Theresa May's statements are "wrong", says Brodie Clark

Head of the UK Border Agency resigns, with a stinging attack on the Home Secretary.

Brodie Clark, the head of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has quit over the relaxed passport check row, accusing Theresa May of misleading the public. He says that he plans to lodge a claim for constructive dismissal.

Suspended from his job last week, he faced the prospect of disciplinary action and even the possibility of criminal charges. Making it very clear she had no intention of resigning herself, the Home Secretary said "Brodie Clarke must take responsibility for his actions".

In a strongly worded statement, Clark said:

Those statements are wrong and were made without the benefit of hearing my response to formal allegations. With the Home Secretary announcing and repeating her view that I am at fault, I cannot see how any process conducted by the Home Office or under its auspices, can be fair and balanced.

He added that he had full authority for all the actions he had taken, disputing May's account that officials acted without her authorisation:

The Home Secretary suggests that I added additional measures, improperly, to the trial of our risk-based controls. I did not. Those measures have been in place since 2008-09.

The Home Secretary also implies that I relaxed the controls in favour of queue management. I did not. Despite pressure to reduce queues, including from ministers, I can never be accused of compromising security for convenience.

Queues at Heathrow this summer regularly lasted in excess of three hours, but dsepite this, Clark said "I never once contemplated cutting our essential controls to ease the flow."

On one point, Clark and May are agreed -- and that is on the efficacy of risk-based checks. Appearing before MPs on Monday, May insisted that intelligence-led checks had actually boosted interceptions of illegal migrants by 10 per cent. She claimed the problem came when Clark went too far by relaxing checks on passengers coming from outside Europe. Clark, pointing out he had been arguing for such schemes since December 2010, said:

The evidence to support [intelligence-led checks] is substantial and the early findings are encouraging. I would do nothing to jeopardise them. I firmly believe that a more fully risk-based way of operating will offer far greater protection to the United Kingdom.

As I argued yesterday, an effective system must operate with varying degrees of stringency. It will be a shame if moves in that direction are halted because of a knee jerk reaction to this row.

It was never certain that May would be able to ride out the storm, and Clark's decision to speak out shows that he is not willing to be scapegoated. He will now appear on Tuesday before the Commons home affairs select committee. Keith Vaz, the Labour head of the select committee, told the BBC: "It's completely contradictory to what she said. This is a complete turnaround of events." May remains defiant; it will be up to the committee to determine whose account is accurate.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era