So it is that we must now find the will to applaud the architects of the whole probation privatisation fiasco, the Labour Party, as they seemingly mount a 'spirited' opposition to Graylings proposals in the House of Commons.
There's no point in even mentioning matters of principle here, or what might be the right thing to do. Labour are just going through the motions for a bit of political expediency, as HM Loyal Opposition is paid handsomely to do. It's all a game, as they know full well that they don't have a cat in hell's chance of inflicting a defeat on the government due to the Liberal Democrats remaining firmly in bed with their Conservative partners.
Anyway, I quote from the Labour Party press release issued yesterday:-
"Labour has tabled amendments to the Offender Rehabilitation Bill that would force the Government to pilot their controversial changes to the probation service.
We believe their proposals constitute a serious risk to public safety because of their untested and untried nature.
Because the Government is misusing 2007 legislation, this means they require no change in the law to introduce their proposals. By tabling these amendments, Labour is ensuring that their ill-thought through plans receive proper parliamentary scrutiny.
And, if successful, they would mean that the Government’s changes to probation could not happen until they have been properly piloted and independently evaluated to ensure there is no risk to public safety."
Things are always different in the Upper House though with so many non-politically aligned cross benchers and today probation's good friend Lord Ramsbotham has been leading opposition to the proposals by tabling some key amendments to the Bill that, if passed, would effectively kill it. The key amendments proposed are 21, 22 and 23 which respectively prevent changes to the probation service without parliamentary approval, prevent the introduction of PbR for 3 years and without the results of pilots being evaluated first and ensure probation trusts can bid for any contracts.
But any amount of sound reasoning might still come to nought as the government can in the final analysis invoke the Parliament Act in order to exert their will over a troublesome House of Lords. What is much more likely to be effective in saving our bacon is pure chance and good luck. As Harold Macmillan once famously remarked, events have a habit of throwing the best laid political plans off balance and there's quite a few possibilities in the wings.
For a start the whole parliamentary corruption issue has been re-ignited as a result of those pesky media types setting up MP's and Peers with yet another honey-trap sting operation. They always fall for it don't they? But I have to say I'm not sorry to see the smug look removed from the face of that dreadful self-serving ex-copper Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate.
Then there's the astounding secret affair that's so shocked the Prime Minister. Despite gagging orders, it won't be secret for too much longer. Finally, we still await news in relation to the police investigation into historical child abuse allegations at the Elm Guest House in West London. All these and more can derail the best laid plans of any government.
Word has it that Grayling's job and career are on the line over his plans for 'reforming' the criminal Legal Aid system. As the first non-lawyer to become Lord Chancellor, he's made lots of powerful enemies in the legal profession and as we know many politicians are lawyers. If he screws it up, and some are confidently saying he's massively under estimated the guile and sheer power that the law still exerts within the Establishment, it's curtains for Chris's prospects which can only be good news for us. A dirty business indeed - but hey ho!
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