The revelations by Mark Watts, editor of Exaro, that Theresa May, the home secretary, is considering scrapping the newly set up independent panel will have more implications than many survivors can possibly imagine. It will go much further than the anguish shown by panel member and survivor Sharon Evans, whose heartfelt views are reflected in her letter revealed in the Exaro piece.
Survivors who campaigned for a clean break hope for a new judge led inquiry or Royal Commission compelling everybody to give evidence which will solve all their problems and produce ” an all singing,dancing ” result. Some of them don’t want anybody on the panel at all.
What they are not aware is that a political decision to reshape the inquiry is now competing with a now much bigger political issue: The General Election. It will be the perfect storm for further inaction.
From next month any statement made by a politician will be about positioning themselves for winning the next general election not about the good of governing the country.
To deal with everything the campaigners want Theresa May has only until March 26 to sort out appointing a new chair, further advisers and staff. After that Whitehall runs the country – politicians are in purdah – and cannot make any controversial appointments or decisions.
There are over 100 applications for the chair and candidates will now obviously want to know what exactly they are being appointed to – is it a panel, a judicial inquiry or a Royal Commission? There is also now huge disruption to the work of the panel, the secretariat, who don’t know where they stand. I have heard that at least two other members of the panel – and not the people the noisy survivors have targeted – may well quit because of potential damage to their reputations and won’t want anything to do with it. There is a real danger that people may think it is so toxic that no one will want to be appointed to do the job.
This means it is will be a very tall order to do this by March 26. But that is minor compared to the storm on the way – the general election campaign.
As a seasoned political journalist I am aware that we face an extraordinary and unprecedented campaign. None of the two main parties – Conservative and Labour look like securing an overall majority. The Lib Dems- the third major party of the 2010 election- face potential oblivion.
The only parties who really connected with the electorate in the last year were UKIP, the Scottish Nationalists and the Greens who could all gain seats next May but not enough to form a government. Cameron will not replicate Thatcher’s 1983 victory and Ed Miliband will not replicate Blair’s 1997 landslide.
So what will happen in May is that NO party will have an overall majority and NO new government will be able to take difficult decisions. Furthermore all three main parties could be plunged into distracting leadership battles- with Cameron,.Miliband and Clegg toppled while new rivals ( in the Tories case, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, George Osborne and Theresa May herself competing for the top job).
Then it is likely to be a SECOND general election under new leaders probably in October or November – while the big parties try again for a majority.
Why does this apoplectic vision affect what happens to the CSA inquiry? Simple really, if it is not finally settled by March nobody is going to bother to set up another inquiry – because they will be too distracted with leadership in fighting and trying to survive on a day-to-day basis to have time.
So all the work will be a waste of time. Paedophiles will be laughing all the way to the brothel knowing that the overarching inquiry into their activities will not take place. The police will be let off the hook because they won’t have to be accountable to an inquiry now. The big losers would be survivors themselves – once again denied a national platform. That’s why I think to scrap the whole thing now will be bad, mad and sad.