Criminal Justice under the Coalition: Crispin Blunt MP

It is difficult to think of a greater contrast between two consecutive Justice Secretaries than Ken Clarke and Chris Grayling.  Their personalities, their professional background and their approach to politics contrast almost as much as the policy prescription and leadership they have brought to the role.  I am lucky enough to know them both well.

Chris is my Parliamentary neighbour and close contemporary, having been elected within 4 years of each other.  As a Cambridge educated, former BBC trainee TV producer turned management consultant, Chris seems the definitive modern serious politician.  Whilst initially attracted to the SDP, ideas are clearly very important to him.  His management of Liam Fox’s campaign for the leadership in 2005, coupled with his energetic development of the ‘Work Programme’ under Iain Duncan-Smith mark him out as a sober minded instinctive social conservative.   His rapid rise in Opposition owed much to his preparedness to embrace the “attack dog” role when discomforting stories for the Labour front bench would appear.  His calm, cool and, occasionally, taciturn public demeanour suited this role as Tory-inquisitor-in-chief.  He has brought these attributes to the role of Justice Secretary – in a marked contrast to his predecessor – to emphasise a renewed robustness in policy towards criminals.

Ken Clarke is three decades our senior in Parliament, if only two in life. However, the fully rounded and well lived life is the stuff of legend.  Before becoming his junior minister in 2010, I had spent half of the previous decade as his whip.  This was hardly onerous as Ken was not exactly managed on a short lead; indeed, any kind of leash would have been wholly self-defeating.  I hope I played a small but constructive part in getting him inside the Cameroon tent, particularly to help give authority to George Osborne’s economic message.

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