The fact that some of the ex-cons who are foreign nationals have offended again should come as no surprise whatsoever: many convicted criminals re-offend after their release. It should be nothing more than expected. Nor is the fact of their re-offending in itself part of the scandal.

Furthermore, as has been said elsewhere, these thousand or so released offenders pose no greater or lesser threat to society than any other random thousand offenders. Their only difference is that they are not British citizens. Contrary to the belief, perhaps, of the Daily Mail and its readers, that does not inherently make them worse people — nor, indeed, any more likely to re-offend — than those of us who were born here.

That they should have been deported if the court specified that as part of their sentences is self-evident. As indeed is the fact that those who were released on licence should have been properly tracked by the appropriate authorities. These are problems in the systems for which the Home Office is responsible, and as such, they should be investigated and corrected.

The real scandal, though, is that the Home Secretary apparently did nothing to correct the problem after it had been identified: he is said to have known about it for some ten months, and only in the last week has he taken any action. And then only because a diligent opposition MP kept asking questions until he found out about it.

In a sense the actual problems are minor: the supposedly-lost offenders have been located by the Police and Parole Service. Most of them are now to be deported (which strikes me as verging on double jeopardy, since they have already done their time, but I wouldn’t expect this government to let a little thing like that bother them). Steps have been, or will be, put in place to prevent the same thing happening in future. If that proves not to be the case, there will be plenty of opposition MPs and journalists quick to point out that the problem still exists.

What we are seeing is largely an excuse for a mass exercise in xenophobia by the media: a depressing and frankly disgraceful display, which can only help to fuel the arguments of the vile BNP in tomorrow’s local elections.

And maybe that is why Clarke should go: for (inadvertantly) giving succour to fascists.

But if Blair did accept Clarke’s resignation, who would we get in his place? Whoever it was, I can’t imagine that they would be much better.

[tags]clarke, charles clarke, politics, deportation, foreign offenders, convicts, ex-cons, local elections[/tags]