The well educated folk who occupy the front benches in the House of Commons appear as if they have seldom rubbed shoulders with reality, says Lord Maginnis of Drumglass
As a village schoolmaster for 23 years and an Army Major for 12 years I learnt a salutory lesson that seems to have eluded Her Majesty's Government in recent times – but then responsibility for the safety of a village Primary school and the lives of one's soldiers in Northern Ireland during the last third of the 20th century soon taught one that responsible 'Command' must precede effective 'Delegation'.
Hence, it astonishes me that, in latter years, the exceedingly well educated folk who occupy the front benches in the House of Commons appear as if they have seldom rubbed shoulders with reality. Ideas hatched in some intellectually gifted corner of the Palace of Westminster float through a maze of implementation levels that are ill-defined, largely disconnected and often wholly inefficient.
The Hofschroer case has been on my desk for several years now. A widow in her 80s was dispossessed of her home in a way that implies collusion between certain family members and the Social Services. A son who has come to the rescue has been harried by the North Yorkshire police (that particularly dubious constabulary merits careful investigation) to the extent that he and his aged mother have been pursued through an Interpol warrant to their "refuge" in Austria.
In my early Westminster days, almost 30 years ago, I could actually have placed a note on Mrs Thatcher's message board and within 72 hours, or sooner, I'd have been intercepted by the Lady, had an exchange and left knowing that the matter was resolved or that a minister had been delegated the task.
Now the Home Office, in a Parliamentary answer, indicates that it has no power to intervene (even when it given evidence of police corruption and harrassment). A face-to-face interview with a commissioner from the Police Complaints' Board provides the excuse that since there is also Social Services connivance in the matter he cannot deal with that side of things. The Home Secretary cares so deeply she refuses to even meet me.
Similarly in the case of Gary McKinnon, a once young man with Autism who 'hacked' the Pentagon's computers and whom the U.S. wants to extradite to its prison system where there are, conservatively 60,000 rapes per year. His defence over 10 years has cost his family their home, while we spend millions accommodating the Legal Rights of Abu Quatada. Gary is still left in limbo.
Truly, the right hand at the dispatch box doesn't know and doesn't seem to care what the left hand is doing.