Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 22 June 2004

David Blunkett is at it again!!

What is it with David Blunkett, our illustrious Home Secretary? Does he not recognise that this remains, nominally at least, a parliamentary democracy governed by law, not by government 'diktat'?

So, what's irritating me about him now? I've written about his wild policy announcements many times in the past, when he has announced radical (maniacal?) schemes one day with the whole idea being seen to be completely unworkable and/or illegal the next. Now, in the space of three days, two announcments seem to show he remains wedded to his 'diktat' theory of government.

Yesterday it was his reaction to the news that an English football fan, who had been convicted in Portugal of acts of hooliganism, and sentenced to two years imprisonment by a court there, could not be imprisoned here on his return. A blunder by the Portuguese authorities in not actually imprisoning the man before deporting him back to the UK meant that the procedure did not comply with the terms of the Anglo-Portuguese (EU-wide) agreement governing such matters, so the police here are not it seems legally in a position to imprison him here. I agree with Mr Blunkett that this is highly unfortunate, scandalous even, but IT IS THE LAW. It really is no good at all for Mr Blunkett to blurt out in a fit of pique that he still wants to try to 'get' the English hooligan; he is the Home Secretary and such idiotic, illegal commentary is simply unacceptable, whatever he may think privately, if the 'rule of law' is to mean anything. If he wants to 'get' the man (i.e. gaol him) on this particular act of criminality, then he will have to try and get Parliament to pass a RETROACTIVE amendment to the relevant law - I doubt very much that he would succeed.

Today David Blunkett announced in Parliament that he was asking the Humberside Police Authority to suspend the Chief Constable of Humberside Police, Mr David Westwood, in the light of the findings of the Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders (for which Ian Huntley was convicted). Of course, under the Police Reform Act 2002, the Home Secretary now has the power to make the request and order the Police Authority to do as he asks, and the Police Authority is legally required to comply. I understand that there are some sections of the police who are unhappy that this power is now vested in the Home Secretary; so far as I am concerned, however, Parliament passed the law so the police must follow it. It will be the first time that the Home Secretary has exercised this new power. However, the Home Secretary does NOT have the authority directly to suspend a Chief Constable so Mr Westwood is quite correct, having taken the decsion not to resign voluntarily (which it is reported he was requested to consider doing yesterday), to continue in his post until the Police Authority advises him otherwise. To be fair to Mr Blunkett, he did not seek to suspend Mr Westwood directly, but it seems very clear he expected him to stand down immediately - the suggestion that Mr Westwood resign voluntarily seems to have come from the Home Office. But Parliament passed the law it did, not the one Mr Blunkett might have wished it to. No doubt, too, Mr Westwood has other concerns (besides those he listed in his press conference today) which are governing his actions - his pension, for example.

I am sure that many of us, in our 'Walter Mitty' moments, might wish that we could cause various things to happen merely by expressing the wish that they would, but fortunately we moved away from that kind of thinking when the absolute right of the monarch to govern our lives was challenged successfully some centuries ago. Since then we have been a parliamentary democracy and the Home Secretary has to realise that he is governed by the laws Parliament has passed, just as much as any other citizen. The time is fast apporaching when the ability of the Prime Minister, whose own popularity in the Labour Party and in the country generally has fallen dramatically in recent times, to continue to support his gaffe-prone Home Secretary will be exhausted - and not before time.

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