Warning: This post was published more than 10 years ago.
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Charles Clarke’s department allowed 1,023 criminals who should have been considered for deportation to roam free around the country, with some of them committing further offences.
He knew about this for three weeks before he bothered to let the Prime Minister know about it, let alone the Police who need to track these people down.
Even after three weeks, he still didn’t even know the scale of the problem, or whether any of the prisoners had reconvicted.
And yet, he’s stayed in office thus far on the basis that he’s the best person to fix a problem he created. And the longer he stays, the more reports continue to trickle out, and the more damage it does to a Labour government already facing a grim local elections result.
What is he doing? And why hasn’t he been unceremoniously sacrificed?
He clearly can’t stay as Home Secretary. That’s now absolutely obvious, and as clear as clear can be. But in any reshuffle, there’s really no cabinet position of equal power to that of Home Secretary. Foreign Secretary or Chancellor would be a promotion, which would make Mr Blair look arrogant beyond belief. Anything less than those two positions would be a demotion, which Clarke would never agree to. So what’s going on?
If Clarke resigns tomorrow, it’ll hit the papers on Wednesday, the day before the local elections. That’s not satisfactory. He could resign at the point of a reshuffle, but he’s a clever guy – why hang on that long and keep the bad press coming? If he was going to go, from a political point of view he should have done it by now.
So what’s missing? There’s an outside chance that Tony Blair could use the local election result to announce a date for his departure, and relieve Gordon Brown of his Chancellorship to concentrate on the handover of power. Charles Clarke could sneak in and be caretaker Chancellor, which would techincally be a promotion, but no-one would care because the story would be eclipsed. Patricia Hewitt could be shuffled out of Health at the same time.
Prescott’s a stickier problem, because Deputy Leader isn’t a job Mr Blair gets to play with – it’s elected by the Labour Party at large, but again the announcement of Blair’s departure would overshadow any news about Prescott’s pants anyway.
It all seems a bit unlikely, but there’s something that doesn’t add up here.