Jack Straw just made a most hypocritical statement in parliament in which he nobly said “I accept full responsibility” and then proceeded to claim he and the government had been perfect, but a lot of other people had been useless.
He was talking of the brutal murders of French students Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez.
Now we will never stop all murder. The killers did it, not Jack Straw. We will never stop all crime. But, as with the case of Baby Peter, in this instance there had been frequent contacts with the authorities in which the authorities ought to have intervened. One of the killers, Sonix, should have been in jail for several different reasons, and was not in jail only because of an extraordinary string of institutional failures.
Except that Straw just explained the institutions did not fail at all. New Labour has been in power for twelve years, so there was “No problem of under-resourcing”. It was instead a catalogue of individual mistakes by everyone except New Labour. It was all due, said Straw, to “Poor judgement and poor management within the probation service and individual failures within the Metropolitan Police and Prosecution Service”.
Yep. Probation officers, policemen, prosecutors, completely useless, the lot of them. Jack Straw’s system is perfect. But you just can’t get the staff nowadays. But Jack told us he had already acted. He had sacked the head of the London Probation Service.
This is the antithesis of the doctrine of ministerial responsibility. You sack a middle level civil servant as a scapegoat and explain it was all their fault.
Straw went on to outline Gordon Borwn style lying statistics of the extra resources that had been put into the services involved. But everyone knows that “extra resources” in public service go into exercises to determine centrally ordered performance targets, which themselves change emphasis with the tabloid headlines. You then have to design all the forms to measure the targets and all the accountants to cost resource spend per target measure achieved. Often there are artificial internal market procedures to monitor and administer too. Loads of accountants for that. And the people at the sharp end find career progression much more dependant on internal form filling ability than on the activity where you interact with the real world you are meant to affect. Then there is the constant pressure not to put people in jail, the jails being too full – for the most part with non-violent offenders, mental health cases and drug addicts.
The serious point of all this is that New Labour continually takes it on itself to blame civil servants for system failings. New Labour did everything good, but are nothing to do with anything bad, as if they had not been in charge for the last twelve years.
Jack Straw’s “I accept responsibility” before going on to deny it ad nauseam was too sickening for words. New labour have become a parody of themselves.