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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Shock Wales YouGov poll shows that Labour's Ukip nightmare is coming true

The fear that voting Ukip would prove a gateway drug for Labour voters appears to be being borne out. 

An astonishing new poll for the Cardiff University Governance Centre and ITV Cymru shows a historic result: the Conservatives ending a 167-year wait for an election victory in Wales.

The numbers that matter:

Conservatives: 40 per cent

Labour: 30 per cent

Plaid Cymru: 13 per cent

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent

Ukip: 6 per cent

Others: 3 per cent

And for context, here’s what happened in 2015:

Labour 36.9 per cent

Conservatives 27.2 per cent

Ukip 13.6 per cent

Plaid Cymru 12.1 per cent

Liberal Democrat 6.5 per cent

Others 2.6 per cent

There’s a lot to note here. If repeated at a general election, this would mean Labour losing an election in Wales for the first time since the First World War. In addition to losing the popular vote, they would shed ten seats to the Tories.

We're talking about a far more significant reverse than merely losing the next election. 

I don’t want to detract from how bad the Labour performance is in a vacuum – they have lost 6.9 per cent of their vote on 2015, in any case the worst election performance for Labour in Wales since the rout of 1983.  But the really terrifying thing for Labour is not what is happening to their own vote, though that is pretty terrifying.

It’s what’s happened to the Conservative vote – growing in almost every direction. There is some direct Labour to Tory slippage. But the big problem is the longtime fear of Labour MPs – that voting for Ukip would be a gateway drug to voting for the mainstream right – appears to be being realised. Don't forget that most of the Ukip vote in Wales is drawn from people who voted Labour in 2010. (The unnoticed shift of the 2010-5 parliament in a lot of places was a big chunk of the Labour 2010 vote went to Ukip, but was replaced by a chunk of the 2010 Liberal Democrat vote.) 

If repeated across the United Kingdom, the Tory landslide will be larger than the 114 majority suggested by the polls and a simple national swing.

As I’ve said before, polls are useful, but they are not the be-all and end-all. The bad news is that this very much supports the pattern at elections since the referendum – Labour falling back, the Tories losing some votes to the Liberal Democrats but more than making up the loss thanks to the collapse of Ukip.

The word from Welsh Labour is that these figures “look about right” at least as far as the drop in the Labour vote, though of course they have no idea what is going on with their opponents’ vote share. As for the Conservatives, their early experiences on the doorstep do show the Ukip vote collapsing to their benefit.

One Labour MP said to me a few days again that they knew their vote was holding up – what they didn’t know was what was happening to their opponents. That’s particularly significant if you have a “safe seat” but less than 50 per cent of the vote.

Wales has local elections throughout the country on 4 May. They should provide an early sign whether these world-shaking figures are really true. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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