Both The Slog and its alma mater Not Born Yesterday have a well-established record of pounding away at the secrecy of the Zanulabour State. In recent days – as so many examples of how the shiny shopfront masks a rotten edifice behind have come to light – one can’t help thinking that this time the ethical hovel will be not only caught in the torchlight, but also torched in the name of national renewal.
The evidence of slimey practice and mislaid moral compasses is indeed eclectic. The Ministry of Justice declares itself ‘unable to explain why’ Lord Hutton gratuitously slapped a seventy-year gagging order on the autopsy evidence in the David Kelly ‘suicide’ case. Doncaster social services flatly refuse to comply with an order to hand over the contents of a damning internal inquiry into their handling of the Edlington ‘evil boys’ affair. And bit by bit, the degree to which former PM Tony Blair QC gagged his legal advice on the Iraq war’s obvious illegality is becoming apparent.
Lord Mandelson meanwhile reacts with his customary affronted rage to the mere suggestion that his ownership of a £2.5 million London villa might be the subject of public interest. Here’s why: with two dark-grey clouds already hanging over a chequered past, his Lordship’s Ministry is now revealed to have given a credibility-smashing 96% of all special recession funding to Labour constituencies – no less than £502 million out of £521 million. Not Born Yesterday predicted last year that before 2010 was out, Mandelson would once more be up to his scrawny neck in grubbiness. We shall see.
The week ahead looks enticing for saddos like me who can’t resist watching the High & Mighty brought down to Earth. Tomorrow (Tuesday) Government legal advisor Sir Michael Wood will tell the Chilcot Inquiry – with the minimum of equivocation – how he informed the inner war circle verbally and in writing that any Iraq invasion would be illegal under international law. Later in the week Fatty Goldsmith will be grilled on the subject of how he buckled under Blair pressure – and thus changed his advice on the war’s legality. And then on Friday, Teflon Man himself will attempt to explain away his driving of five nations to war, bare-faced Parliamentary lies on seven separate occasions, and fat consultancy fee for sorting out the Middle Eastern mess.
The Sunday Times last weekend reported that Tony Blair has been cramming until 3 am each morning for this, the biggest exam of his life. This is I’m sure true – but the man’s hubris (very apparent of late) may yet be his downfall. I must also repeat what so many Blair confidantes have told me – that Moral Tone’s normal mode is bone idleness. Ask his publishers: having shelled out a large sum for his memoirs, they still await so much as an outline.
Although some of Chilcot’s examination will look to the casual observer like grinding through the motions, Sir John has confounded many who thought his committee would deliver little beyond an anodyne shade of magnolia. A bad sign last week was the leaked information that he ‘did not want to touch the Kelly thing’. But then previously he also said he had no intention of interviewing the Prime Minister. Whether he wants it or not, this is now a pre-Election reality. Sir John has adopted a more disbelieving tone in his approach to the great and perhaps not so good; we should be encouraged by this.
Former Government Foreign Office advisor Carne Ross told The Guardian last November he thought Chilcot would ‘do a job for the Government’; he was sure nothing substantive would emerge from the Inquiry. Ten weeks later, it looks increasingly likely that this judgement was wrong: the atmosphere has changed, and self-appointed media carnivores are hungry for raw meat.
Nick Clegg in particular deserves much praise for herding Gordon towards Chilcot; while the tabloids find his performance average and near-invisible, for me Cleggover has towered above Cameron of late. Avoiding the tedious repetition of Dave’s questioning, the Libdem leader has (I know for almost certain) inside track on what forthcoming testimony to the Inquiry is likely to reveal.
For many months, Gordon Brown has indeed been the elephant in New Labour’s L-shaped room. The appropriately lumbering manner in which Britain’s PM is heading for a Chilcotian elephant-trap would beggar belief…had we not seen his extraordinary mix of naivety and cynicism in action so many times before. I continue to believe that Clegg and Chilcot may well be his ultimate undoing. If my hunch is correct, the Government’s election strategy will be shattered in a way never before experienced in UK politics.
Here at the newly renamed Slog War Room, we have all been moved upwards from Very Probable Likely Clear & Present Drivel to Imminently Toxic Bollocks. Join us as the week progresses. And be prepared for World Exclusives along the way.