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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'New Labour' and 'New' Tories: Spot the Difference

Another day and yet more evidence, as if we needed it, that we in Britain are living in a one-party state.

Jack Straw, surprise surprise, announces that he would take the unprecedented step of vetoing the release of cabinet minutes relating to the decision to invade Iraq.

The Guardian reports:

The justice secretary made his announcement in response to a decision from the information tribunal, which last month ordered the publication of the minutes of two cabinet meetings, held on 13 and 17 March 2003.
It is the first time the government has used its power to veto the release of documents under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act .
In a statement to MPs, Straw said he had not taken the decision "lightly".

He added that the public interest in disclosure of the minutes could not "supplant the public interest in maintaining the integrity of our system of government".
"It is a necessary decision to protect the public interest in effective cabinet government," he said.

(a translation of the last sentence into honest ie non-politician's English:
"It is a necessary decision as otherwise the public would see how they were lied to and tricked into supporting a blatantly illegal war sold on a fradulent prospectus".)

Now, you might have thought that HM Opposition would have made great political capital out of Straw's shameful decision.

You might have thought they would have called for the minutes to be published, asking what the government had to hide.

But of course, not in One-Party Britain.

Yes, you've guessed it, Straw's shameful decision was "supported by the Tories", with shadow spokesman Dominic Grieve's only complaint being that Straw should have ruled out release of the minutes a long time ago.

It's a similar scenario with the planned privatisation of the Royal Mail. The government's plans are hugely unpopular and are opposed by 75% of the British public. Yet what is the policy of H.M.Opposition (and the Lib Dems too)?

Yes, that's right. To support the sell-off.

The Daily Telegraph informs us that the government has the support of Shadow business secretary Ken Clarke, a former postal minister who failed to persuade Margaret Thatcher to privatise the service when she was prime minister. Clarke urged Lord Mandelson not to "cave in".

Throughout history dictatorial systems have created their own opposition in order to give their regime the semblance of democracy. Can anyone, looking at the whole range of issues in which the Labour, the Conservatives (and the Lib Dems) are singing from the same hymn sheet, seriously argue that this hasn't happened in Britain as well?


Anonymous said...

exactly neil...ive just read the story elsewhere, and Straw says hes defending democracy, an essential element of which seems to be to keep the demos (public) in the dark about govt decisions. He says:

'Justice Secretary Jack Straw said he could not permit the release of records from 2003 discussions over the invasion of Iraq because it would cause too much "damage" to democracy.'

which is meaningless as hes not said what he means by 'democracy'...

and most significantly:

'Allowing publication to go ahead would cause "serious damage to Cabinet government, an essential principle of British democracy".'

What he seems to be saying here is that the secret behavior of govt would be imperiled, and such secrecy is an essential element of democracy.

Straw needs to be called out on just such deliberate whitewashing fraud. Here is where we can see if another principle of democracy is upheld: equality before the law.


Roland Hulme said...

Good post, Neil. I agree that Britain's basically a one party state - I actually just wrote an article saying exactly that, comparing the US political climate to the British one.

what shall this new hybrid/chimera be called? The Tobour party? Pah, that's not very good.

God, I remember when I was studying politics at college that there were TWO parties with TWO ideologies and I was proud to be a conservative because it MEANT something. Now Labour is totally removed from everything it once stood for and the Tories are teetering, trying to stand in the same square on the political chessboard.

It's very, very sad.

RobW said...

One assumes you've read some of Peter Oborne's fine work on this subject.

neil craig said...

Though they at least released the Attorney General's weaseling on whether the Iraq war was legal on an FoI enquiry from me they refused to say whether they had even bothered to ask him whether bombing Belgrade to help the KLA was. I suspect that means they knew the answer.

No newspaper was remotely interested in reporting that particular evidence of criminality.