Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Jacqui Smith
An Unappetising Dessert
It used to be a risky business talking about immigration if you are not a member of the self-appointed band of leftism victims who, they would have us believe, are alone in being able to discus the matter without falling prey to base racist instincts. Slowly but surely this unilaterally imposed 'consensus', especially among the left-liberal media appears to be dissolving. For this the actions of the current government must take much credit, however unintentional this outcome of their handling of the issue may have been.

Today's double humiliation for Jacqui Smith is pretty typical of the series of deceptions, intentional or otherwise, on immigration matters under the Labour administration. These failures have left a huge question mark hanging over Labour's competency in this policy area, even among those whose instincts on the subject are not markedly different from the general thrust of government policy.

To a large extent, I would count myself among those who have a generally positive attitude to immigration, but not an uncritical one.

It is true that immigration need to be better managed to prevent the type of damaging shock loading on local services that is now not a theory, but a widely acknowledged fact. It is also true that the phrases a long the line "they do the jobs that the local unemployed won't do" send me into an apoplectic fit of rage, but then this is directed more against the benefit system that allows this statement to be as true as it is annoying rather than against immigration per se. I'm also concerned by the amount of anecdotal evidence I hear of increasing targeting of law abiding Commonwealth citizens in this country by the Home Office, especially antipodean ones, presumably to make up for our newfound inability to deal with even the real dregs of the EU who wash up on our shores.

Despite these many serious provisos I find it hard to find much serious fault with the philosophy behind current government policy, especially now that they have taken the bulk of the Conservative's
'unworkable', 'uncosted', 'damaging' policies and made them their own. True, they have come to their senses late, but that is a minor charge in comparison to this further example of what is, at best, Home Office incompetence, but which has the distinct stench of deliberate deception hanging around it.

It is hard not to notice one simple fact. Had Gordon Brown not had an almost complete break down of his limited courage we might have been just a couple of days from a general election and with Parliament dissolved it is almost certain that this 'mistake' would only have come to light in the early days of the new government. Ten years ago it would have been scandalous to suggest that civil servants would produce misleading figures at the behest of their political masters; today it is a common charge with the numbers of incidents such as this providing strong evidence, empirical as it may be. Frankly the excuse offered by Smith for the first of the errors seems wholly implausible as simple error by one of her 'Rolls-Royce Brains', if that is what they are.

If my interpretation of the Government's initiative to restore faith in the statistics they quote is correct, it is also worth saying that these miscounts, as a departmental matter, would not be covered by the revised procedures and will in future remain open to further abuse.

The man who will sleep soundly tonight is David Davis. Jacqui may have escaped an immediate Commons mauling while Parliament takes a mini-break prior to the state opening to allow her leader's wounds to have a field dressing applied, but the next Home Office Questions will come soon enough. The scent of blood will be in the nose of a shadow Home Secretary who has brought down bigger and more evasive prey. He will know that a single act of gross incompetency on ones watch is no longer a resigning matter for Labour ministers, but Smith is now playing under a yellow card and with the Home Office seeming still unreformed, another final booking cannot be far away.

It looks like it is possible that the LibDem leadership turnover jokes may be recyclable as Labour Home Secretary jibes before there's even any chance for the dust to settle on them.

There's a green policy for you.

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