"Panic on the streets of London, Panic on the streets of Birmingham, I wonder to myself, Could life ever be sane again?" So the song went. Now I don't think the Smiths had Lord Falconer and the Ministry of Justice in mind when they wrote these lyrics, but there is a certain aptness to them that allows them to be applied perfectly. When it was announced that the Home Office would be transferring its "justice" element over to the Department for Constitutional affairs creating the MoJ, Lord Falconer's heart must have missed a beat and he would have probably broken out in to a cold sweat. As far as poison challises go, only the Department of Health could lay claim to having a more intoxicating strain of venom contained within it. And oh how Lord Falconer must be thanking his lucky stars he is a staunch Blairite (ex-flatmate no less) and that, like The DoH's Patricia Hewitt, will not be allowed near a Brown cabinet. Some other fool will be left with the misery that awaits the MoJ.
Within only a few weeks of the transfer of the portfolio, the DoJ has had to deal with record high prison numbers, the controversial early release of prisoners, there are judges threatening revolt, terror suspects have escaped back in to the community - there virtually is panic on the streets. How can life ever be sane again? Well, Lord Falconer is more concerned with the big issues, namely Morris dancing. A newly formed Morris dancing team is making their debut at Hackney church fête in East London on July 7. The team is made up of officials in the newly formed Ministry of Justice, including Nick Goodwin, a senior Falconer official, Tim Stamp, the head of statistics, on the violin, and Eirian Walsh-Atkins, of the information rights division, on the squeezebox. And the name of this dancing band, the likes of which, I have little doubt, would clean up on "Britain's Got Talent" - "The Lord Chancellor's Men".
The problem is Nick Goodwin isn't sure if they are allowed to use their bosses name for such a public event. No problem, with it being such a quiet time for the department they managed to find enough hours to put together a two page "submission" to his boss. The Times describes it as "worthy of Whitehall officialdom at its best". The detail in the report does indeed look extraordinary; in fact it looks as if they having nothing better to do! Instead of just going up to Falconer and saying, "Listen boss, I know it's unlikely but at the weekend's me and the lads, we like to do a bit of Morris dancing and we've decided that we want to name our team after you - is that alright?" They went ahead and wrote a report including an outline of the issue, recommendation, background, and consideration and handling of such a delicate matter of state.
One official responded to the report, at a time when 25,000 prisoners are getting early release, as "Morris dancing while Rome burns". It appears that life is anything but sane within the walls of our newest government department, the Ministry of Justice.