Jack Straw: Nothing To Do With Us Guv: We’ve Only Been In Power Twelve Years 43

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.

43 thoughts on “Jack Straw: Nothing To Do With Us Guv: We’ve Only Been In Power Twelve Years

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  • Paul J. Lewis

    Yes, I first noted this tactic of frantically shovelling the blame when I saw this quote from Brown:

    “I take full responsibility for what happened. That’s why the person who was responsible went immediately.”

    Surely a 5 lemons quote by any standard.


    Oddly, when I read it, it wasn’t an visage of a sour-faced Brown I imagined, but rather a Spitting Image of him.

  • Abe Rene

    The Soviets would say ‘Comrade, the system is perfect, but the human element is at fault.’ New Labour might be more refined: ‘Comrade, the party elite are perfect, who are loyal to the Beloved Leader, from whom all perfection flows (after all, he believes in Values); however the system is at fault, owing to its being run by imperfect underlings. I assure you, lessons will be learned – these incompetent wretches will be severely punished. They have failed to meet targets set by our loyal assistants, the idea of which is non-negotiable, and which our spokespersons are ever ready to defend. That is what we have a strong and just government for, to protect the rights of the people!’

  • Jason

    It’s not just the Soviets, Mr Rene, the Conservative mantra in the US is that all the failures of their time in power are not down to Conservative principles, but to their betrayal, to the extent that Bush 43 was lambasted by the end of his Presidency for having ‘betrayed Conservativism’…

    Along similar lines, the smokescreen concerning the military action in Iraq having failed not because of the planning, but because of the execution of the plans, etc, is just more of the same.

    Mr Straw and his government have a proud tradition of hanging people out to dry, David Kelly et al, so it’s no surprise that the blame is laid squarely upon the shoulders of a few individuals. The only thing missing are the show trials.

  • anticant

    Nothing is ever New Labour’s fault. After being in power for twelve years, they are solely responsible for the dire situation this country is in. All Brown can contrive is a cabinet stuffed with what Nye Bevan would have called “vermin in ermine” and those who are willing to wound him but afraid to strike.

    Yet their latest parrot cry is “People on the doorstep are telling us they want us to stay and clear up the mess”. However, that is not what the people at the ballot boxes have told them.

    If the PLP backbenchers don’t grasp the nettle tonight and give Brown the bum’s rush, they will nearly all go down with him when the leaky vessel finally capsizes within the next twelve months. They must know this perfectly well, but I doubt whether they have got the bottle.

    Maybe the only thing that will do the trick is to let a herd of stampeding cows loose in the Palace of Westminster – a sort of latter-day Pride’s Purge.

  • Abe Rene


    Thanks for what sounds like a compliment! No, I don’t read Private Eye.

  • Abe Rene


    The point about the U.S. is well taken, but I would say that incompetent planning and execution was as much to blame as a bad vision. For instance Paul Bremer in his unwisdom banning former Baath party members from government jobs, even though they had no more choice about it under Saddam any than Joseph Ratzinger did about joning the Hitler youth. Prevented from making a livelihood, they would have become easy prey for jihadi guerilla recruiters. And I haven’t begun to mention Abu Ghraib.

  • yassau nafti

    Yes Craig, but we live in a meritocracy. That’s why our betters are paid more than us, and why when they believe they are still undervalued they feel justified in helping themselves to more. Being better than us ( which they must be…because they are paid more than us) they can do no wrong. You see Jack Straw is Right and Honourable…..it’s not just a discretionary title which has become a mindset….. it’s a fact.

  • Nulab P. Taker

    Now why is everybody being negative? Don’t you know that BBC political correspondent James Landale said MPs, crammed into the committee room, “cheered and banged desks” to greet the PM’s entrance? Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said there had been “no support” for the rebels who spoke and the meeting had been “overwhelmingly” supportive of the prime minister. There, you see. That’s *positive*!

