Fury as Boris Johnson appoints the 'worst cabinet minister ever' to crucial national security job

Moya Lothian-McLean@moya_lm
Friday 10 July 2020 08:00
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Related video: Michael Portillo describes Chris Grayling as 'the most incompetent minister of all time'(Getty)

By now, the UK is used to the government saying one thing and doing another.

Which is why a recent speech by minister Michael Gove about only promoting “experts” to key roles has quickly been questioned, especially after David Frost – a man with no security experience – was handed the role of UK national security advisor last month.

Fast forward to now and it’s happened again – only this time the man in question being handed a plum security job has been described as “the worst minister in history”.

Chris Grayling, the former transport and justice secretary has been nominated by Boris Johnson to head up the Information and Security Committee (ISC), a powerful body that oversees MI5, MI6 and GCHQ and is in charge of the very delayed Russia Report, promised before the election.

The ISC has now not sat for an unorthodox seven months. According to The Guardian, this is because Johnson’s pick of Grayling led to “months of wrangling as the Tories searched for colleagues willing to vote for him”.

Reassuring.

Perhaps this is due to Grayling’s track record, which social media users are now furiously recounting upon hearing he’s about to clinch this new role.

During Grayling’s first stints as a cabinet minister, he pushed through cuts to legal aid funding that have closed “hundreds” of law firms and was accused of using “bluff and bully” to get his way.

Then there was the 2014 ban on prisoners receiving books in the post, a piece of policy Grayling spent £72,000 of taxpayers' money on defending in court before it was declared unlawful by a judge.

And what about his “disastrous” attempt to privatise the probation system, that finally ended with the government fully re-nationalising it this year?

Or blocking an inquiry into sexual assaults in prisons because “prisoners aren't going to have sex on my watch”. Which belies a worrying misunderstanding of the issue.

But Grayling upped his game as transport secretary.

There were the new rail timetables in summer 2018 that resulted in hundreds of cancelled trains, “ghost trains” and horrific disruption for one in five commuters.

Which it turned out that Grayling had been warned of far in advance of them coming into effect and took zero responsibility for.

As transport secretary, Grayling oversaw a litany of other costly and bizarre measures, like cancelling the electrification of the Great Western Railway, the furore over extending Virgin’s West Coast rail franchise contract while aware its East Coast franchise was about to be returned to public ownership and selling off Network Rail’s railway arches – resulting in small business owners being saddled with new landlords and sky-rocketing rent.

Oh and there was the Brexit Ferry disaster, where he granted a no-deal Brexit ferry contract… to a company that didn’t own any ships.

An investigation by Byline Times estimated the cost of Grayling’s mistakes during his tenure as transport secretary alone to be somewhere in the region of £3.5bn.

Which is probably why everyone is so furious he’s about to be handed another high-profile role.

Still, some are looking on the bright side.

Sigh.

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