美高梅

Lord Irvine memo blames Tony Blair

时间:2019-10-08  作者:司城哓  来源:美高梅  浏览:179次  评论:110条

When unceremoniously sacked his first employer and patron, Derry Irvine, in 2003, the outgoing lord chancellor was deeply hurt. Despite his imposing physique and legal eminence, he bruises easily. But Irvine has stayed silent about the slight – until now.

In a memo about how he left office which surfaced yesterday, Lord Irvine reinforces previous evidence of the chaotic, even cavalier way Blair sometimes did important business – winging it on hunches, using inadequate advice and with scant regard for procedure.

Those tendencies may still be an issue as Blair seeks the EU presidency.

Goaded by the recent evidence of Lord Turnbull, the former cabinet secretary, to a Lords committee, Irvine complains that Blair's conduct was "insensitive, high-handed and incoherent" – and that the decision to dismiss him should have been taken in consultation with him, the judiciary and Buckingham Palace. Instead, he says, he was left to pick up press rumours.

After three stormy meetings – which Blair "dreaded", according to Alastair Campbell's diaries – Irvine's reluctant offer to handle the abolition of his 1,400-year-old office was rejected and he resigned.

Blair hadn't told him because he feared media leaks.

The truth about the botched reform – still holds the lord chancellorship to this day – is more complicated. Insiders say the fate of Irvine's office was incidental to Blair's chief concern: to make the criminal justice system faster and more efficient.

This meant removing a key obstacle to any reform of the old Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD): Irvine himself.

"Derry did some good things, but he could be very difficult. He blocked things," one colleague recalls. A frustrated Straw once complained that the pair had been through a more intense correspondence "than any since I was in love at 16".

That was not how it looked at the time – and not only to Irvine, a self-made Glasgow University lawyer and buddy of the late John Smith, who made him shadow lord chancellor in 1994. The fact that Irvine had hired both Blair and his future wife, Cherie, as pupil barristers – calling himself their "Cupid QC" – was incidental, though it added to Blair's act of patricide.

"I personally was cast aside for no good reason," Irvine wrote in his account to the Lords constitution committee, sent after Turnbull told the peers he had been consulted – "the trouble was he disagreed with it". He has chosen to break his silence now, he says, "to ensure the accuracy of the public record".

Much about Blair's informality and his impatience with the established machinery of government is known. It was famously excoriated as "sofa government" by the Butler inquiry into the "sexed-up" Iraq war intelligence. That 2003 controversy was breaking – absorbing far more attention – in the days before Irvine was replaced by the Blairite Lord "Charlie" Falconer, though had initially been pencilled in to drive reform.

Irvine complained about these cavalier procedures, but he also feared that the act of folding the LCD into a new Department of Constitutional Affairs (itself replaced by Straw's Ministry of Justice in 2007) was being botched.

As for the lord chancellorship, no fewer than 5,000 references to it exist in law, he protested. It would be difficult to unpick, as has been proved. Blair did not know this – it was not his primary concern.

Officials and ministers have a different perspective. Blair and , the then home secretary, wanted to unclog the courts and asylum system and to shake up the judiciary; Irvine blocked this, they say. What was needed was a "normal" modern department, "not one shrouded in ancient mystique".

But there was more to it than that. Reformers felt that there should be a supreme court (it finally opened last month), and that a cabinet minister – the lord chancellor – should no longer chair the , appoint judges or sit as a judge, as Irvine controversially did.

Both sides agree the issue was poorly handled and Irvine, admired for his radical work on devolution, freedom of information and the Human Rights Act – if not the work he did in his own department – was ill-used.

Irvine's replacement, Lord Falconer, came to regret his role, and Straw the break-up of the Home Office to create the Ministry of Justice.

"But the iron test is the counter-factual," says one player. "Would any sensible person now want to wind the clock back?"