Having just driven into work and not really having an Internet connection last night I thought I would just pass a quick comment on Jack Straw's decision to veto the Information Commissioner on the issue of Cabinet minutes on the decision to go to war in Iraq.
Firstly, the Tories are bloody idiots to support the Government on this. I'm not saying that because I am, or was against the war - in fact I continue to think the decision to support the US was the correct one. This said the aftermath was bloody (figuratively and literally) incompetent.
However, the Freedom of Information Act was brought in to allow us, the people, to see how and what decisions are being made in our name. The argument that releasing these minutes (which some historians think probably wouldn't contain much of interest really), will somehow undermine Cabinet Government is complete bollocks.
It seems to me, and probably many others, that Straw's argument is a legalistic fudge. This leads to the question of what mught the minutes actually show? The only thing I can is that they might contain something that sheds further light on the Blair/Brown relationship in the run up to war.
After all, if I recall correctly, Brown was very silent on the matter right up to the wire. The minutes may just show - and let's remember these are Civil Service minutes and won't be verbatim discussions - Brown is disloyal and negative light, and to b fair he probably doesn't want anything else negative about him in the papers right now.
Alistair Campbel will want the minutes kept secret, unelected etc. seeing as he has ambitions....
If there was ever a reason to raise a public revolt against Parliament, this is it.
No smoking gun, no WMD's and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi's, murdered in MY name, even though a MILLION of us marched and told them not to. Blair now earning £15M a year and a "peace envoy". David Kelly "dead".
Why aren't we rioting?
Of course he can't release them.
They were eaten by David Blunkett's guide dog.
Honest. He's got a note from his mum to say so, and everything.
Newsnight mentioned last night that the disclosure time was once shortened to embarrass the Conservatives over ERM.
Now they won't shorten it despite being told to. Tony Wright was making an arse of sitting on the fence - 'it's right the Ministers have a veto but it's right the Information Commission told them to release it'.
It is patently in the public interest that we see those Cabinet minutes. I am aghast at the stance of the Conservatives - either they support the independence of the Information Commissioner or they do not, and they have shown they do not. All so they can repeat their feeble calls for a public inquiry which have been swatted away by saying we can't have one while troops are in the warzones.
This was an ideal opportunity to do the job of opposition. They should remember it isn't simply to be your own party but also to hold the Government to account.
I rather agree with the decision not to publicise them. How would it be possible for a cabinet to disagree on anything if they knew that it could be publicised while they are still in power? Publishing the minutes will simply ensure that they aren't taken in the future.
I fail to see how it would impossible for Cabinet to disagree if documents were published six years later.
Cabinet, as an executive body, needs to be free to discuss anything and everything, without hindrance. If for whatever reason, a member feels he or she cannot or should not mention something which he/she feels relevant to a matter at hand, government is impaired, and the country suffers for it. It is quite conceivable that a cabinet minister will, six years after being in cabinet, still be either in the cabinet or in parliament. As such, he or she might suffer serious political damage, should a comment made in cabinet which is later disapproved of become publicly known. The damage might be within the party, or in relation to the electorate; it doesn't matter which. So, cabinet members, should such publication become routine, would naturally become wary of saying anything that might, in future, work against them, even if saying it now would be in the interests of the country. It would clearly fetter a cabinet's freedom of discussion, and as such seriously damage the government of the country. This is a constitutional matter, not a mere legal matter. The convention of collective responsibility is critical to our unwritten constitution. It must not be undermined.
"suffer serious political damage" --- aww bless
Man in a Shed has a powerful argument in support of Straw here.
I'd be very interested in Dizzy's response to this.
I also think the point is what they do not contain, rather than what they do. Remember that this was the corrupt and ignored Cabinet of President Blair of Sofa.
"suffer serious political damage" --- aww bless
Sorry, but I think you are missing the point. Of itself it is of course just and right that people should suffer the political (or other) consequences of their pronouncements. But here, regardless of whether cabinet members deserve to suffer for their comments or not, the risk of suffering damage is what matters. The risk is the issue: it will exist so long as such minutes are released while cabinet members are still politically active. So long as the risk exists, cabinet members will not hold free and frank discussion, and government will be impaired. That is what matters.
I think the simple fact we are forgetting, at least those in agreement with Straw, is that the UK was in no danger, had not been attacked, and was not likely to be attacked. This was an offensive action and as such there is no way the minutes should be kept secret. Also, how many others in a position such as Alistair Campbell had a hand in making the case in secret for a war we did not need, they did not need, and was unnecessary in all and any way?
If this was just the cabinet without PR place men like Campbell there may be a case, but as it is...no chance.
My guess is that the government are embarrassed by the stunning lack of debate when the attorney-general’s advice was changed. This would cause enormous damage to the reputation of most of those seeking to succeed Broon.
I was a RAF officer and, from my perspective, this war was being planned from mid-2002 onwards, and was a fait accompli.
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