David Blackburn

Shoesmith strikes at Balls and executive power

Shoesmith strikes at Balls and executive power
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Sharon Shoesmith cut into Ed Balls on the Today programme this morning. She said:

"Why don’t we ask Ed Balls why he acted on November 12, 2008 when he knew for 15 months that Peter Connelly had died and I was working with his officials, I was going to the government office, they were reading the draft reports. Haringey council knew all about it. We examined the conduct of our social workers, we found a disciplinary against them, but they weren't sacked - all of that was open and clear and on the table and everyone knew everything about that. It wasn’t until the spat in the House of Commons when David Cameron taunted Gordon Brown that everything changed overnight. That is the one occurrence that changes all of this story."

The executive, in the person of Balls, then blundered. The Court of Appeal has corrected the unlawful termination of an employment contract. Shoesmith is entitled to compensation, however uncomfortable that may make one feel. Equally, Michael Gove is entitled to appeal the decision and the Supreme Court may well find the facts in his favour.

As James noted yesterday, Gove’s appeal is also intended to test the constitutional principles about the right of courts to challenge the government. Certainly, this government is being impeded on occasion by judicial activism, from prisoners’ votes to education reform. But, to my mind, the Shoesmith case does not fall into this category. If the government wants to make it easier to sack employees and ensure that they can’t receive vast compensation, then it should repeal the current laws on the statute book. However, if it were to do that, I suspect that you’d see a wave of resistance and not just from judges.

PS: During her interview, Shoesmith also challenged the conclusion of Ofsted's report. She said: "I'd already had Ofsted inspectors in the department during that year since Peter Connelly died. They had produced a report, they had judged social care to be good, because a child dying - and there is absolutely no sense that I don't take this very seriously -but a child dying does not equal a department in disarray...The inspectors were with me for four days and that paragraph was written the following week by a person who had never spoken to me...Ofsted inspection record of evidence does not match the published report."  There's more to this case than meets than eye. The appeal will be a very interesting process.