Like Iain Dale, I am somewhat surprised that Keith Vaz has beaten Alun Michael to the chairmanship of the Home Affairs Select Committee, by the fairly wide margin of 336 votes to 242.

I’m not interested in slagging Keith Vaz off generally. But I do think MPs ought to have thought him disqualified for this office by his astonishing performance over the Damian Green affair, in which he made a public statement minimising the responsibility of ministers for bringing the police in, in spite of evidence his own committee heard and in spite of the fact that Jacqui Smith, in fairness to her, never denied her own responsibility. I suggested at the time that we needed an inquiry into Keith Vaz. It seems amazing that MPs, presumably including some Conservatives, now think him the man to lead scrutiny of Home Office ministers including Damian Green.

They had a good alternative in Alun Michael, who’s been a Home Minister himself in the past and sat in Cabinet; I’d certainly have voted for him, of these two. He has good reason to feel unlucky in his political career; he must once have hoped to be Home Secretary himself in time, but was damaged by being put up briefly as Tony Blair’s “stop Rhodri Morgan” man in Wales.

Perhaps it’s excessively cynical of me, but Alun Michael is a pretty tough, old-fashioned right-wing Labour home affairs man, in the Jim Callaghan-Merlyn Rees mode. Might the Conservative whips have thought him a more formidable scrutineer of their policies than Vaz, from a crime-fighting rather than a civil liberties point of view?

More sensibly, Alan Beith was unopposed as chair of the Justice Committee; Graham Allen was elected chair of the “Political and Constitutional Reform” committee, which will be important in this Parliament.

I note there’s no committee scrutinising the Attorney General’s Office. I’ll be pleased if reform of the Attorney’s “role” is now quietly forgotten. But a committee is one innovation that really might make sense.

2010-06-10T17:29:40+00:00Tags: , , |