Now to the former British Home Secretary, who tonights gets the boot squarely in on the current Home Secretary on Newsnight. He’s clearly not happy at being taken off what was intended to be a secure tenure to drive through long term reform of an unwieldly departement, and criticises Reid for amongst other things, “running on the band wagon of some particular media campaign”. Iain Dale has the leaked transcript:It’s all worth reading (or catching on BBC 2 in about ten minutes). But here’s some of the meaty bits:
INT John Reid was absolutely clear, wasn’t he, that this was a department that was unfit for purpose, your leadership was incoherent and there was a failure to ensure accountability. He was talking about what you’d done.
CC Er…. Let’s… I think John was wrong to say that.
INT Do you feel hurt about the way John Reid described the Department personally?
CC No, I don’t feel that. I think he came in as every incoming Secretary of State is entitled to do and said it as he saw it. It’s just that I don’t agree with his analysis of what he saw. It is a department which had a fresh official leadership, a new Permanent Secretary, new senior officials, which had a very clear reform strategy in place in each of its key areas. It was a department which had its problems. But I think the a department whose problems were being addressed, and could easily have been solved over the kind of couple of year timeframe that I described. The overall picture of a department not fit for purpose in any of the respects he described I think is and was fundamentally wrong, and I think John was wrong to use those descriptions as I told him before he gave evidence to the select committee.
INT The criticism is that you were unwilling to carry out that wholesale transformation.
CC Well if that was his criticism, and by the way I’m not sure that’s what he meant by it, but let’s assume it was, it certainly is not true. … I think most people would say, and I certainly feel myself, that I was a reforming Home Secretary committed to making the reforms that were necessary… I don’t think that’s a correct belief, this idea of some kind of woolly lack of substance in the immigration nationality directorate. These are some of most hard-headed people you can imagine. They’re dealing with very difficult cases. I understand that complexity, but just to confuse that with woolly liberalism or with a lack of determination to carry through what’s necessary in my opinion is wrong.
INT: In terms of style it would appear that there is a big difference between the way that you conducted yourself as Home Secretary and the way that Doctor Reid conducts himself.
CC I used to describe myself as tough but populist…. I beg your pardon, tough but not populist. Each Home Secretary has to decide their own style.
INT Do you think that John Reid is perhaps tough and populist?
CC I don’t know. You’d have to put that question to him.
INT He upset some members of the judiciary when he questioned the sentence of a paedophile by a judge. Is that something that you would have done?
CC Decisions are taken by parts of the Criminal Justice System which the Home Secretary of the day is routinely asked to comment on and either criticise or support. I made it my practice not to do that.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty