Lazy and deceitful part 2: the cover-up
The Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Times today expose the rot: this was no unfortunate breakdown between the immigration and prison services. This was a mess made worse by Blair himself.
In 2003 Blair caused a panic amongst mandarins at the 70,000-staffed Home Office Empire when he blithely promised to cut asylum applications by half in seven months in a BBC interview. Nice populist soundbite, Tony, but where was the consultation and the think-through? Nonetheless, the Leader had spoken, and officials were instructed by a caught-on-the-hop Blunkett to meet the target by September, (even though Blunkett was worried that it was ''undeliverable'').
What to do? Erm. Quick, tell immigration officers not to visit prisons to serve deportatation orders as they were wont to do on a weekly basis previously. Why? Because those pesky ex-prisoners will only go and claim asylum, tsk, and that'll bugger the fugures for Tony. Grab broom, lift carpet, sweep, and relax.
Except, what do we know about the reoffending rate?
The latest figures (2003), show that 61 per cent of offenders were reconvicted within two years; and 73 per cent of young offenders aged 18-21. The reoffending rate for male adolescents (aged 15-18) was 82 per cent.
Successful rehabilitation can have a dramatic effect on reconviction rates. In-prison drug treatment schemes, coupled with close monitoring for several months after release, have resulted to reductions in reconviction rates to around 30 per cent. Similar results have been achieved by prison work and education
What do we know about rehabilitation efforts for non-British prisoners? Too low a priority in an over-stretched prison service.
And so what does a foreign ex-prisoner do with no support and an urgent need to go to ground to avoid being chucked out the U.K? Sign on? Get a job? Start afresh? How can he? He's going to be hard-pressed to avoid going straight back to robbing, raping, using drugs or whatever he was doing before he was caught and sentenced. It doesn't take a genius to see the huge risks with this current Home Office strategy of ignoring the warnings and going lalalala I don't want to think about it I have a Top Tony Target to bust, ssssh.
Meanwhile, victims who have been brave enough to give testimony to send these now released men down must be terrified today. For a department that talks a great deal about the rights of victims and being tough on crime, this is lazy not-joining-the-dots short-term-target-walloping- quick-fix irresponsible thinking.
And it is deceitful, because the Home Office has given the impression that it is a muddle that only Mr. Clarke can solve by knocking heads together at the Immigration service and the Prison service. In fact, it is a problem of New Labour's own making, because of a shambolic system. Blair's, and Blunkett's on-the-hoof playing to the gallery about deportation and asylum, and a Home Office seemingly more concerned with making the right noises and hitting the right targets than the reality of protecting the public, and managing dangerous offenders have worsened the mess.
The enormous Home Office is too much for one person to manage anyway, and it is likely that the unfortunate Mr. Clarke inherited a mess and then was hamstrung from doing much about it because of New Labour's tabloid fears about asylum seekers and foreign criminals and being tough on crime. The prisons are overcrowded - more than 70, 000 inmates now - and even though rehabiliatation and education and resourcing make more sense in terms of cutting reoffending, fear of red-top ''Prison Holiday Camp'' headlines ties hands. This is an insight into the heart of the Blairite way of doing things, and it isn't good. Tabloid headline Government is not good Government. Mr Clarke got it half right when he attacked last week, decrying media coverage as''Lazy and Deceitful!'' - but it's the Government's obsession with grabbing the right coverage, rather than crafting the right policy that should be criticised, not journalists who rightly query his tough-sounding but ill-considered initiatives.
It's lazy, and it's deceitful, and it's time for Mr. Clarke, and for Mr. Blair to go. This shocking affair plays into the hands of racists, and bigots, and we all deserve better than this endemic focus on quick-fixes and column inches and Tony's latest populist wheeze rather than sensible, strategic, consultative policy-implementation to protect the people politicians are appointed to serve.
What can I do, you may be wondering? Well, you can go look at these...
Backing Blair and London Strategic Voter.
UPDATE: Blair in the News of the World. 'Will I sack Clarke? Well, that depends...''
..on whether he resigns first?
Game over. Surely.
UPDATE 2: Rumour has it that we will have a statement from Mr. Clarke after 6pm. Or Tony will bin him, so he looks tough on the causes of the causes of crime.
Update 3: Not yet...Why the fuss about Prescott? It's prurient. Who cares? Yuk.
Update 4: The reason Blair left Clarke on his own in the Commons on Wednesday was because Clarke lied to the PM; he didn't offer to resign . ( hat tip Blairwatch)
According to a source in a Sun exclusive ''The first the PM knew of his resignation offer was when he heard Charles say he’d done so on the BBC.
“That’s why the PM left the Commons in such a hurry. Charles did himself absolutely no favours there.”
Update 5: Oh dear. 3 weeks is too long to not tell your boss stuff, surely?
End of the week, then? Boot, arse, door.
Update 6: Mr Clarke in the Eastern Daily Press (the main Norwich& Norfolk) newspaper. He hopes to stay on. I do feel sorry for him. But the main point of the Home Office is to protect the public. Asylum targets and the pointless I.D card scheme has diverted attention from sorting out the chaotic prison and immiagrations services. It is not joined up thinking, coming on the back of Blair's ''harry, hassle and hound foreign criminals out of the country'' stuff just looks like Government incompetence. Blair has had 9 years to sort out the Home Office after all, and if it is still letting foreign prisoners out to reoffend when they shouldn't be in the U.K in the first place, and they should be deported as soon as they are released, then it is simply not doing its job effectively, and someone has to take responsibility for it. If you claim the work of officials as your own, then you have to claim their mistakes as your own too. That goes for both Mr. Blair and Mr. Clarke.