Pick of the Week: Scottish conspiracy theories
Our top five most read articles this week.
The search to find a replacement to Nick Hardwick as chief inspector of prisons is proving as controversial as his exit from the job. Hardwick felt hounded out of the job because he was too critical of the government. Now the process by which his successor is appointed – and in particular who sits on the selection panel – is coming under scrutiny. In the meantime, time was running out for the Ministry of Justice.
Continuing the above story – rather conveniently for this newsletter – came Thursday's development that Chris Grayling had pre-empted a critical report from the Commons' justice committee. Sir Alan Beith and co weren't even told that two members of the selection panel for the chief inspector job were active Conservatives. This story is now getting so bad it may result in changes to the rules governing ministerial appointments.
The week began with embarrassment for the Conservative party chairman, whose concession that his denial of having had a second job had been "over-firm" introduced a new phrase to the lexicon of lying. Grant Shapps' bad day had been coming for some time – he'd been running away from this one, on occasion literally, for years. The expectation in Westminster is that while he can't be jettisoned so close to a general election, Shapps might be for the exit door as soon as the campaign is over.
Weird, reassuring, troubling – the Commission on Sex in Prison's report contained a whole range of findings. Like the time when officers gave an inmate porn instead of a Bible "to help you get to sleep". Or the prisoner unsure of his sexuality who was moved to a cell containing an openly gay man to help him "sort himself out". We picked out the most jaw-dropping highlights.
Let's face it – what's going on north of the border could end up resulting in such a dramatic transformation of Scottish MPs that the nationalists end up deciding who actually gets into Downing Street. Labour is on the defensive and doesn't seem to have much of an answer – an impression reinforced by Douglas Alexander's comments about "angry" nationalist voters earlier this week. He says conspiracy theories about the result of the referendum aren't helping his party's cause, asking: "How do we engage with a very rapidly changing media landscape in which facts are not common and people have their own facts?" That is the question Labour must find a decent answer to before May 7th.