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Theresa May is winning the battle over the Brodie Clark case. But the one that really matters is the stuggle to control our borders.

By Paul Goodman
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The Times (£) headline below which Brodie Clark's evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee is reported today could be read to suggest sympathy for his case.

It reads: "I've been ruined, says ex-border chief." But the text below it contains a crucial paragraph:

"Mr Clark failed to produce any evidence to undermine the Home Secretary’s insistence that she never sanctioned the easing of border checks beyond an agreed pilot scheme."

Whether she did or didn't is the nub of this particular matter, and Theresa May is clearly winning the battle for public opinion in the Westminster village.  She will be more pleased by the Daily Mail's judgement that border chiefs acted behind her back than concerned about Mr Clark having his say in one of today's broadsheets - again, the Times, which also carries an editorial critical of the Home Secretary.

The paper's view is that May should have commissioned an enquiry rather than sacked Clark. Such a course would certainly have avoided any risk either of her being later judged to have acted improperly by a court, or of her being judged harshly by the civil servants who work for her.  But the crucial point in this business is that before yesterday the Home Secretary's word was being questioned.  This is so no longer.

If it sounds old-fashioned to say that I believe May is a woman of her word, so be it.  But what matters most isn't the tussle over who was telling the truth in this affair, but the struggle for the control of Britain's borders - and the view outside Westminster.  The row has been thoroughly bad for the Home Secretary in that it has reminded voters both that Border Force isn't fit for purpose, and raised questions about whether the Coalition can deliver the aim of reducing net immigration to the tens of thousands - especially since it can't control the outflow.


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