Norman Baker, conspiracy theories and Theresa May

Norman BakerNick Clegg’s decision to reshuffle Jeremy Browne out of the Home Office and Norman Baker in has triggered a mini-furore, with plenty on the authoritarian right outraged at his appointment to the Home Office given he’s the author of a book suggesting MI5 covered up the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.

The best riposte I’ve seen has been from Jonathan Calder over at Liberal England:

Some will question Norman’s conspiracy theories about the death of David Kelly. To that, I would merely point out that in an age of Prism and Tempora, it is the state that is paranoid not its citizens.

Though I was also struck by Simon Mason’s tweet pointing out that the right is a bit less outraged by Owen Paterson’s preference for beliefs over science:

For the record, I haven’t read Norman Baker’s book and am in no position to judge if it strays into the realm of ‘conspiracy theory’. From what I have read, such as non-conspiracy theorist Professor Alastair Hay’s comments here, there appear still to be a number of questions left hanging from the Hutton inquiry. I’ve certainly heard of worse ideas than having inquisitive ministers who are deeply sceptical of the government inside the Home Office. There’s only one way Norman will be able to prove the doubters wrong, though, and that’s by doing a good job.

In the meantime, every Lib Dem and the vast majority of liberals will be cheered up by this newspaper headline

baker - may - oct 2013

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • In the run up to the next general election, this will be a very hot seat. There will be huge pressure on Norman Baker to accept illiberal policies. Most of the media, large sections of the Labour party , UKIP and the strategists in Tory high command will be pushing for all sorts of anti-liberal measures. The very groups that would dismiss this comment as a conspiracy theory in itself.

    Norman Baker will need to be very tough minded. However he has one major trick to play and that is a critical respect for evidence. I wish him good luck and hope he can leave a recognisably Liberal legacy.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 8th Oct '13 - 5:39pm

    If his appointment upsets Theresa May it’s obviously the correct appointment!

  • All I want to say is a big well done to Nick Clegg for appointing Norman to the Home Office – a liberal/Liberal voice in a sea of reaction led by Mrs May – one of the most reactionary Home secys. we have had in many many years; Norman will be a truly mitigating voice and hopefully will influence the Department in not negating human rights and civil liberties by keeping us part of all Human Rights treaties & staying within the European .

    He did well in transport but he must resist the reactionaries in his new office – pity May herself could not have been replaced by Norman! Now that would be a breath of fresh liberal air!

    He is a natural successor to Roy Jenkins – our last liberal/Liberal home Secy!

  • Chris Huhne says in yesterday’s Guardian that ministers were not told of Prism or Tempora. Why not? That sounds remarkably like a conspiracy to built a secret state. We need a ferret in the Home Office to make the fur fly over this, not someone who is wilfully blind.

  • Stephen Donnelly 8th Oct '13 - 11:36pm

    David Orr “He is a natural successor to Roy Jenkins – our last liberal/Liberal home Secy!”. I don’t go along with that, Norman Baker is not the new messiah, just a very naughty boy,but that is no bad thing.

    Still amused by the tweet repeated at the end of the Today Programme from some unknown (to me at least) Tory that these attacks against Norman Baker seem remarkably well co-ordinated.

  • Oh for goodness sake, it’s not (just) that Baker is a conspiracy theorist that is the problem, after all, most of us believe things that are off kilter with reality, it’s that his conspiracy theory covers a conspiracy in the department he is now working in.

    His officials, and May, will consider him a joke, journalists and newspapers already do. Not only will he have no respect, because his understanding is so odd he risks doing real damage to the Home Office and no doubt every cock up that can be pinned on him, will be.

    It’s like putting somebody who believes that HIV does not cause AIDS in the Department of Health, or somebody who believes global warming is a conspiracy in charge of energy policy.

    A sick joke.

  • Simon Banks 9th Oct '13 - 9:38am

    g’s comment is over the top. This is the Norman Baker who when in opposition was headhunted by civil servants to teach junior civil servants about the art of asking searching parliamentary questions and how to respond to them. He certainly isn’t a sick joke,

    g does have a point that the main controversy about his views is about the department to which he has been appointed. But is our political system really so inflexible that someone who stirs up controversy can never be appointed in that area? Suspicions about the death of David Kelly were by no means restricted to the fringe.

  • Nick O'Shea 9th Oct '13 - 10:24am

    At last, a proper Liberal at the Home Office – no wonder May is reported to be less than totally happy!
    I wish Norman the best of luck. He will have a challenging up-hill task as he struggles against an entrenched but incompetant establishment (vide the latest disclosures re so called border controls). To be able to stop things getting any more illiberal is probably the most we can realistically expect however. Let’s see just how the NCA pans out, and whether it is any more effective that the last two attemtps to create a quasi-FBI.

  • Charles Beaumont 9th Oct '13 - 11:28am

    I think the key question will be whether those at the Home Office (both civil servants and May’s people) will start from a position of trying to block Baker as much as possible. If this happens he will achieve nothing at all. So then the question is do you want him making a difference at Transport or constantly blocked in the Home Office?

    There’s a side to Clegg which likes a wisecrack and it’s hard not to conclude this is one big joke by him against the Tories. I wish Baker well, but I doubt he’ll get anywhere.

  • nuclear cockroach 10th Oct '13 - 12:00am

    I was a bit suspicious when Norman Baker became a Minister in the Department of Transport. I was suspicious, because I had heard of his ideas regarding the death of Dr. David Kelly, ideas which I found strange, and still do. However, he was an exemplary and successful Minister, someone that the Liberal Democrats could really be proud of in this difficult Parliament. Why should his record be anything different in the Home Office? Truth be told, the Home Office is a shambles. Theresa May, who once correctly diagnosed the Nasty Party, has long since become the disease rather than the cure. It is time for a good liberal antidote.

    Good luck, Norman.

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