Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Honesty Is the Best Policy for Dr Reid

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Honesty Is the Best Policy for Dr Reid

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Linford

Every time the World Cup comes round, I am sorely tempted to dispense with the politics and devote this space to pontificating about football.

It is, after all, what most of the rest of the nation is doing.

The fate of Prime Minister Tony Blair has, temporarily at least, been put on the back burner, as the country frets about the fate of Sven-GUran Eriksson and his men.

For what it's worth, my overall assessment of the first full week of World Cup action is that none of the real contenders for the trophy ( including England ( have yet shown us their true colours.

Sure, we aren't currently playing like World Cup winners, but neither are many of the teams tipped to do well, not least hosts Germany and five-time winners Brazil.

We have, at least, qualified for the second phase, and that is doubtless as good a piece of news for Mr Blair, as it is for the rest of us.

After all, the longer England remain in the competition, the more chance Downing Street will have of keeping the next Home Office-related debacle off the front pages.

But if this week is anything to go by, they have will have a hard job.

It has always been said that the England football manager's job is the worst in Britain, although I myself have argued that Leader of the Opposition is the worst.

Well, at the moment both those assumptions are wrong. The worst job in Britain, by far, is Home Secretary John Reid's.

Four weeks ago, after Dr Reid was appointed, I wrote that while the job represented his toughest political challenge thus far, by the same token, it also presented him with his greatest opportunity.

Well, I wasn't wrong.

His appointment came in the midst of the debacle over the deportation of foreign prisoners and although heads have now rolled over that, it will only take another serious crime to come to light to revive the issue.

Hard on the heels of that, we had the disarmingly frank admission by the head of immigration removals that he "did not have the faintest idea" how many illegal immigrants were in the country.

Now Dr Reid is embroiled in a fresh crisis over what to do about the early release of offenders convicted of crimes so serious that the public expects them to stay behind bars for a very long time.

Of course, responsibility for the short sentence handed out to repeat paedophile Craig Sweeney last week lies not with the Home Office but the courts.

But it is the Home Office which devises the system under which the courts have to operate, so in that sense, Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer was correct to say that it is not the fault of the judges.

The Home Office appears to have a bad case of legislative diarrhoea over recent years when it comes to sentencing issues.

Successive Criminal Justice Acts, most recently in 2003, have in fact tied the judges' hands to such an extent that even if the judge in the Sweeney case had wanted to impose a longer tariff, he would have been unable to do so. …

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