tell us that it were Michael Howard who really started playing politics with immigration and other Home Office concerns.
David Downes, who taught the Sociology of Deviance at the LSE, said much the same; that up until Howard, Thatcher's Home Secretaries had tended to talk tough at Conference, but then do what their civil servants told them, which drew from mainstream sociological thinking, while Howard adopted more of the let the chips fall where they May approach of causing havoc.

It was funny hearing someone from the Police Federation being interviewed about the Tom Winsor appointment, quite reasonably putting forward a case that on police reform he had simply come up with what the government wanted, and so couldn't really be seen to have the independence for his current position, and then being asked for the rest of the interview if he wasn't just prejudiced against Winsor.

john b

Hmm. Given Winsor's previous work on the railways, he strikes me as an ideal person for the role.

The suggestion that he's a yes-man whose general work is to "come up with what the government wanted" is so risibly untrue from his CV that the interviewer's position strikes me as entirely legitimate, from your description at least.

(obviously, the concept of a civilian lawyer telling the cops to get fucked is one I like a lot, so I may be slightly biased here)

Chris Williams

Re Howard, my sources in the 1980s Home Office agree entirely.

The concept of the Chief HMI not being a copper is a bit to weird for my little historian's brian to wrap itself around. My reaction to the news was sweary surprise. John B, the thing is that CHMIC is _not_ an operational command, nor is it (usually) a strategy unit. It's (historically) an Inspectorate, hence having someone at the top who knows how the job is done well (thus, what it looksl ike when it's done badly) is a massive advantage. Putting Winsor in it implies that it's going to be more of a strategy unit. So who will be doing the inspecting?

Also, having an independent professional HMI formed of coppers is also a particularly useful counterweight to the (welcome, to my mind at least) introduction of elected police commissioners. Putting in a political appointment at the top muddies the waters: the elected commissioners were supposed to be the ones introducing the political element.

john b

I suspect the people from the law enforcement side of things don't know the rail industry side of things here.

Winsor wasn't an engineer, and all the engineers in the rail industry were pissed off that he was appointed as head of the Office of Rail Regulation.

But it turned out that, being the good sort of lawyer, he was able to listen to the engineers on whom - obviously - all the evidence he was weighing up relied, and use his "good sort of lawyer" skills to evaluate their credibility and work out how the railways worked.

The end result was along the lines of "holy hell, this is a shitshow, nobody's listening to anyone and it needs sorted out". Winsor's intervention triggered Railtrack's bankruptcy, the creation of Network Rail, the compulsion of the government to spend money on sorting all of this, and the situation now where the railways are far better than they were in 2000.

If you want a man to regulate an industry, his position strikes me as far better than one who's come up from the ranks and has the associated personal likes-and-dislikes, investment in positions and schemes he's backed, and Dunning-Krueger self-assessment.

Winsor knew he knew sod-all about rail in 1999, and he knows he knows sod-all about policing now. He also has access to everyone who knows everything, and experience at working out what people are trying to tell him. His "not a copper"-ness is a feature not a bug.

Chris Williams

Hmm . . . might work. But note that Winsor was the Rail Regulator at a time when the Railway Inspectorate was part of the HSE, not his fiefdom. So he's never been in charge of nuts'n'bolts inspection: he's a re-organisation and strategy guy. Giving re-organisation and strategy to the CHMIC is not a good idea (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20080910134927/police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/police-reform/review_of_policing_final_report/): it's the SoS's job.

john b

Good point about HMRI not being part of ORR in Winsor's day, had forgot. So we're saying "he's not quite nuts-and-bolts enough for the specific role, and he's probably taken it because he thinks it's like the one he had before"?

On Flanagan, any chance of a slightly narrower cite for what you mean? I know p6 says the SoS should be in charge of strategic vision, but that's a very generic thing (akin to "Winsor, please can you stop the railway industry from sucking like a vacuum?"), which doesn't even encompass number of forces, operational integration, and a great many things that Winsor still won't have power over.


Apparently 80 odd years ago the CHMIC wasn't a police officer, but then 80 years ago policing was a bit simpler than it is today.

