Luckily for Barbara Roche, formerly of the Home Office, Easter reminds us that heaven loves the repenting sinner best

Plus: How about sending Balls to Transport?

Matthew Norman@IndyVoices
Sunday 20 April 2014 19:07
UK border control at Heathrow Airport
UK border control at Heathrow Airport

On no day more keenly than yesterday do we celebrate the message of redemption. And so to Barbara Roche, the former Labour immigration minister, we offer a sincere and rousing hats off. Ms Roche’s Home Office stint, either side of the turn of the millennium, provided a classically incisive vignette of how power corrupts the most deeply held beliefs.

She had railed in opposition against the use of private security firms to deport illegal immigrants after the death, in 1993, of Joy Gardner. Six years later, as the relevant minister, she not only found herself defending the use of such firms, she also announced that asylum seekers would be moved from Kent without any choice of whither they would be relocated; introduced a pilot scheme obliging visitors from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to pay a £5,000 bond to guarantee they would not outstay their welcome; and told The Guardian that there were “very many” asylum seekers trying to “string out the process”.

Remembering all that, and while acknowledging the pain of the well-meaning minister compelled to defend policy they find repellent, it is a bit cheeky of her to attack Ed Miliband, in The Independent on Sunday, for lacking the courage to take on Ukip directly on immigration. She was not desperately brave herself in countering right-wing propaganda when at the Home Office. Yet we forgive her the amnesia, and honour the noble work she currently does heading a charity, Migration Matters Trust, devoted to doing just that. Heaven, we piously remember this bank holiday weekend, loveth nothing more than the sinner that repenteth.

It’s all so different in Florida. There’s no internet

News of an agricultural development vexes Richard Littlejohn, who offers Daily Mail readers his trenchant take on British life from behind the electric gates of his Florida mansion.

“Scientists are proposing to put cows on a diet to reduce the amount of saturated fat in dairy produce,” writes Richard. “What do they have in mind? Lean cuisine? Cows eat grass – and it doesn’t get more low fat than that.”

Floridean wi-fi must be very patchy indeed. With internet access, he would have read that tripling the proportion of maize silage in the diet was found, in a trial, to reduce methane emissions.

Happily, Richard is making a state visit next month to plug Littlejohn’s Lost World, in which magnum opus he dwells on “growing up in the Fifties and Sixties and how life has changed since. It’s a story of sweet shops, school dentists, Saturday morning pictures and innocent childhood freedom which has gone for ever.”

Don’t all pre-order at once. The internet here is reliable, by and large, and we do not want you crashing Amazon in the stampede.

Please stay, Gordon. The banks still need you

The Harry H Corbett to whom Wee Dougie Alexander once played Sweep, Gordon Brown is credibly rumoured to be leaving parliament at the next election.

If so, the loss of so constant and vocal a post-2010 backbench presence will leave a colossal parliamentary gap. Filling the void in Gordon’s working life remains a difficult business. Speaking of difficult businesses, you wonder whether the man who saved the world from a global banking collapse might be the one to take on the challenge of rebuilding that once mighty testament to socialism in action, the Co-operative Bank.

Don’t cry, grandad. Oh, I see, you’re not

Thanks to The Sun for an object lesson in headline distortion. The paper has been obsessing about the 12-year-old who had a baby. Tragically unable to name and shame the girl, its consolation prize was an interview with her sire, who finds himself a grandfather – and at his time of life, whose thoughts don’t fondly turn to jiggling a grandkid on the knee when watching Countdown – a year shy of turning 30.

“Tears of a grandad, 29”, was the headline, while the intro read: “The heartbroken dad of Britain’s youngest mum told yesterday how he wept when he learned he was going to be a grandad at 29.”

Inside, his recollection seemed rather different. “I didn’t say too much,” recalls dear old gramps. “I sort of cried, I suppose, as any dad would.” Can you sense the pre-emptive exchange that led to that?

“You must have cried when she told you?”

“Well, no, not really.”

“Come on, you must have done.”

“Erm, no.”

“Now look, we’re seeing you right for this, aren’t we?” “Yeah, well, OK, I sort of cried, I suppose…”

How about sending Balls to transport?

Also redeemed, and in one miraculous stroke, is Douglas Alexander, who until a few days ago was prey to the whispering campaign typified by the overhearing of colleagues Harriet Harman and Ed Balls bitching about his inadequacies as Labour election supremo. Today, Wee Dougie is raised alongside Keir Hardie and Nye Bevan on the top plinth of the pantheon by his coup in securing David Axelrod’s services. Although overjoyed by Dougie’s resurrection, Mr Balls has yet to be overheard celebrating this.

Now this may be outside the Axe’s sphere of influence, but if he wants to make a statement of his intent to steer Labour to power, he should propose this solution to Ed Miliband’s most grievous problem. In the light of the latest Balls vehicular fiasco, the leader should stand him down from front bench duty, for his own safety, until he has passed the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ test. This should take him well over a year, freeing the shadow chancellorship for someone the voters might trust with the economy (subtle code for Alistair Darling), and Balls may then return in triumph to join the cabinet in the fitting post of Transport Secretary.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments