Five Of Chris Grayling's Greatest Hits In Westminster

Yes, there's been *another* blunder.
Jack Taylor via Getty Images

Oh, Chris Grayling. It barely seems five minutes since the beleaguered transport secretary was at the centre of *that* Seaborne Freight debacle. (You know, the time he handed a £14m ferry contract to a company with no ferries.)

And yet he is already back in the headlines – this time for a decision he made way back in 2014.

Grayling – who was justice secretary at the time – introduced a major shake-up of the probation system, handing the supervision of low and medium risk offenders to private companies.

But the part-privatisation didn’t go *exactly* to plan. A National Audit Office report published in March found that the move had not only cost taxpayers almost £500m, but that the number of offenders returning to prison for breaching their licence conditions had “sky-rocketed”.

Current justice secretary David Gauke announced plans on Thursday to renationalise the system, admitting that the current framework “isn’t working”. (Ouch.)

But it’s not the first time Grayling has looked far from “strong and stable”.

Here’s HuffPost UK’s handy reminder of a handful of Grayling’s greatest gaffes during his time in Westminster.

The ‘Dannatt Incident’

Back in 2009, Grayling set toes curling when he suggested Labour’s decision to make former Army leader General Sir Richard Dannatt a peer was a “political gimmick”... only to realise later it was his own party who made the call.

“We have seen too many appointments to this government of external people where its all been about Gordon Brown’s PR,” he lambasted in an interview with the BBC.

A shame-faced Grayling, who was shadow home secretary at the time, later claimed he had “misheard the question”, adding that he was “really delighted” it was actually a Conservative appointment.

“I wish I’d known beforehand - it’s a bit embarrassing really, because I’d have liked to give General Dannatt a more enthusiastic welcome.”

The Accidental Call-Up

While it wasn’t actually Grayling’s fault, it would be remiss to forget the time the Tories accidentally named him as party chair in a bungled cabinet reshuffle announcement.

The tweet from Conservative HQ was deleted just seconds later, with Brandon Lewis announced as taking over the role.

But that didn’t stop gaffe-loving reporters from revelling in the mistake.

While the FT’s Jim Pickard congratulated Grayling for avoiding “any major scandals” during his short-lived tenure, Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff asked whether it was “too soon to talk of a legacy”.

The Time He Revealed His TV Habits

Grayling raised eyebrows during his time as shadow home secretary when he compared “broken Britain” to cult HBO TV show The Wire, which famously focused on the gritty underworld of Baltimore’s drugs scene.

Politicians and local police in the Moss Side district of Manchester, which he compared to the Maryland city, we less than pleased and the MP was accused of trying to make himself “sound cool” after he argued that the UK was fighting the same “urban war” as the US when it came to gang culture and street violence.

The Wire used to be just a work of fiction for British viewers. But under this government, in many parts of British cities, The Wire has become a part of real life in this country too,” he said in a speech attacking the then-Labour government in 2009.

When He ‘Misread’ The Situation

In 2014, then-justice-secretary Grayling was accused of banning books for inmates after new prison policies stopped people from sending them to their loved ones behind bars.

High-profile authors including Philip Pullman and Mark Haddon rallied against the decision, with Pullman calling it “one of the most disgusting, mean, vindictive acts of a barbaric government”.

Author Philip Pullman was *not* happy
Author Philip Pullman was *not* happy
Dylan Martinez / Reuters

Grayling denied the charge, saying inmates could still use prison libraries or buy books with money they made from prison jobs.

The rules were later relaxed, with inmates allowed to receive books from family and friends through approved retailers, after a High Court judge ruled the policy was unlawful.

The Badly-Timed Door Opening

Less than six months into his tenure as Transport Secretary, Grayling knocked an unsuspecting cyclist off his bike as he opened the door of his ministerial car outside the Palace of Westminster.

Jaiqi Liu was left shocked and suffered pain to his back, legs and head after the incident in December 2016.

At the time, Grayling’s spokesperson said he immediately went to check if the rider was all right and apologised to him.

Footage obtained by the Guardian showed the minister bending over and putting his hand on Mr Liu’s shoulder and speaking to him as he sat on the pavement where he landed. The pair then shook hands.


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