VERY few British ministers emerge from the Home Office with their reputations intact, let alone enhanced.
The place is a hive of sensitive problems, many of them in the front line of British politics. And to add to what has always been a testing assignment, the burden on the Home Secretary has grown enormously in recent years with increasing immigration and the new threat of terorrism added to his responsibilities. So one's first instinct when a Home Secretary is in trouble may be to sigh and say, “It's an impossible job”. However it is hard to react sympathetically to Charles Clarke in his latest troubles over the thousand or so foreign national criminals which his Office has let out of prisons without first ensuring either that they would be deported or kept under surveillance. In operational terms the fault lies with the Immigration and Prison Services, both of which are Mr Clarke's responsibility.
THE Conservatives and Liberal Democrats correctly called for Mr Clarke's resignation yesterday. Apparently he has offered it to Mr Blair who refused to accept it, a gesture clearly more related to political expediency than principle. The Home Secretary cannot know everything that is happening in his complex department but certain issues should always have a red flag on them on his desk. Among these, obviously, is anything connected with immigration. Yet despite at least three specific warnings over the past two years Mr Clarke seems not to have kept a close watch on the problem. For that, alone, he should take the ultimate responsibility and resign.