  • eddie

    anticant – this country is in no more dire a situation than any other in the world, and is a lot better than some. Our economy has shrunk by less than 2%, Latvia’s by 29%. But then of course people like you campaign, albeit cackhandedly, for a Tory goverment, which is what we will have this time next year. I look forwards to seeing who you will blame for your problems then. I hope your operation went well and if it was successful I hope that you will at least have the grace to thank the NHS, created by a Labour government, and improved considerably by the present government.

  • Clark


    I think you’ll find that lots of people here would rather see some form of PR. I for one am totally fed up with our two-party oscillations of ever increasing magnitude; any engineer would tell you that it’s bound to shake itself to bits eventually. Are you suggesting that we just give up on democracy and have the Labour party forever, no matter what faults it develops? One thing is for sure – no party that wins overall control is going to introduce PR!

  • Clark

    Eddie again:

    If you read Anticant’s post again, you’ll see he’s advocating a strategy by which Labour backbenchers can reclaim some legitimacy for the Labour party. Are you not in favour of this?

  • Polo

    Full marks Craig for highlighting this vicious circle of pressure on public servants, and all to feed the target oriented egos of their political masters, rather than serving their clients.

    I met a man at an Eisteddfod, many years ago, who, along with his wife, was quitting the NHS, purely for this reason. He also felt that at some stage in the future he would be scapegoated for failing to achieve these ridiculous targets, after having spent his life not serving those he originally joined up to serve.

    And that was not yesterday. This mess has been a long time in the making.

  • Fred

    “David Blunkett’s guide dog ran off after being charged by a cow…”

    Asinine, Canine, Bovine. Only one of these has a real future. Can you guess which one?

  • Steve

    I can tell you for certain that the whole system from top to bottom stinks we have ran out of prison space and because the Government

    a. Dosnt want to spend more money on building prisons.

    b. Does not want to have the highest prison population in europe

    c. Has hamstrung the police and judicial system with the humans rights act and liberal judges that dont think thugs and criminals should be punished

    Because like their expenses scam, its not the individuals that are doing wrong and bad, things its the system! Which goes in a complete circle because this bunch of scum called nu labour deny resposibily for the system they created.

    The probation service, Police, Prison service and Immigration cant do anything without checking in with central Government and at a local level the target culture means everyone from the PCs on the ground to the Chief Superintendants dont get their bonusses for hitting some pathetic target set by the home office.

    So in effect the target becomes what is worked on not protecting the public or doing your duty just hitting your target. If only the public knew what really goes on. With more people working in the policy and performance and reveiw depts collating the all important figures to send to the big control freak at number 10 Than are out doing the job, but of course the job is to reach the target and get figures so the people are employed in the right places because this government does not care about us only the “all powerful system”.

    Sorry for rambling but this is how it is folks you all get the government the police the courts the prisons you deserve…..

  • anticant

    No, Eddie, I’m not particularly looking forward to a Tory government – though under our rotten FPTP voting system that is what we are likely to get. But the overriding need now is to get rid of this arrogant and clueless New Labour government which has mismanaged the country for far too long.

    Thanks for your good wishes re my cataract. I owe my life to the NHS, and am eternally grateful to the wonderful consultants (though not the cackhanded management). On this occasion, however, I went privately to avoid the lengthy waiting lists.

  • eddie

    Clark – I agree, and would favour Alan Johnson as leader. Whether it would be enough to “do a John Major” and win next year I doubt. I don’t favour PR – the election of the BNP is surely a warning against that. Anticant – glad your operation went well but as a good leftie I am surprised that you should choose to jump the waiting lists (which is NOT to say that I would not do the same thing in your situation, before you start).

  • anticant

    eddie, I am not a leftie. I am an extreme moderate pragmatist. You remind me of the lady who wrote to Bertrand Russell stating that she was a solipsist, and was surprised there weren’t more of them. To which Russell replied “I am surprised at your surprise”.

