Wednesday, 9 November 2011
What has Teresa May and a little bit of Dorset got in common? It could be a start of a joke. The reply, nothing. But it most certainly should.
For it was a bit of agricultural land at Crichel Down in Dorset that serves as a precedent for “ministerial responsibility.”
The story starts with the requisitioning of land by compulsory purchase for the RAF to practice their bombing techniques on the eve of the Second World War.
Churchill made a promise in the House of Commons that the land would be returned to the family when the war was over.
But as is the way with governments the promise was not honoured and the land was passed from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Agriculture who leased the land out and increased the cost of the land way beyond the reach of the original owners.
The owners campaigned against the Ministry and eventually won a public inquiry under Oliver Franks.
The Franks Report pulled no punches and its verdict was that there was a catalogue of ineptitude and maladministration by the civil servants in Ministry of Agriculture.
So nothing new there, I hear you say. But what was different was that the then hapless Minister of Agriculture, Sir Thomas Dugdale, took the rap and resigned.
It was generally acknowledged at the time it was the civil servants that had cocked things up and not the Minister. Despite this the Minister was the one to go, setting up a precedent on ministerial responsibility.
Now our dear, Home Secretary, Theresa May, takes a very different approach to that of Sir Thomas Dugdale. Rather than take the rap, she is very much into the blame culture. Rather than resign she accused the head of the UK Border Agency’s border force, Brodie Clark of relaxing passport checks.
Now the opposite of Crichel Down has occurred the civil servant has gone and the Minister holds on to her job.
But Mr. Brodie ain’t going quietly. He accuses May of making him a political scapegoat and consequently is to lodge a claim for constructive dismissal.
Now whilst Mr Cameron seems to be sticking by his Home Secretary at the moment it is clear that young Teresa is seriously damaged by the debacle and she might yet be forced out.
Oh, that precedent set in rural Dorset might yet come back to haunt the MP for Maidenhead.