What do drones at airports, railway strikes and fare increases, dodgy Brexit ferry arrangements, and a 50% rise in crimes committed on parole all have in common? If you guessed it, all four are the handiwork of the current transport and former justice secretary Chris Grayling.
One gets the feeling that Chris Grayling is one of the few government ministers who would like us to focus slightly more on May’s end of the Brexit negotiations, even given his recent no-deal Brexit ferry blunder. Grayling’s predictions of a rise in right-wing extremism in the event of Britain remaining in the EU came at the same time as new figures for England and Wales, which showed that crimes committed on parole had spiked following Grayling’s reforms to probation work in 2014. His statements to the press today on his support for May’s deal also appear to be a distraction tactic, as he was forced to announce a few hours later that no technology currently exists to stop drone disruption at UK airports.
Chaos in the Department of Transport has peaked in the last month, but failings began much earlier in Grayling’s ministerial career. More than a hundred magistrates resigned after Grayling introduced court charges that were eventually quashed by his successor as Minister for Justice. More damning yet, he introduced rules in family courts that dictated that victims of domestic violence would be denied legal aid unless they could demonstrate that they had been targeted within the last five years, with the result that 40% of victims were unable to meet legal aid requirements.
The National Association of Probation Officers further stated that the outsourcing of work to private providers resulted in unbearable workloads for staff, with the result that serious offences committed whilst an offender was under supervision rose by 220 between the year before the 2014 reforms and this year ending in April. These serious offences included crimes such as rape and murder.
As anyone who relies on railway services will know, since Grayling became transport secretary in 2016 the state of the railways has spiralled into a crisis. The Department for Transport has attempted to blame the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union for the chaos that has seen 640 services cancelled daily in Britain. However, anyone who has travelled on a train late at night will also know that services would not be safe for passengers if guards were removed. In the month of October 2018 alone the British Transport Police recorded 4,714 sexual assaults on public transport, which would be set to increase along with other offences if guards were not present to intervene. Given that Grayling has shown himself to be willing to disrupt services for the sake of reducing passenger safety, it is insulting that his department has now imposed a 3.1% fare hike in England and Wales.
Given the severity of these failings, a moderate amount of criticism over his support for May might be considered a welcome relief for the Secretary for Transport. It is certainly testament to May’s desperation to remain in power that Grayling has been allowed to continue in his ministerial post. God alone can help us if he is given any broader responsibility in Brexit than negotiating the ferry contracts- it seems to be the only way that he could create a greater fiasco than those that he has already left behind him.