We hear so much about our “open” border that we think we own the issue and it’s nice to learn we don’t. It’s also nice to realize that amidst all the cut throat political maneuvering here in the US that we are still just a colony where real political tit-for-tat is concerned.
David Cameron’s fraying Conservative/Liberal coalition government is being rocked again this week by a new “scandal”, involving the relaxation of border screening regulations in the UK. The UK Border Agency, with the agreement of cabinet-level Home Secretary Theresa May, instituted a pilot program to speed up entry during the summer rush. It deserves to be mentioned that no incidents, criminal or otherwise, have been identified as a result of the program. In fact, the Guardian reports that the arrest rate increased by 10% as a result of the targeted approach. It seems that no good deed goes unpunished.
The British Press seems to show an amazing and dogged capacity to take up an issue and flog it until it dominates all public discourse, which sometimes is a very good thing. The MP spending scandal and the demise of Murdoch’s News of the World because of phone hacking are the most recent examples of their ability to markedly control Parliament through relentless coverage and reporting.
When you like the outcome, as in Cameron on the hot seat again, it’s hard not to cheer but this latest attack appears to have gone very much awry as May, the Home Secretary, has tactlessly blamed a senior civil servant for the alleged offenses and Labour appears to be piling on. The long term results could be most unfortunate.
It’s reminiscent of the current situation here in the US where Representative Darrel Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley are conducting a scorched earth policy with the US Justice Department over the ATF’s “Operation Fast and Furious.” Perhaps here such grand-standing shenanigans are muted by the size of the federal enterprise.
But, here or there, the effects are the same–professional civil servants come to realize that at the end of the day they are nothing more than pawns in a political game, able to be sacrificed at the drop of a hat. That may work as a political tactic at Westminster or on the Hill but it’s a rotten way to protect the public interest.