The Darling buds of May versus Hurricane Grayling and why Simon Burns should be allowed to use his car

15 Jul 2013 at 14:14

You have to hand it to Theresa May she has been a very gutsy and determined Home Secretary. She has given her dysfunctional department a serious dose of reality, abolished the hopeless and disloyal UKBA and through sheer tenacity finally managed to kick out the ghastly and very dangerous Abu Quatada. And she is wise to tackle the ludicrous abuses in the appeal process in these sort of cases.

For David Cameron this is very good news. He likes to have a chairman of the board approach and gets irritated when ministers lose the plot or are unable to sell the message.

Sensibly, she has put slavery back on the radar, which has been avoided by politicians because of racial overtones. She has not been afraid to tackle this head on with the promise of legislation. This is very good news both morally and politically.

She has also been canny about the abolition of the Human Rights Act by simply saying that everything is on the table because she realises that pulling out of the EHCR is fraught with danger.

Her response to the Lisbon Treaty opt outs over Justice have also been measured and pragmatic. The European Arrest warrant is something whipped through by Labour. In its present form it is unattractive. But rather than opt out of it, which wouldn’t be in our interests when some of our own baddies are fleeing Justice, she wants to reform it in terms of proportionality. How Labour have the nerve to try and do deals on this with the Tory Euro Loony Tunes puts the crass into hypocrisy.

Like David Young to Margaret Thatcher, May brings Cameron solutions not problems.

I wish I could say the same about Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. He should be called Hurricane Grayling as everything he touches is a disaster. To be a good Cabinet Minister requires judgement, political nous and the ability the administer his department. He hasn’t shown any of these qualities. His legal aid reforms are in tatters and his daft and dangerous proposals to privatise the probation service are doomed to fail. When ministers start talking about “aggressive timetables” and “challenges” to the professions you know that they are trying railroad through unworkable and unpopular policies.

Surely he should have identified the problems of the alleged overcharging of the ill fated G4s, the alleged overcharging of SERCO for tagging prisoners and the disaster that has been the CAPITA management of interpreters which has lead to the aborting of 400 trials. And then come up with a solution. Did he hell. Not only has he done nothing of substance, he wanted and as far as I can see still wants, this lot to bid for defence solicitor contracts. Utterly, bonkers.

And unlike May has become very bootsy over “ripping up” the Human Rights Act. Despite the fact that this not what the Commission will recommend, that it will not be supported by the Coalition and that several members of the Cabinet including the Attorney General have warned of an impending disaster.

So what is to become of Hurricane Grayling? He has no right wing power base anymore as was obvious at the debate of the legal aid reforms which I have no doubt will be blown out of the water by the Justice Select Committee. Clearly, he cannot continue in Justice as somebody needs to get to grips with this dysfunctional department.

He could be moved to that convenient graveyard for Ministers on their way out the Office of Leader of the House. Poor old Lansley, good egg as he is, looks pretty miserable there and he has the brains ability to sit on the backbenches and earn an honest few bob on the side without any shame. And as with Gerald Howarth a knighthood to be gazetted on the day of his resignation.

And what about Transport Minister Simon Burns? I do hope Cameron ignores all this nonsense being dragged up by the Mail on Sunday that somehow he is abusing the taxpayer’s money for using his ministerial car. It really is dreadfully unfair. Ministers of State in a Department like Transport have their red boxes stuffed with policy and commercially sensitive material. Do his box on a bus, or on a train when the world and his wife can take a peek? And what about the phone calls he could make in the privacy of his car which would be imprudent or impossible to make on public transport?

Burns is a thoroughly able Minister. I hope Cameron appreciates this and encourages him to use his car in the way it was designed for and either keeps him in post or promotes him.