The thing about Winsor and his report is that what the report came up with was largely warmed over Sheehy nonsense from the early 90's. He also apparently didn't listen very well to anyone who told him about the actual front line of policing. There'll no doubt be some useful stuff in it, but the report has allowed the condems to continue stuffing up policing in their familiar incoherent way and will help privatisation and outsourcing with all the attendant innefficiencies, lack of accountability and so on.

Come to think of it maybe he would make a good inspector of policing if he did genuinely listen to all ranks. But there's no evidence he did so in the compilation of his report.

john b

OK, so point 2 here is that railways are fundamentally based on competent engineering, and so if you speak to people midway up the chain of command they'll be competent engineers, and you don't actually need to go and speak to a bloke in a hi-vi welding bolts (which is pretty much true). The problem comes where top-down meets that philosophy, which is at senior management and contractor-interface level.

Whereas policing is so based on personalities and so subjective that even midway up the chain of command, everyone is as political and dodgy as hell (cite: David Simon). Hence the approach that mid-level managers will be the useful ones to talk to, and grunts pointless, is no longer valid.

I like this point, it makes sense, and it's more insightful than anything published (from any angle) about Winsor and the cops. Yay B&T.

Chris Williams

Re Flanagan, this was a HMCIC being told by the SoS to make a plan to re-organise policing in order to (a) save money and (b) smash trrrists. He goes off, comes back with the report, and lo! once the SoS tries tentatively to implement it, it creates a massive and entirely predictable shitstorm, and is quietly shelved.

Guthrie: "80 odd years ago the CHMIC wasn't a police officer" - who was that then, he asks nervously?

"but then 80 years ago policing was a bit simpler than it is today" - nah.

But aside from that, Guthrie's on the money - Winsor was basically Sheehy 2. Not that recycling is inherently bad in this kind of situation: Patten was Hunt 2 and that worked. The question is what you're recycling.

John B - also on the money, I think.

As for me, not so much - the 2011 Police Reform and Cuddly Puppies Act has changed the way that HMIC works, esp HMCIC. Need to read up on this one, or phone a friend.


chris y - They seem to think they've got that covered.

Very clever indeed - much more so than chuntering about a British Bill of Rights; they've clearly put somebody with brains onto this one. As cunning plans go, that's a good one. In terms of the rule of law within the European community we basically end up as Hungary, but from their point of view that's a feature.

Chris W. -

the 2011 Police Reform and Cuddly Puppies Act has changed the way that HMIC works, esp HMCIC. Need to read up on this one

I hate it when they make vague noises about criminal justice reform and then do nothing for years on end - people talk about Blair doing nothing for the first five years, to which I reply, ahem, Crime and Disorder Act 1998 - but I really hate it when they get me off guard and actually do something (see also: ASBOs, replacement of).


I'm not sure who was CMIC back then, I read it on the internet and it seemed okay, but I can't find a pukka source. I have also read that 2 out of 5 of the inspectors aren't ex-coppers, which is fair enough I think.

I think policing is more complex than it was 2 or 3 generations ago. More paperwork, more liasing with social services and other agencies, more complex technologies- you should read up on the changes caused by the introduction of personal radios and patrol cars - it led to changes in operating philosophy - fewer walking the beat more answering emergency calls and complicated allocation of personnel.
I really like Chris Williams point about HMIC not being about re-organisation. That's what we have ACPO the private gravy train organisation for sell out senior officers for. Private EYe no. 1314 had a few paragraphs on the lots of expensive redundancies from the National police improvement agency, which also had a remit of improving the police somehow.

Interestingly the proposed salaries for new officers are noticeably below those required to bring in your foreign spouse.
Given the obvious desire for control of people exhibited by the condems, where are they going to attack next?

On the moving about front, with car insurance being rather expensive and somewhat variable public transport that will mean intra-britain movement of poorer people will be hindered. I'm sure it's one way to decongest the roads.

But yet, thinking aloud, can you not argue that peoples horizons have already been narrowed by the exclusion of things that are not commercialised or privatised? There is no alternative, as the phrase goes.

Chris Williams

"you should read up on the changes caused by the introduction of personal radios and patrol cars "

There's a book coming out about that topic early next year, all being well.


On the Article 8 ('right to a family life') not being absolute thing, it is just worth mentioning the utter phoniness of May's position. As the Human Rights blogs are pointing out it isn't absolute now:

To quote the much maligned article, the right to private and family life cannot be overridden:

except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others

So declaring that Article 8 is “is not absolute” is a bit like declaring that the grass “is green” or the sea “is blue”. It is strange way to present the changes.



