Thursday, 26 November 2009

Leave the Tent and Bunker: bring politics back into the open.

This week has been an interesting one for those of a political bent. It started with an Ipsos MORI poll showing that the Tories' lead has been reduced to 6 points, producing Conservative fear, Labour hope and a combination of both for those of us in the Lib-Dems. In the event of a hung parliament we have a difficult choice; to prop up an unpopular Labour Government, to form a coalition with the Tories who would refuse to offer constitutional reform - a fundamental Lib-Dem condition, or to do neither and allow a minority government. The latter would be my preference, which would mean the Lib-Dems wouldn’t be sullied by Red/Blue policies and leave us as power brokers in parliament; whoever was in government would have to tailor legislation to get liberal support.

We could have moved from Blair’s ‘Big Tent’, via Brown’s ‘Bunker’ into a brief period of compromise and government by consent.

Then we had an unusually exciting Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, with David Cameron attacking Labour over giving public money to an alleged extremist organisation, namely Hizb ut-Tahrir, via a ‘front’ organisation running two schools in the South-East. If true then this is an extraordinary revelation; £113,000 pounds of tax payers money, possibly from the Pathfinder fund set up to combat extremism, being given over to an organisation who are reported to have stated that: “Jews should be killed wherever you find them” and their constitution states of non-Muslims that: “their blood is lawful, as is their property.” The Government have denied that the money came from its Pathfinder scheme; however this misses the point, why an organisation like this is running schools in the first place? Most would accept that any public money handed over to them is outrageous, though until the full details emerge we should perhaps reserve judgement.

After this we had Nick Clegg strike a direct hit on Gordon Brown over the Chilcot Enquiry into the contentious Iraq War. Clegg first asked the PM to confirm the enquiry was to be open and transparent, save on matters of national security. The PM stated: “I have set out a remit and brought it to the House of Commons. Sir John Chilcot has been given the freedom to conduct his inquiry as he wants. He has chosen to invite people to give evidence, and he will choose how to bring his final report to the public. That is a matter for the inquiry.” Clegg responded: “As I think the Prime Minister must know, the matter is not just for the inquiry, because his Government have just issued a protocol - I have it here - to members of the inquiry, governing the publication of material in the final report. If he reads it, he will see that it includes nine separate reasons why information can be suppressed, most of which have nothing to do with national security. Outrageously, it gives Whitehall Departments individual rights of veto over the information in the final report. Why did the Prime Minister not tell us about that before? How on earth will we, and the whole country, hear the full truth of the decisions leading up to the invasion of Iraq if the inquiry is suffocated on day one by his Government’s shameful culture of secrecy?”

Not quite as open as we had been led to believe then – we shouldn’t forget the PM wanted this enquiry to be held behind closed doors, I can only assume because it severely embarrasses many of those still in government, himself included, which exposes how they knowingly and willingly led this country into war on the basis of lies and spin.

For those who want to know the full truth of this sorry episode of British foreign policy, I fear we shall have to wait for the 30 year rule to be implemented.

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