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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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war