Story of the day:
Ex-children’s services director Sharon Shoesmith says she is “thrilled” to have won a Court of Appeal battle over her sacking after Baby Peter’s death.
Judges said then education secretary Ed Balls and her employers, Haringey Council, had been “procedurally unfair” when they sacked her three years ago.
The education department and Haringey plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Not much surprise among informed circles, one feels. Despite the dissimulation of Ed Balls, the way the dismissal happened seemed guaranteed to ensure that, somewhere down the line, justice would be done. Even at the time, it felt like kicking the ball into the longest grass in sight.
The BBC’s Alison Holt, Social Affairs Correspondent, (on the same web-page) opens the can of worms:
Sharon Shoesmith was a Director of Haringey Children’s Services, a statutory role set up after the murder of Victoria Climbie more than a decade ago.
It aimed to place a line of responsibility drawn directly from the social worker visiting the child to the senior manager making decisions about the service.
There were undoubtedly serious mistakes made in the handling of Peter Connelly’s case, but those mistakes were made by many of the agencies involved.
In the white heat that the case created, Sharon Shoesmith has always said she became a convenient scapegoat.
When her head rolled, it is argued, it turned scrutiny away from others, including the then Secretary of State, Ed Balls.
Many senior managers who run children’s services will be very relieved by this ruling.
They claim the way in which Sharon Shoesmith was sacked did nothing to ensure people learnt from this tragedy.
What that hides (“the white heat”) is the unbridled ferocity of the red-top tabloids. The Sun in particular worked itself into paroxisms — Blood on their hands was the front-page screech — barely matched since Julius Streicher patented the art in Der Stürmer.
… the Sun newspaper delivered a petition and tens of thousands of letters to Downing Street, demanding Ms Shoesmith’s removal, with Mr Balls agreeing to be photographed receiving them gratefully.
Balls is now back in the spotlight, both fairly and unfairly. He was taking the only route possible at the time, but leaving scope for subsequent reversal. Malcolm is reminded of the Inquisitor’s cynical comment, towards the end of Shaw’s St Joan:
We have proceeded in perfect order. If the English choose to put themselves in the wrong, it is not our business to put them in the right. A flaw in the procedure may be useful later on: one never knows. And the sooner it is over, the better for that poor girl..
No one was more “political” in the Shoesmith business than David Cameron’s opportunist intervention at PMQs, against an unbriefed Gordon Brown. It was the lowest form of pupulism, but no more than we have learned to expect from that “gentleman”.
No one was more culpable than the Haringey LibDems, who illiberally and undemocratically, machinated to exploit the furore for by-election purposes. There was a disgraceful bullying of Labour Councillors, including (as one reliable report has it) the waving of a noose. To the fore in all of that, as photographs testify, was the LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.
So the most satisfying outcome would be at Home Office questions, with the junior Minister responding on a matter of “equalities”. Over to you, Ms Featherstone.
Now we await the lyrical reason of The Sun on the decision.