What does Rory Stewart’s time at the helm as prisons minister tell us about his fitness to lead the Conservative party and our country? In January last year, I wrote an open letter to his boss, Justice Secretary David Gauke with some thoughts on how to deal with Britain’s shameful prisons crisis.
In it, I referred to Gauke’s new prisons minister, who, ‘given his diplomatic experience in conflict zones, will know a bullshitter when he sees one, which can only be good news when he meets the people who are running the wreckage of our probation system.’
I was right about Stewart’s low tolerance for bureaucratic abstractions and managerial verbiage. The unfolding months saw a calm, determined but very focused coup that deposed dissembling mandarins and ensured direct ministerial control in an effort to try to restore order and control on prison landings.