November 13th, 2011

breaking bad

Follow-up to the passport thing

One of the reasons I thought Brodie Clarke was unlikely to have received explicit orders to relax passport controls was that if the orders were in writing, he would have emailed the evidence to his personal email address, before he got booted out. Seems he didn't:
(Clarke) will explain (to MPs) that he has been unable to recover documents and emails from his office to prove his case because he has not been allowed to enter the agency's headquarters.

You may know that there are now systems in place in Whitehall to restrict Civil Servants sending emails outward, or accessing content remotely, but I assumed a senior person could circumvent them. It seems not. Often these people are surprisingly clueless about IT.

Anyway, what evidence does he say he has?
A directive put in place three years ago obliged him to act (i.e. to relax controls) if the police believed a crowd was causing a threat to public order.

So, there's the explanation for a contradiction which was puzzling me. The senior civil servant did not take a risk on his own initiative - he had explicit orders. On the other hand Theresa May did not give explicit orders. Yesterday that seemed a tricky conundrum, but that explains it. He was acting on a legal directive inherited from a previous Home Secretary - perhaps Jacqui Smith or Alan Johnson - and still in force.

I guess it's understandable that Theresa May doesn't know all the details of all the Home Office directives. And that she doesn't know what is happening day to day at airports (because this has apparently been going on for months). But didn't she ask Clarke for his reasons before she sacked him? Didn't her advisers brief her? It would have been a quick conversation on all sides. So, I think the remaining conundrum is smaller, and more focused. Was May set up by people who 'forgot' to tell her vital facts? Or did she refuse to listen?

(Anyway, forgive me wittering on about this. I find this kind of political shenanigans interesting because it gives you an insight behind the seamless web they try to weave)