14 Jul 2014

Theresa May on Butler-Sloss

If Baroness Butler-Sloss came to the conclusion that her relationship to her brother meant she couldn’t chair the investigation into child abuse why couldn’t the Home Office see that?

That was a question asked in various ways of the Home Secretary Theresa May today at the home affairs select committee.

Her answer was carefully phrased, somewhat opaque and, as is her wont, relentlessly repeated. She’ll have to find a more direct voice if she wants to steal the crown of party leadership one day.

Of course, she said repeatedly, “it was known” that Lord Havers, the former Attorney General, was Baroness Butler-Sloss’s brother (not clear in that wording if “it was known” to Theresa May herself). Her decision on appointing Baroness Butler-Sloss though was based on whether she was a figure of integrity and not (by implication though not explicitly stated) what she might consider extraneous material.

Every time Theresa May was asked to address why the Home Office hadn’t avoided this mess and a failed appointment, she ducked and hid behind Elizabeth Butler-Sloss’s awesome and widely acclaimed integrity.

One Whitehall hand suggested what we’d seen here with the Butler-Sloss appointment saga was a symptom of the Home Office juggling too many things at the same time and dropping one – delayed passports, data retention, the loss of a special adviser in addition to the child abuse allegations.

Many have talked about the haste involved in the appointment, maybe in part dictated by the desire to get a name of an investigation chief out there before the department’s permanent secretary appeared in front of the home affairs select committee last week.

One source speculated to me that the strained relationship between No. 10 and the home secretary may have contributed to the mess. The home secretary keeps things “very tight” in a small circle of trustees, the source said. “There is dialogue between no. 10 and the Home Office but it is as little as possible,” allowing for misunderstandings to arise.

Whoever was meant to do the due diligence may have rushed the job, not flagged stuff up or been over-ruled. It certainly wasn’t difficult to do. You only have to go six lines into Baroness Butler-Sloss’s Wikipedia entry to see who her brother was and that should’ve triggered a couple more searches and at least a giant question mark.


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6 reader comments

  1. Philip Denner says:

    The selection of this former jusdge will have been done with a view to the required outcome not her impeccable credentials. They want someone who will at least appear to get to the truth but will not do so in a way which shows the political establishment in the clear light of day. It is the way the job is always done to protect those in power from those who might collectively decide to hang them from lamp posts. Great sums of money are spent on these manoeuvres not to expose but to reveal only so much as can be revealed without putting the whole edifice in danger. Lord Leveson, for example, assumed that there is a free press to protect when in fact, there is a corporate press which slants and modifies facts to present the world as the newspaper owners want it to be preceived. But to acknowledge or even discuss that would have destroyed one of our great collective myths.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    “…why couldn’t the Home Office see that?…”

    Well, try this one on:

    Senior civil servants are part of the establishment too.

    Treezer May?….The London tory equivalent of J. Danforth Quayle. A bad joke.

  3. Jon Lisle-Summers says:

    This beginning to look as if one part of government is stitching up another.

  4. j.pilsbury says:

    just another example of the reflex tendency of our rulers to support the status quo without regard to the possible victims.

  5. Maria Lester says:

    I was watching Channel 4 news and was very aware of the difference in thinking between left and right in almost every topic. Microsoft MSN had a poll before the World cup asking who we would support and they were so amazed when almost 80% chose Germany that they had to do it again. Your presenter on the 7pm news today had almost the same attitude that because of a war more than 50 years ago it should still be uppermost in people’s mind, he was interviewing a German presenter.

    The right is not stuck in the past with old gripes. The BBC (your dopplegangers) could not for the life of them understand why so many people turned out for the Tour de France. They did not stage it ITV did and BBC said why would people want to watch a parade of single cyclists – wrong – (they should have at least watched, there were hundreds of cyclists and hundreds of thousands of spectators – why? – not rocket science, they were enjoying the sunshine and the excitement of the worlds best cyclist competing in the largest bike ride in the world. Come on lefties, stop being so negative and come up to the 21st century. Not everything is doom and gloom despite your scaremongering.

  6. abimanu says:

    In order to have an impartial result, the solution would be to appoint a non-conservative retired judge who would not protect any of the big, mostly of the upper class, so that the people would know who were those making an abuse of their status in life at that time.

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