It’s funny how Tony Blair’s Christian crusade to open up the workings of undemocratic states repeats the same errors of those states. Thus, like the Taleban, he has God on his side and a gun in his hand and invokes a devout belief in the rightness of his cause when he opts to kill.
Calling for fairly elected governments abroad didn’t lead to proportional voting or the abolition of the unelected Lords at home. Belief in ‘What’s Right’ doesn’t prevent earning millions from advising others, like Kazakhstan, producer of oil and uranium, run by an authoritanian ruler who regularly amasses 90 per cent ‘support’ in elections.
And today the Avenging Angel of Moral Superiority hovers over us flitting just out of range of justice – but not of judgement.
The tortuous, three-year-long deal concocted between Blair, Sir John Chilcot and the key individual, Sir Jeremy Heywood, head of the civil service and formerly Blair’s right hand man during the war, is designed to save what’s left of the great man’s reputation over the Iraq War.
It saves nothing of the kind of course, because the dogs in the street know that Blair gave private unconditional backing to Bush for any and all action over Saddam, ignoring advisers, commanders, Cabinet, Commons and people. The result was an ill-prepared operation without long-term objective or plan for peace, deaths in the hundreds of thousands, massive destruction, the radicalisation of young British muslims and a terror campaign at home, continuing mass suicide bombings and the wilful rejection of the authority of the United Nations and a global message of contempt for international law. It gave us rendition for torture. And of course, lies to parliament.
It was also a gravestone for the moral authority of the Labour Party. It is notable that so far there is no response from Labour to the deal done with their former leader. I find no statement from Ed Miliband or his front bench team – but I read that Peter Mandelson has advised him not to say too much for fear of hurting Labour’s reputation. It is left to the mavericks like Paul Flynn MP to say what everyone knows to be true.
Blair is wriggling out serpent-like from a tight spot because, like all attempts at transparency in Britain, they are diverted and corrupted by the hidden forces of the British state. There are always ‘wider interests’ than democracy and the people’s knowledge which must be served, be it Bloody Sunday, the Franks inquiry into the Falklands, Hillsborough or Hutton and Butler into Iraq. They should never be witch hunts – no one starts out to make mistakes and many regret decisions later. But they must be truthful and honest and treat both the participants and the people with respect.
I don’t trust any government – the temptation to use their powers to cover their tracks is too great, aided of course by the hysteria of the opposition to the slightest hint of weakness. You couldn’t have a clearer example this week from the British Treasury which trades on the solemnity and grandeur of a mighty institution but is in reality a morally bankrupt set of charlatans shuffling numbers around as Britain goes bust. When the banking crisis broke I spoke to a public figure who said his recently-graduated economist daughter had been fast-tracked into the Treasury because they had no one on the staff who knew about banking.
When the mask of integrity was torn away from them by Patrick Dunleavy of the LSE, it encapsulated everything that is wrong about the collective psyche of Britain. They have no capacity for honesty. It isn’t a club in their bag. They do and say what is necessary at the time and right now the need is to keep Scotland in the Union to benefit from its oil revenues and its export earnings, it’s markets and expertise and to avoid the humiliation of its loss – and 10 per cent of the UK economy – to British prestige. Therefore numbers can be twisted and contrived deliberately to misinform the voters, as they did over currency, defence and Europe. They can’t help it. It’s what they do.
Equally, I don’t believe the Scottish government can’t produce a figure for set-up in a new state. There must be an estimate, otherwise it is dereliction of duty. I’m just not sure why it’s so important. It will cost something – let’s take the LSE figure of quarter of a billion. Set beside likely savings after the split of £5b, it’s not a game-changer, so why the controversy? It’s like the EU advice fiasco where they got into an unnecessary mess. Why not put the case honestly and learn to rely on common sense?
One of the worst current examples of deliberate deceit is the Labour mantra that under the SNP, ‘A billion pounds of anti poverty funding has disappeared.’ You’ll hear Jackie Baillie deliver that line with mock outrage but I no longer believe anything she says and instead mentally check every word for double meaning – which is where her routine mendacity takes you.
First of all how likely is it that £1billion could disappear? On a scale of one to 10, what is the probability that could be true? Of course it hasn’t. This is what happened. The government took a series of generally anti-poverty support programmes – the Community Regeneration Fund, worth £113m; the Supporting People Fund, worth £384m; and the Fairer Scotland Fund, worth £145 and a £307m cut in the housing and regeneration budget over three years, and a £15m cut in Education Maintenance Allowance.
They then handed the programmes over to local government to administer in their areas. In other words, instead of centralizing the decision-making on how the money should be spent, they let councils do it for themselves where their local knowledge can be used and needs would be best served – exactly what Labour has been calling for when they complain about centralisation. Johann Lamont made a speech calling for powers to go to councils. Yet when the government does exactly that, Labour objects…
No wonder one side tries to hide facts from the other…no matter what you do, you lose. The money is there in council accounts and by my count, more councils are Labour controlled today than SNP ones so if it isn’t being spent properly who’s really to blame?
Even the cut to the housing budget is another example because it is made as a result of budgets being cut by Westminster. Labour doesn’t object to London controlling and setting the Scottish budget but talks about the SNP ‘ making the tough choices’. Yet when the SNP does exactly that, they’re pilloried.
The same happened with colleges. The Scottish budget gets cut so the response is to reduce the costs by merging institutions. This has been successfully achieved. Labour has not supported those measures to streamline and save as they can’t allow for any SNP success. Part of the saving was in the number of short-term courses like day release which have been reduced. This is a shame for all those who benefited from them, many of them needy people and a high proportion of women. But the result is that colleges concentrate their resources on full-time qualification-based courses with a proven record in access to work. It means that the college money goes to helping students get employment after qualification. That is the main aim of the colleges at a time when the economy and incomes need to be revived. It is a tough decision. Labour spins it as denying education to those who no longer get short-term courses, so what’s their answer?
Perhaps it’s charging fees. Would they like to tell us?
Student maintenance has been cut also as a result of falling budgets but that too is a trade off. Scottish students pay no tuition fees so get a massive advantage therefore isn’t it reasonable to ask them to get by on less state support? Tough choices…
I think the public understand those choices when they are explained to them and are sick of the politicos claiming to be all right while the others are all wrong. That world exists, but only in nursery school.
And would they like to tell us now what Blair DID say to Bush and stop treating us like fools because it makes not just the individuals look untrustworthy but the entire system of government. We have no guarantees of redemption after independence but we have a chance. That’s what people are realizing – Britain can’t and won’t change because it’s incapable of doing so – but a new and democratic Scotland just might.