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Conventions

I feel really sorry for Brodie Clarke, former head of UKBA. He has been the victim of an ambitious yet incompetent Home Secretary who has used him as a convenient scapegoat. What this shows us about the current government is that they care more for the politics of politics than the politics of the people.

It raises an interesting discussion in my mind about the place of constitutional conventions. There are a handful of sources of English law, one of which is constitutional conventions. These are a set of unwritten rules that are binding on those effected by them. For example; collective cabinet responsibility. This convention is binding on members of the Cabinet, and requires that they tow the party line regardless of their opinion. When they do disagree with the party line they face a dilemma; either shut up or jog on.

Dr Evil finally tracked down in a London back street
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The one that comes to mind in the UKBA situation is that of individual ministerial responsibility. The convention goes that the minister of state takes total responsibility for the actions of their department, even when they are not at fault. We have lost many good MPs at the hands of this convention, and I would go as far as saying that it was partly responsible for the failings of the Brown government...but that's a discussion for another day.

The thing about conventions is that they are only binding for as long as those effected by them allow them to be. I know of only one other occasion when the convention was successfully sidelined, and that was in the 70's when Michael Howard was Home Secretary. The point is that these conventions exist for a reason and Theresa May has colluded with David Cameron to breach it.

Another compounding issue comes from the Home Office itself and we can give Theresa May, and other Home Secretaries, a bit of breathing space when it comes to mistakes. The causes are numerous, but here are a few examples. It is the largest department, it effects everyone in the country, and millions of people outside the country. The responsibilities sail parallel to Human Rights principles...which are immature principles that are constantly being developed and there can be failings in clarity and predictability. Where mistakes are made they have direct effects on peoples futures, and so often people can lose their lives as a result. Lastly, the balance between what is right for the individual and what is deemed right for the country is subject to interference by  Its a well known problem, which was helped by the formation of the Ministry of Justice, but it is still not capable of being competently managed by any Minister...this is why we lose so many Home Secretaries.

The epic task of managing the department leads to mistakes...how those mistakes are handled determine the future. Theresa May has two decisions; take responsibility and resign, or breach the convention and stand her ground.

Maybe we need a binding document that protects conventions, 'irregardless' of their effects?