i Editor's Letter: A curious Home Office appointment


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How long, after Norman Baker is shown his new ministerial quarters at the Home Office, will he take to ask for his own MI5 file? While it is always refreshing to see some of the gaiety of life reflected in the upper ranks of the Government, Mr Baker’s elevation by Nick Clegg was the most curious moment in yesterday’s game of Whitehall musical desks (page 6).

Mr Baker was a decent public transport minister renowned for his grasp of detail, who can list the championing of cycling among his achievements in office. He also wrote a book suggesting that the government weapons expert Dr David Kelly did not commit suicide but was murdered by the Iraqis with the candlestick in the woodland clearing  – and that British intelligence services covered up the killing. (Only one word* in that sentence is unfaithfully reported.) Mr Baker now has an office next door to the woman who oversees MI5. Try not to leave anything on the photocopier, Theresa.

David Kelly’s exposure as Andrew Gilligan’s source, and subsequent suicide, left unanswered questions – but has always struck me as showing ample culpability by government employees without the need to layer conspiracy atop tragedy. It is little wonder that Home Office civil  servants expressed alarm last night at Mr Baker’s arrival.

Why Norman? they asked. Well, liberal values course through him – useful for Mr Clegg in the months ahead of an election. He comes from the left of the Lib Dems (unlike his axed predecessor) and can allay grassroot fears that the party is becoming Tory Lite. And, as one lobby reporter joked yesterday, Mr Baker is a human jamming device sent to interrupt Theresa May’s signal. But if his new colleagues could please avoid surprising him...


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