  • anticant

    It is high time for eddie and his fellow lefties to stop blaming the Tories for our current ills. New Labour has been in office with a massive parliamentary majority for the past twelve years. They are solely responsible for the state of the country. Leaving aside their imbecilic foreign policy as US neo-Con poodles ?” the illegal Iraq war and the unwinnable conflict in Afghanistan ?” and the systematic rape of our traditional civil liberties since 2001 (their most insufferable crime in my view), let’s look at their economic policies.

    Far from Gordon Brown being a competent chancellor, when the history of his tenancy at the Treasury comes to be written it will probably be called “From Prudence to Profligacy”. At the outset, he made the mistake of removing responsibility for banking regulation from the Bank of England, against Eddie George’s opposition, and took the effective brakes off the feckless splurge of City speculation which ended in last year’s Great Crash. He encouraged the housing price bubble. He financed rising government expenditure by increasing the national debt without raising taxes, and this is still his only policy for dealing with the recession ?” to spend more and more borrowed or newly printed money without making any attempt to balance the books – which somebody (though not him) is going to have to do some day soon. To keep Labour voters in the North-East sweet, he propped up Northern Rock instead of letting it go bust as it should have done. He then poured billions of public money into the pockets of the profligate bankers who have not as yet responded by easing credit to any significant extent. His record reminds me of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress. He has allowed the country to become almost irremediably insolvent. And the eddies amongst us still think the Tories would do worse? Unbelievable!

  • Jason

    “The point about the U.S. is well taken, but I would say that incompetent planning and execution was as much to blame as a bad vision.”

    I map a logical fallacy and you fall straight into it. If you have a bad idea, nothing, NOTHING, redeems it. So, of course it was a litany of mistakes, it had to be – there are no successes contained inside a flawed process bar total accidents, and those of the negative variety – ie: the surge ‘worked’ because it ‘reduced’ violence. This is akin to food labels that proclaim a product is ‘healthier’ because it has 10% less fat than before. If you can follow such logic, then you can have ‘healthier’ heroin…

    But, whatever, you don’t appear able to extricate yourself quite from the verbalisations this war has been wrapped in. No importa.

  • eddie

    anticant – what a gloomy old bugger you are, always seeing the worst in everything. To start with, I didn’t blame the Tories for anything. I agree that they may run the economy well, but it won’t necessarily be done in favour of people like you. Secondly, our economy has fared better than many (Latvia’s has shrunk by 18% compared to less than 2% here) and we are still relatively well off. Inflation will cure our present problems in the longer term and house price inflation, as long as it is relatively well managed, will be a component. We are also one of four countries highlighted in a recent OECD report as having promising prospects of growth.

    As for your “rape of our civil liberties” it is not a phrase I recognise or accept. I have argued with others on here (it may have included you) that freedoms and liberties have been extended in the past thirty years, most notably with our signing of the European Human Rights convention and subsequent domestic legilsation. All of the so-called infringements of civil liberties that were put up on your side (which included cctv and Pilger being thrown off the Daily Mirror) were paltry in comparison. You may live in a 1984 style hellhole but I think most people don’t recognise your worldview. Cheer up, worse things happen at sea!

  • anticant

    I’m not gloomy, eddie, though the other two epithets fit. And what do you mean by “people like me”? How do you know what sort of a person I am? What makes you think I’m only concerned with what’s good for ME, regardless of what’s good for the country? As a matter of fact, I haven’t voted Tory since before Suez (1956) and don’t anticipate ever doing so again. I am, though, a pragmatist and judge people, and governments, on what they do – not what they say. I am not impressed with the current Tory front bench – a mediocre lot. But this parliament, with a few exceptions (Vince Cable, Kate Hoey, Frank Field and Ken Clarke spring to mind) is stuffed with mediocrities.

