‘Honoured that you are writing my father’s biography’ the late Tony Benn, ‘...wonderfully written’ Hilary Benn

‘Sparkles with fascinating detail…a remarkable story of Liberal and Labour politics in the first half of the twentieth century.’ Michael Crick, Political Correspondent, Channel 4 News

‘Casts much light both on the evolution of British radicalism, and on the legacy which he bequeathed to his son, Tony. Professor Vernon Bogdanor, King's College, London

‘Brilliant biography…wonderful reading about the father and...discovering more about the son.’ Steve Richards of The Independent

‘Well-written and carefully researched, this fascinating biography brings to life a major figure in British political history…an excellent job of weaving together the strands of a complex life…as well as filling in the background of the Benn family’ Richard Doherty, military historian

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Theresa May's Record

Theresa May has now become the longest continuously serving Home Secretary since Rab Butler, who was in office from January 1957 to July 1962. How significant is her record?

The Home Office is regarded as a risky portfolio, where there is always a danger of some high profile problem hitting the headlines. And the tabloids always take a particular interest in Home Office issues, such as police matters, immigration, asylum and passport delays. So, it is to Theresa May's credit that she is generally regarded as an assiduous minister and a safe pair of hands.

However, there are quite a few factors running in Theresa May's favour. All the top government ministers have remained in place through the whole of this parliament so far - David Cameron, Nick Clegg, William Hague, George Osborne and Theresa May.

As we have already had a female Home Secretary - Jacqui Smith - there is relatively little sexism in the coverage of Theresa May's work - by and large she is judged by her performance.

The removal of large parts of the Home Office portfolio of responsibilities to the Justice Department in 2005 took away the potentially-risky areas of prisons and probation, so there is slightly less to go wrong than there used to be. The abolition of hanging had already removed the danger of irreperable miscarriages of justice.

Conservative Home Secretaries have a slightly better record of longevity in office and in some ways the Conservatives have relatively less to prove to the electorate on issues such as crime and immigration, as the public generally believes that it is one of the party's stronger areas. Labour Home Secretaries often feel that they have to out-tough the Conservatives to prove their credentials. Also, by their very instinct, Conservatives are generally less minded to introduce radical reforms and hence avoid some of the self-inflcited problems, such as 90 day detention and identity cards.

So, what are the prospects for Theresa May's future career? Since 1908 three former Home Secretaries have gone on to the premiership - Asquith, Churchill and Callaghan. Three others came back for a second non-consecutive term - Samuel, Simon and, arguably the most effective of all, Jenkins.

Rab Butler, served as Home Secretary before and after the 1959 election. So, perhaps with an election looming what is in store for Theresa May could be just more of the same.

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