Thursday, April 28, 2005

Election Blog (15)

I've already asked if next Thursday night will have a 'Portillo Moment'. But will the campaign have a 'Sheffield Rally Moment'?
That was the Labour Party rally in the 1992 election which was perceived as a premature victory party a week before polling day and at which Kinnock punched the air and shouted 'We're Alright!' He was probably going to lose anyway but most people watching thought 'he's really blown it now'.

I always thought he shouted 'Well, all right!', not that it makes much difference. But with Kinnock it wasn't always easy to know what he was saying. In his famous Conference rant against Militant he talked about cold pickles. At least I think he did. I've watched that clip many times and still can't decipher that particular phrase. Maybe I'll write and ask him about both quotes. He used to be quite chummy with my father and, whatever his faults, was one of the most approachable and personally pleasant politicians we've ever had.

I don't think there's any risk of Labour making a mistake like the Sheffield Rally again. But it's funny how a small thing that seemed a good idea at the time can come to be regarded as a defining moment of a campaign.
I don't know how it played in America, but if one our leaders tried the John Kerry 'Reporting for duty' line complete with salute you'd be able to hear the sound of mass retching in New York and several million votes would instantly go down the pan.


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Tonight on BBC1 we have the three party leaders appearing consecutively before the same studio audience.
My prediction is that the repeat of 'The Truth About Killer Squid', on C5 at the same time, will achieve astonishingly high ratings.
Some might say that you'll get more Truth if you opt for the Killer Squid than if you opt for the Killer Blair.
But this blog strongly deprecates that kind of cynicism about politics.
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For petty, mindless racism, a comment made to a Guardian reporter by a voter in Goresbrook, East London, takes some beating. The man said he was walking his dog when a French-speaking African woman pointed his dog out to her little boy and said 'Chien, chien.' The man said to her 'No, it's a dog. We are in England!'
We must hope that he didn't go home and find Dionne Warwick on the radio singing 'Deja Vu'.
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The real lesson of the Attorney General's leaked advice on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq War is a constitutional one.
Blair always says that this was independent and objective legal advice from the Government Law Officer. But the Attorney General is a political appointment (appointed by Blair) and a member of both the Cabinet and the House of Lords.
The traditional argument has been that this kind of overlapping of roles is more practical and effective than an absolute separation of powers. But can people really have confidence in the advice of a political appointee who owes his position and his substantial salary to the Prime Minister he is advising?
It's significant that the majority of experts in international law thought that the war was illegal, as did most of the Foreign Office's legal team. Indeed, one senior member of that team felt so strongly that she sacrificed her career and resigned.
It seems to me that we need to change the system so that legal advice to the Government is genuinely independent and transparent with the arguments and decisions of the lawyer or panel of lawyers published and presented to Parliament.

5 Comments:

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Graham said...

I can see what your saying but would it make the slightest bit of difference?.Blair chose not to listen and I'm sure Thacher was advised at the time of the falklands,you could probably find events through history.
Its done and dusted now if the UK broke international law well the UN should take the appropriate action,but they won't too scared of the good old USA.I'm just electioned out please let it be over!!!!

 
At 8:49 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

In theory, a PM could ignore the legal advice but then everyone would know that they had done so. In practice, the heads of the armed forces would not go to war without an assurance that the war was legal. They would have more faith in a legal ruling if it came from a person or persons who were independent of the Government.
The Sec.-General of the UN has stated that the war was illegal and the families of some dead British soldiers are starting legal action against the Government so it's not impossible that it could yet reach the International Court.

 
At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Peter said...

If my memory serves me, I think Thatcher used the Queen's prerogative to go to war with Argentina, and didn't consult Parliament at all. This is still cited as a rebuttal to those who say our Monarchy is entirely symbolic.

 
At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Merkin said...

Ah - but here's something about the Sheffield rally in 92. The Union Jack (OK, "Union Flag" if you're a predant, which I don't think you are, Monsieur Lupin!) was displayed upside down as it was artificially fluttering from the gantry. Imagine the uproar if he'd flown his beloved Welsh flag arse about face? It was a bit of a bumper year for Kcaj Nionu flying actually, as Sally Gunnell butched around the Barcelona Olympics with her national flag base over apex (can you imagine a Yank doing so?) and the Eurovulsion crooner walked onto stage flying an upside down flag in Kreplachistan or wherever. The difference is, of course, that Gunnell won her race, but Kinnock and the other singer person (can't be bothered to Google the answer - sorry) didn't. The motto? Who knows - perhaps "It's better to be a successful female hurdler than a ginger politician or D list celebrity 15-minuter". Baaaaaaaa

 
At 3:48 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Peter, yes, Blair was not obliged to have a Parliamentary vote although probably felt it was politically necessary in the circumstances.
The role of the monarchy personally is largely symbolic. It is the legal and constitutional concept of the 'Crown' which is the peg on which executive and Prime Ministerial power hangs. It is this which urgently needs reform. It's one constitutional reform that Blair won't tackle - for obvious reasons.

Merkin, your typo has created a new word, 'Predant' - a predatory corrector of other people's English.
Your knowledge of the year in question is impressive. But why did we design a national flag that only a flagophile (or whatever the term is) can recognise if it's the right way up?

 

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