The passports thing is an amazing nonsense, and symptomatic of worse. Let's start with the present furore. Isn't Teresa May on serious manoeuvres to be next leader of the Tory Party ? Doesn't every ambitious minister ask their Permanent Secretary to keep them fully apprised on all the known bear-traps that can swallow them up out of a clear blue sky** ? Doesn't everyone over the age of (say) 35 recall the previous passport chaos which came to a head in (IIRC) 2001-ish ?
For the record, that previous episode was solved comprehensively - presumably by the application of an appropriate amount of political will and, yes, resources (of whch a good project manager was probably the most important). I had to renew mine in late 2001, by which time the system was working brilliantly; and then again in 2011, when I renewed by post and it came back so quickly I could scarcely believe it. So it's been working fine until quite recently, at least as a mechanistic process.
We therefore conclude that, as well as May taking her eye off the ball, some idiot civil servant has taken resources off the job. I'm guessing that demand for passports has increased steadily with the
decade's worth of massive immigration; though it's not obvious to me why
this should have mushroomed since my good experience in 2011. We can't rule out dumb-insolent sabotage by the Yes-Minister brigade, of course (you want cuts, Home Secretary? Leave it to us.) Though that still doesn't explain May's indolence in her own cause.
But there's a bigger point, signalled by the important (though hardly surprising) Grauniad revelation that staff processing passport applications were told to relax checks in order to speed the plough.
We know that's also how lengthening airport queues have been handled in the past: and from my vantage point of local politics (with the biggest Home Office processing unit based in the centre of my manor), I can assure you it's par for the course. Other examples: staff in many parts of the civil service that need to deal with passports and other forms of ID are left completely up in the air when dealing with documents not written in Roman script (which is of course rather a lot of the world's itinerant population these days) so they just nod them through none the wiser; occasional spot-checks reveal there is rampant personation in citizenship exams, many of which are written papers or computer-based tests.
But nobody cares enough to put two and two together. A big chunk of unwanted immigration (see all main political parties) could be switched off at the drop of a hat by simple attention to these details. Are minor budgetary savings more important than this ? I'd have thought this was 'flagship policy' stuff: Labour, yes Labour, are making hay with the Tories' failed promise to reduce immigration substantially.
One way and the other, Teresa May has really screwed up. Doubtless, Genius Osborne thinks this is all just fine and dandy, and his path to the top is all the clearer. I'd say it disqualifies both of them.
** yeah, mixed metaphors, I know