Jacqui Smith—going, but not forgotten

home secretary

At lunch time today, I learned from a tweet that UK Home Secretary, the Right Honorable Jacqui Smith will resign as soon as convenient to the Prime Minister. Most sources seem to cite the now cliched “expenses scandal” as the main reason, but also mention various moments of Home Secretarial chagrin.

My initial reaction was one of elation. “Finally, and not too soon!” is a sentence too easily thought about someone I think has done more to damage the UK than any one holding power in the last decade.

But this is not how I want her to be remembered. I do not want her to have gone because of a media-fueled feeding frenzy of shame for her expenses or her husband’s use of public funding to watch porn.

Maybe I should clarify?

Last February, I wrote a piece about the Home Secretary which still attracts concerned comments. It told my story of how her tough stand on immigration affects the legitimate, the law-abiding, and the defenseless rather than dealing with any perceived threat by illegal immigrants, migrant workers, or European nationals.

Jaccui Smith should resign because she used a misleading public story to back plans which bring shame and financial hardship to people.

One of the most controversial campaigns Ms Smith backed was one to introduce compulsory ID cards to the UK. She claimed that people would willingly sign up to such a scheme, and much talk of fighting terrorism with these bits of plastic ensued. This is a lie, really. People don’t want it—or, at least, the majority of people don’t seem to want to spend their money on them. Oh, yes. Not only is the scheme hugely expensive to the public, but individuals will have to buy them themselves. The card could cost £30, £60 or £93, depending on which confused source reported the cost [1]. The scheme itself will cost the UK taxpayers around £5bn with an additional £375mn coming from foreign nationals, who will be the first victims of the programme.

The ID cards information produced by the Home Office itself reads, to this linguist at least, shockingly like propaganda. It produces press releases such as this one, which appear to show an eagerness which belies the fact that nearly every mention I’ve seen in media regarding the scheme has contained the word “Controversial”. It has proven so controversial, indeed, that the latest report I read showed that the Home Office seems to have changed its mind massively. This leads me to believe that the Home Office misleads, both in content and in linguistic implication through its own media.

Jacqui Smith should resign because her policy to introduce ID cards is not democratically supported, is questionable and expensive, and her promotion of the scheme is biased and untrue.

On any number of profiles trying to make sense of or summarise Ms. Smith’s career, another low point has been the proposal to allow imprisonment without charge for 42-days of suspected terrorists. This has proven controversial (simply search for “Jacqui Smith 42 days” to see.) and demonstrates Ms Smith’s disregard for the ancient principle of due process. The Proposal was mercifully scrapped last year.

Jacqui Smith should resign because her principles do not include thousand-year-old fundamentals of basic citizens’ rights.

Not everything undertaken by Ms Smith has been terrible. Throughout a mixed career, it should be mentioned that she held her ground, proved resiliant, and handled difficulties well (until now). The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith, MP has been the UK’s first female Home Secretary, and no doubt worked very hard. However, this was expected of an MP, and a Home Secretary should handle her job well, which is why it is news when this has not been the case.

Ms. Smith has been forced out of office following news of the least-damaging scandal. Shame on the media for blowing out of perspective the theft of several thousand pounds in claimed expenses in the light of a proposed spend of £5bn to encumber citizens and ostracize legitimate foreign nationals. Shame on the reporting that claims her husband’s silly use of £10 to watch porn should take precedent for misleading a nation, trying to create and enforce draconian laws and damaging the reputation of a great democracy.

[1]: It should be noted that the £93 claim is old, and that the Home Office seems to say most recently that the cards will cost £30 for early adopters and rise to £60 after two years.

Additional ID Card Stories include: Scotland refuses to back them., and some initial concern about the cost raised by the LSE.

Image: “Jacqui Smith at anti-binge drinking launch” by “photographyjournal” via flickr

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