    As for civil liberties, yes – New Labour have done a good things but many more retrograde ones. Whether through deliberate sinister intent or sheer muddleheaded cowardice, they have pretty well wiped out personal privacy. As I have said before, we had much more of that during World War Two. And having been for several years an executive committee member of the NCCL (now Liberty), I speak with more knowledge of the subject than you do.

  • anticant

    That should have been “a few good things”. I give you the Human Rights and Freedom of Information Acts, but I bet a succession of authoritarian Home Secretaries – Straw, Blunkett, Reid, Smith – would love to repeal both if they dared. And even the saintly Alan Johnson is still committed to introducing wasteful and pointless ID cards. (Incidentally, one of the most popular things after the end of WW2 was the abolition of identity cards, which to the average Briton of those days smacked of an intrusive police state.)

  • anticant


    UK detention without charge for up to 28 days is already far longer than in most other countries, yet the government has sought to extend it to 42 days.

    Laws against “hate speech” have restricted freedom of expression and have been used to further restrict the rights of peaceful protest.

    The government want to introduce national identity ‘smart cards’ and a National Identity Register which will contain about 50 items about every citizen.

    With over 4 million CCTV cameras in place, it is technically possible to monitor every car journey. Plans to collect details of every email, text message and phone call have been reluctantly dropped.

    ASBOs can be issued to children as young as 10, who then become liable for up to five years’ imprisonment for breaking them whether or not the conduct in question is itself criminal.

    DNA samples can be taken from people who have committed no offence and stored against possible future transgressions. Between 2007 and 2009, the number of DNA profiles held rose by 40 per cent. and now tops 4.5 million ?” the largest such database in the world. There is little formal regulation of this power.

    There have been many instances of misuse of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act by local councils and other bodies for trivial purposes.

    I could go on, but isn’t this enough? “Freer than we have ever been”? What total tosh!

  • Clark


    no, I suspected you to be opposed to PR. But the current Winner Takes All approach (I refuse to refer to it by the misleading “First Past The Post” label) structurally ensures either oscillation or stagnation. Oscillation is the lesser evil. So the system you’re committed to basically guarantees a Tory government every other decade or so.

    Is this really what you want? Maybe you should take a good look at your motives for prefering such a system. Does politics satisfy a role for you that, say, supporting a football team does for others? Do you cheer when “your side” wins a point and boo when the opposition scores?

    As to the tired old BNP argument, democracy is meant to be about representation of the people. Just as in personal psychology, it is that which is repressed that will show up as irrational behaviours. These things are better dealt with in the light, where they can be properly considered and debated. So no, I won’t let myself be scared by the election of a couple of BNP representitaves. Let’s see how they fare when they’re challenged in debate.

  • eddie


    You say I don’t know you (and you don’t know me), but state that you know more about liberties than I do because you were once involved with NCCL – I hope you can see the contradiciton in that statement? The NCCL disappeared a long time ago and things have changed. Where I live, asbos and cctv are very popular and 42 days, ID cards, DNA, emails etc are things that have been proposed, i.e. they are unlikely to happen, so this is more a case of scaremongering on your part than hard facts. As I say, these things you raise are nothing when set against the great improvements in thngs like equality legislation and human rights legislation. If you feel you have no privacy I feel sorry for you. As for local councils, you surely know that spying on people’s rubbish disposal habits is not part of some wider conspiracy. It’s just the usual english cock up of petty officialdom. You must have seen the same metality among jobsworth traffic wardens.

    Clark – what I want is for people like you to stop whingeing about electoral policy and to get involved. Accept first of all that our system produces stability in comparison to places like Israel where extemists can hold sway. Then, if you are not happy with the main parties do something about it. Either join them and change their policy or start a new party. That’s the great thing about democracy, you can persuade others to your point of view and get things done, and if you can’t, well just accept that your views are in a minority and get over it. All this sniping from the sidelines makes me depressed. All politics is a compromise, you do what you can to get your point of view across. The horrible alternative is a solipsistic system of ten million political parties, the me-me-me generation, god forbid.

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