Brodie Clark and Theresa May - What Happens Next?
Brodie Clark will no doubt be quite satisfied with his attempts to demolish the credibility of Theresa May during his appearance before the Home Affairs Committee over the UK Border fiasco. Because that's exactly what he feels the home secretary has done to him, after forty years of unblemished public service. We don't need to guess at that, because that's exactly what he told MPs on Tuesday.
On the face of it we're looking at a her-word-against-his kind of row going forward, with the incoming UK Border Agency chief executive Rob Whiteman understandably siding with the government line, not Brodie Clark's. There are questions remaining for all three antagonists in this, though, and some of them will take a while to answer.
For Theresa May there are questions of integrity and competence. The integrity aspects will be difficult to get at, unless every single report sent to her by Brodie Clark during the pilot scheme at the UK Border Force over the summer is published by the government.
Brodie Clark claims he sent Theresa May a comprehensive report every week during the pilot scheme, the terms of which he is alleged to have violated and exceeded.
What we have learned is that there were two scenarios when passport checks were relaxed. Firstly a limited pilot scheme authorised by Theresa May which was designed to lead to a more intelligence-led approach to border security.
Then there is a second, and more long running scenario, which kicks in when arrivals halls are, frankly, full to bursting. This sees some aspects of the checks being suspended because otherwise the arrivals halls would be so crowded it would present a health and safety issue. When arrivals halls are getting too crowded (and we all know they do, a lot), Brodie Clark decided that the fingerprint checks were the first to be dispensed with, because he felt these checks were the least likely to flag up high-risk passengers.
This is where the questions of competence kick in. If those reports show that Clark had informed Theresa May that the fingerprint checks had been relaxed over the summer - and we now know that it was specifically the relaxation of the fingerprint checks which led to his suspension from work - then Theresa May's argument falls flat on its face.
It is obvious that these fingerprint checks were suspended at numerous points over the summer, during the period when the pilot scheme was running but not specifically under the auspices of that pilot scheme.
However the question for Theresa May to answer is why, if that were the case, wasn't she told about them, and if ministers were so keen to ensure that the waiving of fingerprint checks shouldn't be part of the pilot scheme, why are they cancelled so regularly on health and safety grounds?
The second issue is much more of a Westminster-bubble story, and that surrounds the suspension of Brodie Clark. He claims he was offered retirement with a substantial severance package, but this was later withdrawn. The new head of the UK Border Agency Rob Whiteman says no retirement package was formally offered, only discussed. According to Clark, emails exist which apparently disprove Whiteman's version of events, but these are locked in at the Home Office.
There is clearly a paper trail which has the potential to prove one side of this story. The question now is whether the Home Office will sit on it, and wait for the internal investigation to complete - Whitehall speak for kicking it into the long grass. If they do this, they'll come under pressure from MPs from all parties on the Home Affairs Committee to release them.
Chances are that they'll just leak. Watch this space.