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.