Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reid with embarassment

Another day, another wave of embarassment for John Reid.

He is not a man who is very easy to warm to but its hard not to feel a little bit sorry for him as yet another mine explodes under his feet. He has not yet been in the job so long that he could have turned the Home Office round. The problem is that he has not helped himself - by singing from the Daily Mail song book he can hardly complain as the tune gets nastier and nastier.

However, the woes of the Home Office go to the very heart of the failed Blair project.

Whilst "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" is now often seen as simply a piece of spin it remains one of the most powerful slogans of the New Labour avalanche. David Cameron was groping towards the same position with his "hug a hoodie" speech.

But, rising to power, New Labour was obsessed with the media. Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson decreed a media planning cycle that required quick Government responses to newspaper headlines, thus creating a blizzard of initiatives. Given the nature of tabloid journalism this affected the Home Office more than any other department (with Health following close behind).

'Tough on crime' was far easier to show than 'tough on the causes of crime' - projects which would inevitably take far longer to mature. Ironically, a decade in is when some of those latter types of projects might be beginning to make a real impact. But instead we have had a decade that added a criminal offence for almost every day that New Labour has been in power.

And because there was so much going on there was no time for doing the simple, boring things like getting processes and systems lined up and teams talking to each other. No time for management.

And so we have a sky-rocketing prison population, a disaffected judiciary delighted to have the opportunity to put the boot in as they very publicly release child abusers and a Home Office in crisis.

Not to worry though, Reid has the perfect answer: capture the headlines with a plan to split the Home Office in two. Problem solved! Until the next revelation...

No comments: