Her performance at the Home Office has been dire. She is regularly found to be out her depth at the Despatch Box. She was almost rendered speechless when trying to defend the Government's position on the Nat West Three, so much so that Tory MPs backed off as they felt sorry for her.
The truth is, she should never have been put in this position. One glance at her CV would have demonstrated that she should not be in charge of a whelk stall, let alone be a Minister at the Home Office. She has been almost criminally negligent in her management, or should I say non-management in this case. In two separate interviews on Sky News she denied ever having received a letter from ACPO and said that had she done so she would of course have alerted the Home Secretary. It emerged that she herself had indeed replied to the ACPO letter, although it seems that the most charitable interpretation is that she signed the letter without reading it, or the ACPO original letter, first. Lamentable.
In the Sunday Telegraph today Michael Howard has written a superb ARTICLE in which he says...
Acpo wrote to the Home Office months ago asking for the funding it needed to deal with the problem. The letter was sent to Tony McNulty, the minister responsible for the foreign prisoners fiasco, who had, astonishingly, kept his job when Charles Clarke lost his. Joan Ryan replied to Acpo's letter. Joan Ryan, you will remember, is the minister who went on Radio 4's Today programme to say she knew nothing whatever about the problem. Yet the letter from Acpo to which she replied not only identified that problem clearly, it also specifically suggested that "this is something which the Home Secretary might want to be briefed about". It is hardly rocket science to suggest that when the Association of Chief Police Officers writes to a minister, the minister concerned should read the letter; when a minister replies to the Association, she should read the letter above her signature; and when the Association suggest that the Home Secretary be briefed about something… he should, indeed, be briefed. Yet in this case, apparently, the Home Secretary was never even shown the letter. Ministers have no recollection of it and the request for funding was refused, so we are told, by officials alone. If all this is true, one has to ask the question: how could that possibly have happened? Was it because this famously "hands on" minister had given the impression to his junior ministers and his officials that matters of this kind were beneath him and not sufficiently important to justify his personal attention? To me, no other explanation makes sense. But if that is the explanation, then John Reid is every bit as responsible as he would be if he had seen the letter, refused the funding and himself decided to let the files gather dust. The whole sorry saga is perhaps the final nail in the coffin of any lingering Labour claim to competence on criminal justice issues.