Reid jeopardises the fight against terrorism

Guest blogger Sunny accuses John Reid of jeopardising the fight against terrorism and calls on the h

It should be accepted wisdom by now that however liberal or progressive an MP may be, as soon as they are made Home Secretary they start spouting the most vile of Daily Mail editorials with gusto only Richard Littlejohn can muster.

Only in March John Reid was accused by Jon Cruddas MP of a "race to the bottom" for trotting out the typically misinformed and xenophobic diatribe that "foreigners" (was that any immigrants, illegal immigrants or asylum seekers?) of "stealing our benefits" (most are deliberately not allowed to work). Typically, all he did was add to the current confusion around the issue.

And then there are his constant warnings of "devastating consequences" of a terrorist attack, while he simultaneously warned against "scaremongering" on the nature of the threats. Typical.

But crunch-time for Reid has surely come over the alleged leaks from his own department over the recent terrorist raids. To briefly summarise: during the nine arrests in February of men who allegedly wanted to behead a Muslim soldier in the British army, journalists were briefed by an aide to Reid over the nature of the raids.

The Prime Minister rejected an independent inquiry on the basis that "as far as [he] was aware" there had been no leaks from ministers or civil servants. Except that many in the media already know this to be rubbish. So who will break ranks and reveal the culprit?

The Guardian investigation found that, “an aide to John Reid, the home secretary, was responsible for one of those leaks”.

Although the right of journalists to receive and report from anonymous sources must be protected, these breaches of confidence are an entirely different problem. As deputy-commissioner Peter Clarke pointed out last week, they compromised investigations, revealed sources of life-saving intelligence and "put lives at risk" during major investigations.

Even worse, wild speculation in the media, which was perhaps best illustrated during the Forest Gate raids, dents the confidence that British Muslims place with the police and intelligence services. And that, as Clarke pointed out, made it more difficult for the police to cooperate with those it needs to fight terrorism.

The leaks cannot be characterised as anything other than a gross act of unprofessionalism. Clarke rightly said the people responsible should be "thoroughly ashamed" of themselves. Since the buck stops with John Reid at the Home Office, who is likely to have had some knowledge of the leaks, why shouldn't he be held culpable?

It beggars belief that the Home Secretary should be allowed to get away with jeopardising the fight against terrorism for the sake of political expediency. We need a proper investigation into the issue. And it is time he stepped down.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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