Sunday, June 07, 2009

A sorry show

There is still a very great deal I could say about the ISC report, which was published last month. As there's legal proceedings going on, however, I'm not going to go into great detail on this blog, not yet, as I don't see why I should publish everything I now know and thus help the other side. Suffice to say this has not gone away, nor will it, and there will be more soon, so wait and see.

However, I needed a bit of a break from writing and campaigning publicly, and I wanted to concentrate on my day job, and in any case, the crisis engulfing this threadbare, exhausted administration means anything I attempt to say now will be entirely drowned out by the tiresomely unedifying spectacle of the Cabinet and Parliamentary Labour party imploding in a frenzy of private plotting and paranoia, whilst publicly mouthing meaningless platitudes as people wonder what the hell to do next.

It is infuriating how this pathetic soap opera has buried so many more important things. Here is a personal example. The 3.00pm press conference the 7/7 Inquiry Campaign Group held on the day of the report's publication was almost wrecked by the resignation of the Speaker, half an hour before it started. A message had been passed to me at lunchtime via the Cabinet Office, did those of us who had come to read the report want to go and have a meeting with Jacqui Smith that afternoon? She would clear time in her diary for us, that day, though she was presenting a policing bill. The message was greeted with suspicion by the group of people directly impacted by the bombings whom I was with. I called Ms. Smith's PPS back: was she going to announce an inquiry? No. So what was the point? We needed time to read the report properly, and to consult with lawyers and the wider group at large, and I was not sure that Ms. Smith would be in her job in a few weeks, and sure enough, now she has gone.

We went ahead with the press conference and interviews that had been scheduled. All that work - two years of work done in my spare time, all those meetings, all those late nights, weekends, time booked off work to prepare for that day, but because of the petty greed of dozens of politicians of all parties over months, no, years, the expenses scandal had suddenly reached the point where it became a perfect media storm, and important questions about how safe the country was as a result of foreign and domestic policy decisions, how effective the police and security services are, whether the truth was being told to the public in the war on terror, were swept aside in an orgy of sanctimonious point-scoring to save political skins. Afterwards I was shattered and depressed. What was the point of engaging with these people?

And so it has continued, relentlessly, ever since,'Westminster in disarray, in meltdown, in crisis'. Every day, the headlines go on, the airwaves fill up. On and on and on. Nobody has died. Nobody is about to become homeless or bankrupt as a result of the wheels coming off the Westminster machine. It is not a life-and-death crisis, like the crisis in the overstretched probation service and overcrowded prison service that let two killers free to torture and stab two innocent French students to death; it is not a crisis like the one afflicting thousands of children brutalised at home and not rescued by the overstretched social services agencies. The country is in a severe and horrible recession, people are losing their jobs, their houses, students graduating this summer face bleak prospects, draconian public services cuts are looming, the country has no money, a flu pandemic this autumn if it happens could be a far more catastrophic threat than any terrorist attack, our armed forces fight a dangerous, bloody war, and yet all people can read about is bath plugs and duck houses and flipping second homes. Righteous anger is healthier than this sullen corrosive cynicism that is now endemic wherever you turn. When people hate all politicians, turn their faces to the wall and will not vote, then we are in deep trouble. If the number of people bothering to vote has dwindled to pathetic levels, if extremist parties manage to get seats, then I will start to despair. Because this is fiddling whilst Rome burns.

It looks as if many of those in the Houses of Commons and the House of Lords no longer care about doing their jobs and serving the public, only about protecting their jobs and clinging to power. Thus our democracy sickens and withers. And yet, I know that there are still good men and women who are public servants, working in local and national politics. I have met some of them.

I actually pity them, these days.

It is indescribably depressing and frustrating to watch the buckets of ordure being wielded and to read of the thousands of back-stabbing cuts, none of them the coup de grace that would bring down the curtain. 'Politics' has become a tainted word, 'politician a term' of abuse. Months of stories laying bare the petty venalities of MPs' and Lords' expenses, the unimaginable sums of public money handed out to larcenous bankers and their failed financial institutions, and now the endless speculation about when, who, how the fatal blow will be struck against a wounded Prime Minister who seems to think he is tied to a stake and cannot fly, but bear-like, must stay the course, whatever the cost to him, to his party, to his country. Watching this play out makes you want to call the League Against Cruel Sports, or perhaps the Priory, where those burned and twisting in the merciless glare of public scrutiny go to close the door, and weep into a pillow, and try to remember who they really are, why they ever wanted this in the first place.

Have you heard the lively hum of the democracy machine in action these last few years? No, only the soft rustle of nests being feather-bedded, the rumbling of plots, the sharpening of knives and the scraping and creaking of furniture being pointlessly rearranged inside the Mother of Parliaments that has become a bunker to hide from the real world. For shame, as veterans stand at the graves of comrades this D-day, that this petty and impotent self-obsessed politics, this sorry show, this shabby shower is what passes for government. For shame.

But, to go back to where I started, this wretched government has let us down, badly, but there is hope yet for the 7/7 Inquiry campaign at least. The Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, has now said he will back a judicial inquiry. The Shadow Security Minister, Pauline Neville Jones has pointed out the report's shortcomings. The Mail called for an inquiry. So has RUSI. The Liberal Democrats have called for a full public inquiry. We will get there, though I think it will take a general election first. It's sad, I've tried for 4 years with Labour, but they will not, cannot allow an inquiry, it seems. The other parties are far more receptive.

Well, so be it. What else can be done? What else is fair, and just, and right, and honourable? Let the public decide. Tonight's Euro-results will be a clue.

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