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Thursday, July 13, 2006

A question of competence

It has long been apparent that the various u-turns in the Home Office have been raising serious questions about the competence of this Labour Government. The fiasco over ID cards and the foreign prisioners affair are two particular examples. However, we now need to add to that catalogue the abandonment of plans to merge the four Welsh police forces.

This was the policy that was thought so important that the Secretary of State for Wales took it upon himself to pre-empt the consultation and announce it as a done deal. He was then forced to watch as the whole proposal unravelled in the face of countless questions about its implementation and who would meet its cost. That it has been laid to rest is a good thing. However, the way that this came about raises doubts about Peter Hain's judgement as well as that of Charles Clarke and various civil servants.

The downside for the government (which, perversely, helps Hain) is that this u-turn has come about on a very bad news day. This time there is no tragedy that spin doctors can try to bury the announcement under, but a potential crisis of government that threatens the position of the Prime Minister and must surely accelerate the introduction of state-funding for political parties as part of further reform on donations and loans.

It is true that Lord Levy has not been charged or even tried, however his arrest must surely presage the interviewing of Tony Blair and possible further action. Even if the Police take it no further the position of the Prime Minister is looking more and more untenable. This is no longer a matter of the competence of the Government, but of its moral integrity. It can surely be no coincidence that Gordon Brown is nowhere to be seen at the moment.
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