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Greasy Pole: Crispin Blunt

Greasy Pole

Blunt instrument of justice?

It did not need George Orwell's 1984 to make us aware that a system of privilege propagates itself through verbal distortions so that war is indeed peace, freedom slavery, ignorance strength and a Ministry of Truth conveyor-belts lies while our security depends on being watched by Big Brother. Consider, for example, this thing called “justice”. This is what people are supposed to “get” from a court if they breach the arrangements which are made to protect the pointedly weighted structure by which the lesser mass of people monopolise life's essentials and prevent access to them by the greater mass, no matter how acute their needs. A few years ago, when it was considered necessary for the long-established but mal-functioning Home Office to be split up there emerged from some part of it a new Ministry of Justice, with a number of Ministers to administer its affairs. What kind of match is there between these exalted personages and the protective concept of justice and how devotedly, effectively, do they nurture it in their work in government?

Reigate's Donkey
Step forward Crispin Blunt, since 14 May this year Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice responsible for, among other matters, prisons and probation. Since 1997 MP for Reigate, notably verdant even among Surrey's leafy constituencies. Educated at Wellington public school and Sandhurst with the inevitable commission in the Army which made him so attractive to the Tories in Reigate after they had de-selected Sir George Gardiner when his Eurosceptic ravings became too strident for them. After Gardiner, Blunt was soothingly reassuring; he was, as the chairman of the constituency Conservative Party put it, “...happily married with two children”. It was almost as if Blunt could have held that seat for as long as he wanted, growing stout and bald and querulous on the back benches – had he not revealed a tendency to become famous for particularly embarrassing gaffes. To begin with there was, even before he had been voted onto the green benches, his dismissive assessment of the local electors he hoped would put him there when he reckoned that “You could put up a donkey as the Conservative in Reigate and it would win” – tested out when Gardiner walked a donkey called Crispin along the High Street there. And after the donkey had duly taken his seat in the Commons his style of claiming expenses was shown to be not of the high standards expected of an officer and a gentleman as, after being told he could not claim for a second home because he lived there with his children he bought a larger place, claiming £16,000 for stamp duty and fees then a total of £87,728 second home expenses which included £417 for the repair of a water wheel.

Parties Inside
Meanwhile there was the work of administering the administration of justice whatever that meant. Somewhere along the line Blunt had become converted to the ideas now being espoused by his boss as Minister of Justice and Lord High Chancellor Kenneth Clarke. The theme of this is the “rehabilitation revolution” which is in fact driven by the need to manage reductions in budgets before any concern for helping prisoners to better cope with life outside the prison walls. In his first speech on the issue, Blunt outraged the tabloids by stating an intention to scrap a ban, imposed under Labour in 2008 after rumours circulated about a wild “ horror-themed fancy dress” party in a prison, on any further “inappropriate events”. Blunt described the ban in unparliamentary terms as “daft” – meaning unhelpful to the kind of “reforming” regime which prisons exist for – in theory at any rate. But in the predictable hysteria about murderers and rapists having obscene fun “at the taxpayers' expense” Blunt's intention was swept away – almost taking him with it under an effectively public reprimand from Number Ten. As a blunder it was on a par with the donkeys of Reigate. And how many more, his friends and enemies asked, would there be?.

Marriage
They did not have to wait long for an event which was more revealing – and thereby more damaging – than any blunder. Blunt's 20-year marriage must have been as comforting to the Reigate Tories as his love of cricket. Victoria Blunt is a daughter of a wealthy American family who abandoned her career as a banker to support him in his political ambitions. “She gave up everything for him” said one acquaintance “She is the perfect MP's wife and would attend every fete and garden party..” But this, as another put it, “...was all built on a lie” – which became clear in August when Blunt abruptly announced that he is gay and was leaving his family to “come to terms with my homosexuality”. In itself this was not particularly shattering but there was more to it for his stated opinions have not been noted for any relaxed attitude towards gays. He voted against giving them the right to adopt and against allowing lesbian couples equal access to IVF treatment. In 1998 he opposed a move to scrap the ban on openly gay men joining the armed forces, pronouncing that “Military ethos has been progressively undermined . Letting overt gays in is another stage in the process” and on another occasion he complained about “a much greater strand of homosexuality which depends for its gratification on the exploitation of youth”. Such views, although without any real supporting evidence, must have convinced many constituency Conservatives that they had chosen the right man to replace the reviled Gardiner.

It may be different now among the lawns and trees as around Westminster sharply dressed civil servants suck through the froth on their cappuccinos while offering the very lowest odds on Blunt being shaken out in Cameron's first re-shuffle. Blunt's wife was said to be “...completely traumatised”. Well, naturally. But did Mrs. Blunt's lucrative time as a banker not teach her anything about the ruthless cynicism essential to finance and commerce? Did her long intimacy with politician Mr. Blunt leave her vulnerably uneducated about the same atrocious features of capitalist politics? Does she now wonder about the nature of this thing called justice and why an exposed practitioner in deceit should have been in a position to inflict it on us?

IVAN