Friday, 8 July 2016

A pig in a poke leads to letting the cat out of the bag

The publication of the Chilcot report this week reminds us that politicians do sometimes get it wrong. It can take a little while for the truth to emerge but ultimately, emerge it inevitably does. The trouble is that we only get to that truth some time after the event when it is far too late to change history.


We never seem to learn from our mistakes as politicians continue to make statements that with time are proven to be some way from the truth whilst we, the electorate have difficulty remembering what we believed at the time we voted for or supported the policy that later became toxic. This graph of public support for the war in Iraq illustrates the point very well:
Just think about that for a moment, 67% of those polled in early 2003 were in support of the war in Iraq. Yes of course if only Hans Blix had been allowed to complete his work (and then been listened to) we might just have avoided that conflict. The point I am trying to make is that I actually don't know anyone who will openly state that they were numbered in the 67% and not the 30% who were opposed at the outset. Hindsight is a funny thing as it makes us wise after the event at the same time as it airbrushes out our earlier lack of wisdom. That we were misled is not really an explanation as I believe that a lot of people never bought into the WMD argument but were motivated to support military intervention because of the plight of the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds with memories of the dreadful slaughter on the Iranian border which cost a million lives still a not too distant memory.

Within a year, by 2004, the mass support for the war had evaporated as we entered into a period of post war mismanagement. Why were we so surprised that neither the British nor the Americans had any idea what to do once the overthrow of Saddam Hussein had been achieved. The resignation of Robin Cook, a truly memorable moment and then that of Clare Short in May 2003 made many pause and think. She had been asked to stay in government to assist in the "reconstruction" phase but realised all too soon that there was no real post war plan. Her letter of resignation can be found here: Clare Short letter of resignation 12th May 2003, echoing the concern of Robin.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Yes once again we have been fed indisputable facts with the proof  wrapped up neatly in a sealed bag (a pig in a poke) that can only be opened once we have voted on those trusted facts ............. and yes, once again, the pig in the poke has lead to the cat being let out of the bag.

I write of course about the EU referendum. You all must be heartily sick of this by now but the facts were so compelling for the 52% Leavers:
  • Brits would maintain the right to roam wherever they liked but foreigners would be denied similar access to the UK.
  • Our borders would be ours to control.
  • We would retain the right to trade with the EU on similar terms but without the need to make any payment for that privilege.
  • The EU needs us more than we need them.
  • The £350 million we save every week will be spent on the NHS.
  • All the predictions made by experts that the economy would take a major hit if we voted to leave the EU were just scaremongering.
  • We would be able to attack the housing shortage once immigration was under control.
Need I go on?

Once the vote was cast the bag was opened and what sprang out ........... precisely nothing. Once again no plan, no ideas ............... nothing. Not even a cat's whisker of a policy.

Where do we go from here ............. more piggery pokery?

The architects of this mess have fled. Those left to pick up the pieces seem shell shocked and dazed but true to form, their lack of wisdom is concealed with weasel words and yet more of the same old piggery pokery. The favourite (i.e. with most support) to be the next Prime Minister comes up with a cunning plan ............ to hold the EU to ransom by threatening to deport all non British EU citizens from the UK. The less favoured declares herself the champion of christianity as she voices her dislike of gay marriage. She at least is opposed to the deportation of EU citizens but what does she propose to do about the 20,000 or so same sex married couples that have tied the knot since the law changed in 2014? She claims to have a mysterious "third way" of ensuring access to the single market whilst controlling immigration. Don't hold your breath.

 I like to think that it is doubtful that either candidate for the top job will follow through with actual changes to the relevant laws that relate to EU citizens or to same sex married couples but the harm is already done, yet more wedges driven into society, scapegoating recognisable groups. At a time of heightened tension I think that this hapless pair should spend a few moments consulting this website:

Yes we are back in the land of politicians trying to make themselves electable by making the noises that resonate with the electorate (this time the 150,000 Tory membership) yet knowing that these noises will be difficult to become law. Theresa May has real form here as during her tenure of the Home office she has consistently demonised immigrants by making unsubstantiated claims for which there is no reliable proof, even from her own department.

See here for an interesting article on

The antidote is this: Labour motion to safeguard the right of EU nationals to remain in the UK through the successful vote (the Tories abstained) is not binding on the government. It was disappointing to learn that this motion applied only to EU citizens who were resident in the UK before 23rd June 2016.

A final note

There was an initial hesitation with this post; should parallels be drawn between the Iraq war and the EU referendum. Was it seemly?

The ensuing chaos and death toll of the Iraq war can be judged by reference to Casualties of the Iraq War. Just how much that conflict has destabilised the area and been a factor in yet more death and destruction in other parts of the world is a matter of conjecture. What is now a matter of record following the publication of the Iraq Inquiry is that decisions were made based on unreliable and ill thought through assumptions. What is undeniable is that it was politicians who took the decision to go to war backed by a badly informed electorate. The need for careful and wise reflection was little understood.

At some future date will we be looking back on the events of 2016, sadly thumbing through the EU referendum Inquiry, once again shaking our heads at the careless statements of our politicians and the ease with which they convince us that they know what they are talking about.

Not all politicians are untrustworthy but for those who are there has to be a way of ensuring that they hold truth more dear, that what they say is factual and honest. Is this a naive hope.

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