By Ray Fleming
TONY Blair had many things on his mind yesterday. The G8 meeting, Africa, global warming, Iraq, the 2012 Olympics, and Louise Casey. Louise who? Ms Casey is the head of the British government's antisocial behaviour unit which runs the ASBO scheme by which youg rowdies guilty of antisocialism are given a warning by the police as to their future behaviour. Although the ASBO scheme is run by the Home Office, Ms Casey reports direct to the Prime Minister, a highly unusual arrangement. IT has emerged that Ms Casey, a senior civil servant, recently made controversial remarks about ministers and their policies in an after-dinner spech to an audience of chief police officers. She spoke in favour of binge-drinking, suggesting that ministers might perform better if they had a hangover; she described her first meeting with one minister as “something out of Acorn Antiques, honest to God; the most powerful person in that room is Betsy who brings the tea around”; and she threatened to “deck” Downing Street policy advisers who spouted jargon at her or insisted on “evidence-based policy”. Louise Casey, formerly deputy director of Shelter, the charity for the homeless, but now a civil servant, is required by Section 9 of the Civil Service Code to conduct herself “in such a way as to deserve and retain the confidence of ministers”. Astonishingly, it seems that she does retain the confidence of the Prime Minister if a statement issued by Downing Street yesterday morning is to be believed. The most charitable interpretation of that statement is that Mr Blair had quite enough on his hands without being bothered by Ms Casey's strange speech. However, the matter is almost certain to come up again when G8 is over. Other senior civil servants who spend a good part of their lives biting their lip when invited to spill the beans about their minister will not see why an outsider promoted to their ranks should be able to say what she likes. The incident is also further proof that relations between the Prime Minsiter and his Home Secretary are not all they should be.

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