what’s the point in an inquiry if it’s in secret? a week after being told it was illegal to prosecute people and not tell them why, and intially refusing to release the report that cleared a minister of wrongdoing, the government is embarking on its latest act of ‘transparency’ - holding an inquiry into the iraq war, only in secret.
I’ve long since argued the iraq war was illegal. I was lucky enough to be taught by some exceptionally bright lawyers about international law, and they argued the war was illegal with far more elocquence and wisdom than i will. so i’m not going to bother repeating those arguments (if you’re interested, the guardian site did a good rundown in 2005 here, including colin warbrick, who i heard speak as a student several times.)
fundamentally, the inquiry shouldnt be about whether the war was, or was not, illegal.
it should be about how our country was taken to war, and countless lives of civilians and british service personell sacrificed, on what has transpired to be a lie.
Pretty much all our intelligence on iraq was wrong - from the WMD to links with bin laden and the 45 minute claim - pretty much everything we were told at the time has been shown to be bollocks.
in other words, the government and intelligent services were either terrifyingly inept, criminally negligent, or acting with malicious intent.
at a time when MPs are saying publicly they are not to be trusted to look after their own expenses, do we expect them to admit the momumental faliures or criminal acts that Iraq has involved?
At a time when we are being told government should be more open, the full course of legal advice given to the government by the attorney general- hardly a deep-throat-esque record of intelligence - will still not be published.
As a final point, just note this: Lawrence Freeman - an academic who advised Tony Blair on his “liberal interventionism” speech in Chicago, which essentially sought to explain why it was right to attack a sovereign state, will sit on the inquiry panel. independent my arse.
this is absolutely an issue that demands a full and frank inquiry. and the public have every right to know what it discovers so we can make up our own minds.
this is a case in point of the need for a total overhaul of the select committee system - these inquiries should not be at the whim of the executive. we need independent inquiries that have teeth, with the power to compel witnesses and set their own terms of reference.
until then, i’ll stick with cynicism thanks.
there are many things i didnt like about Friday’s cabinet reshuffle - not least the appointment of two more peers in cabinet posts and no way for MPs to hold them to account at the dispatch box.
Then, we have surallen. Mr Amstrad, the man who has made a second career from saying ‘you’re fired’ is in as an enterprise tzar. As Management Today put it, the appointment is “further evidence that the government is throwing caution – and credibility – to the wind”
There are a whole host of problems with this appointment - not to mention the fact that before the peerage is even granted, Sir Alan will have to committ to attending the House of Lords fairly regularly - not a straightforward committment.
Now the Conservatives have come out and said Sir Alan should choose between jobs.
I wholeheartedly agree. Government is not a sideline, but then again nor is being an MP. And as I blogged last week, the next obstacle to tackle after expenses is the outside work of MPs.
So, before David Cameron starts throwing stones, I would suggest he takes a moment to survey the glazing in the house he stands in.
I can’t imagine what the future students of politics will make of the last week. In fact, I’m not sure if those currently craming for A-level and degree exams arent desperately trying to work in the events of the past week into their wider studies.
i think it’s fair to say we are in entirely unchartered waters - two cabinet ministers resigning in the days before national elections is not standard operating procedure for a Government under pressure anyway and unpopular in the polls.
Then comes the expenses row - and how the public have reacted. Even during the lowest points of scandal - Cash for Questions, Cash for Honours (let’s not forget that included a sitting PM being interviewed under caution) and the Westmoreland affair - never has contempt for our democratic representatives been so fervent.
In the European elections, we will have perhaps the most visible demonstration of the effects of proportional representation ever. I wonder how the mood among those who support PR will shift if we have several BNP MEPs on Monday.
And this before we consider the planned cabinet reshuffle - with the chancellor and foreign secretary seeming to threaten they will go to the backbenches if moved.
Certainly the next few days will be interesting. Possibly the most brutal removal of a sitting PM we have seen since Cromwell. Possibly a Government defying opinion and calls for an election in the vain hope their electoral chances will improve over the next year.
Students of politics will find this whole period fascinating. For everyone else, it’s going to look like unmitigated chaos.
so, David Cameron’s decision to reopen the Conservative candidate’s list now means that selections are on hold until October. A noble gesture, but it could be costly.
I’ll be upfront here - I’m on the candidates list, having been through a Parliamentary Assessment Board (all £250 of it) and I was lucky enough to secure an ‘unrestricted’ listing. The essential idea of the PAB is that everyone who gets through it should have the skills, character and whatever else you need to be a good constituency MP.
I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment behind re-opening the list, but I have two concerns. One - we are potentially weeks away from a general election, and putting selections on hold for a few months carries a huge risk that a snap election is called when a number of safe tory and marginal seats don’t have candidates. (On reflection I’m not sure how this squares with the call for an immediate election either.) The local campaigns are essentially decapitated while the other parties are on the ground building a presence.
Secondly, the value of people from non-political backgrounds is very good, and a valiant aim. The problem is, when it comes to canvassing (or as it has felt over the past few weeks, being told you are corrupt and only interested in moat cleanliness) is an essential part of an MPs life. Being able to stand on someone’s doorstep and disagree with them is not an easy thing. If, as is entirely possible in some of the tory-held seats, some of the new candidates end up as MPs, I think the difference between wanting to improve the country and actually work in politics could lead to constituents being worse served - only further fueling the fire of disenchantment in politics.
Lets absolutely renew our efforts to broaden the people who are interested in politics. But this needs to be from the grass roots up - councils are crying out for a wider range of councillors and skills - but we risk undermining our democratic process and not just the Conservative party if we sell short that ambition.
Satire is alive and well - bring on the Bremner, Bird and Fortune special!
A touch of genius from over the pond.
Posted: June 1st, 2009
Tags: john stuart
, the daily show
Comments: No Comments