Has there ever been a Home Secretary that people *liked*? What is it about the office that attracts sociopathic, power-hungry, paranoid maniacs who secretly wish they could have the SS at their disposal because it would just make everything so much easier?

It might not be 'attracts' as 'the PM appoints'. The Tories were bad enough (Howard and his one-time sidekick Widdecombe). The New Labour managed to appoint a succession of increasingly illiberal headbangers, culminating in that well known Vic Mackey-lookalike, John Reid.

Having exhausted that strategy, we now have a succession of increasingly illiberal women who imagine themselves being played in the manner of Madame Kovarian from Doctor Who rather than Pauline from The League of Gentlemen. In short, they all want to be hard-faced 'Minster of the Interior' types with a entire security apparatus at their disposal.


In terms of the rule of law within the European community we basically end up as Hungary, but from their point of view that's a feature.

I think Hungary might be a good model generally to think about them. See also constitutional changes designed to shore up power. Though elected police chiefs doesn't fit that. Can I say, as somebody living in the US, elected police chiefs is a really bad idea. Not as bad, obviously, as elected judges. But still dumb. I'm guessing elected judges has to be coming.

The other model, obviously, is localism. Because localism allows you to have fiscal retrenchment, but in a way which only hurts the poor.

Incidentally, on the WTF, welcome to US. Local to me there is currently a vicious election battle going on for the position of coroner (or Republican candidate strictly - but its the same thing in practice). If anyone could give me a good reason for why coroner should be an elected position - well, I'm listening.


Incidentally, is it me, or do we seem to be reliving the 30s. We have Hungary which is drifting towards right wing dictatorship. Italy and Greece have had their government deposed. The US is slowly drifting towards some kind of authoritarian police state, though nobody who matters seems to have noticed this. I'm sure there are other examples.

Meanwhile the economic conditions seem to have been set for a long recession/depression.

chris y

Oh, it's worse than the 30s. As Francis Spufford points out this morning on CT,

had also served, it turned out when it was gone, as a sort of massive concrete tentpeg, keeping the Overton Window (not that it was called that, yet) tethered at its lefthand edge in a way that maintained the legitimacy, in western discussion, of all kinds of non-market thinking. When the USSR vanished, so with amazing speed in the 1990s did the entire discourse in which there were any alternatives to capitalism that had to be taken seriously.

And what do we have to fight them with now, George Galloway? They won't even need to abolish the external forms of democracy; they can leave them to twist in the wind if it's cheaper and easier, as it probably will be.

chris y

Sorry, that quote refers to the USSR, of course.

Charlie W

On the up side: there was liberal discourse before communism (and for that matter, there was communism before there was the USSR). The ideas don't necessarily die with the attempts at implementation, and even if communism is discredited, liberalism isn't.


Incidentally, on the WTF, welcome to US.

I know. I thought I'd got away, but it keeps following me. Clearly I should have paid attention to my Spanish lessons as a youngster and moved to Costa Rica instead.

Really, though, it's like a metastasised cancer; there's probably just no escape.

Chris Brooke

Haven't the SWP maintained for almost twenty years now that we have been living through "the 1930s in slow motion"? (I think this was one of Tony Cliff's lines in the last few years of his life.) Or did they abandon that analysis somewhere in the new millennium?


Well, certainly "the second time as farce" would be an apt description of any attempt by the Hungarian armed forces to conquer Europe.


@ChrisB - I thought they'd quietly dropped it about five years ago, as part of returning to reasonable aspirations when they were lobbed out of Respect, but here's a defence and an assertion that it's an explanation once again:

Europe Today: Like the 1930s in slow motion?


Oh, it's worse than the 30s

Bullshit. Really, how do you see us getting to war among great powers and totalitarianism? As a crack at converting your try: in Europe?

The SWP has a point about inequality -> depression, if that's their point, although it's the same one JK Galbraith has.


My point was more the general drift into forms of authoritarianism, or something worse in the case of Hungary.

War seems unlikely at present, but then lots of things seemed unlikely ten years ago, yet here we are.

The comments to this entry are closed.

friends blogs


Blog powered by Typepad

my former home