Within two days Tony Blair’s government has seen the top-up fees higher education bills pass the first vote – by five – and been cleared of any malfeasance in Lord Hutton’s inquiry into the death of MoD weapons scientist David Kelly. Gloat on.
Well TB has passed the biggest week/test/enema of his career. In the clear the cretinous smile will stay fixed on for some time. He can now look forward to implementing the Higher (Price) Education Bill. And he was exonerated from any wrongdoing into the death of Kelly, who, the report says, could not have been expected to kill himself like that and what was he doing talking to journalists anyhow? The 45-minute stuff was NOT a sex-up inclusion but a minor factoid already there and based on the quality intelligence (?!) they had at the time. Better than that, the BBC was singled out for criticism – Gilligan, Sambrook and co are all amateurs. Davies and Dyke have already resigned. Blair is considering action on the BBC. We can gloss over who leaked the report to The Sun: can’t have been anything to do with no 10 (but very handy that the biggest opinion former among the masses was able to get hold of it first).
The Mutton retort is a fuggin huge document (740 pages – 340 odd the report, 350 odd appendices – plus CD-Rom, for £70; or free online) and is a remarkable piece of blustering obfuscation designed to clear the government of lying about WMD/reasons for invading Iraq in the minds of those publics. Even though that was not the remit of the report and it does not talk about the motivation for the invasion of Iraq in a wider context beyond the erroneous 45-minute claim (which, according to the retirement pension-mindful Lord Button, is not erroneous because the government included it in their dossier of evidence 'in good faith', irrespective of whether it was right or wrong). The motive for the invasion was wrong; the initial reasons given bullshit; the further explanation even more so. Only Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has seemed to see through this pretence of doing right over a death and has called for a separate inquiry. “It is not a report on why we went to war in Iraq and many people up and down the country want a report on that” – forthrighted BBC1’s Andrew Marr, perhaps remembering for once what side he was on.
Said Blair: "It leaves no room for doubts or interpretation. We accept it in full…. The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on WMD is itself the real lie” – THEY BELIEVED THIS SHITE. Iraq Survey Group inspector David Kay can go on as much as he likes about the lack of Baathist WMD but it’s item 5 on the agenda and people have switched off by then.
The BBC, as state broadcaster, is a sitting duck. It cannot criticise government too sharply otherwise it will be shot/shut down amid a hail of accusations of Stalinist structures and it cannot act as an unexpurgated mouthpiece for government propaganda, much as Campbell and co. would like it to, as it would rightly be seen as an instrument of an overpowerful executive. What to do with this irritatingly objective and publicly accountable institution? Hand the ammunition to News International organs and let them shoot it down and benefit accordingly from the absence of a public service broadcaster (as well as nicking all their journalists). As with the NHS, if the Tories tried to undermine the public service ethos of the BBC in this manner there would be civil unrest on a scale beyond the few pub scraps in Hampstead that this episode has (probably) provoked.
If there is one lesson to the public from Hutton it is to keep away from things you don’t understand; you can’t be trusted to understand why politicians do things; the governing classes are superior, so either aspire to join them (without actually doing so, please) or get fucked because we haven’t got time for slow coaches who don’t understand, like Dr Kelly (more on the relationship between the public and govt in our next blog).
Gilligan should have led on the sheer faulty intelligence of the claim rather than whether the govt knew it was wrong. But he is ‘guilty’ only of dramatic use of language, writing for Associated Newspapers and being a fat man who fits no suit. Oh, and getting involved in a personal spat with Alistair Campbell (like he’s the only one to object to the Maxwell protégé’s pragmatic abuse of journalists and journalism). He didn’t blatantly fabricate a story, as a Sky journalist did (he’s dead though).
The BBC’s over-protective stance at the time was misjudged, but there are not many media orgs where the publisher, director and chairman oversee every strand of copy ever released. That’s ‘defective’ editorial procedure for you. Regarding the naming of Kelly, there was probably no explicit identification. But trained lawyer Blair and co know how to pull the media in a certain direction without implicating themselves. Basic manipulation even before the legal sophistry of the report.
Students get stuffed
As Blair has again threatened public services (earlier today in a Guardian-sponsored ‘summit on public services’ in, er, Rickmansworth) : “The lesson the Labour Party in Government should not learn is to shy away from radical reform. A future fair for all. That is our mission. Cease to meet the challenge of the future – the reason for the reforms in education, health and crime – and we cease to have a purpose in Government. My purpose in politics is governed not by doing the job, but by what the job can do. It’s the only basis worth being Prime Minister. When our further reforms, to which I will turn in a moment, are published in June, and taken to Party Conference in October, they will not be a retreat from reform but a quickening of its pace.” Prime sinister indeed.
The government triumphed by turning top-up fees into a vote on Blair's premiership but the quintet quorate may ensure that no more policies like this are dumped on the PLP by the centre-right market heads who advise Blur. Especially when the last manifesto carried an explicit commitment to legislate against the introduction of top-up fees. This policy process (of Blair being convinced of the market reality of private treatment centres carrying out ‘non-urgent’ NHS work/privatisation of the Forensic Science Service/National Air Traffic Control/London Underground/Council Housing stock/Government IT projects etc by the various KPMG, Anderson/Accenture, IPPR wankers who have seeped into no. 10 in growing numbers since 1997) is malign and corrupt; much like the relationship of the Sun with the establishment.
Political anathema as these developments undoubtedly are, WhoreCull still aims to see past the resolute short-termism/addiction for a private fix of the government in higher education. People already had more faith in the integrity of the BBC than the govt anyway, while clearly those who opposed the war – and the growing numbers seeing that continued involvement in Iraq is nigh-on-disastrous – are not going to pay any attention to the Hutton findings because – as discussed above – the war was a grand guignol from the off.
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