The Week in Politics
• The Iraq Inquiry got under way this week, six-and-a-half years after the conflict began and six months after British troops formally ended combat operations. The most dramatic testimony came from Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s former ambassador to the US. Giving evidence yesterday on the Blair-Bush summit where many believe the decision to go to war was made, he said:
“What just disappeared from the calculations was the understanding that after Saddam was toppled, we were going to have to maintain law and order, and guarantee the continuation of the central services. There was a large chunk of that time when no adviser was there.
“To this day I am not entirely clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at the Crawford ranch.”
Sir John Chilcot is expected to submit his report after the General Election next year.
• To Afghanistan, and the long-awaited announcement from President Obama (though we’ll have to wait a few days longer for the actual announcement) that he’s sending up to 35,000 more troops to the country, and agreeing to implement some of the recommendations of General Stanley McChrystal, three months after they were put to him. Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth will have been particularly pleased by the news, if his comments to the Defence Select Committee are anything to go by. He told them that:
“We have had a period of hiatus while McChrystal’s plan and his requested uplift has been looked at in the detail to which it has been looked at over a period of some months, and we have had the Afghan elections, which have been far from perfect.
“All of those things have mitigated against our ability to show progress … put that on the other side of the scales when we are suffering the kind of losses that we are.”
• The Daily Mirror provided the scoop of the week with their exclusive on Wednesday that David Cameron and his “Tory pals” stand to pocket £7 million from the inheritance tax changes they would implement if elected. Their investigation discovered that 18 millionaire members of the Shadow Cabinet would be better off by “at least £120,000 each” under the policy, with the estates of the Tory leader, his Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne all benefitting by more than £500,000 each – all of which prompted the New Statesman’s Political Editor Mehdi Hasan to ask of the Conservative hierarchy:
“If we’re all in this together, and this is the age of austerity, why are you so wedded to a tax cut for the nation’s richest estates?”
Answers on a postcard…
Progressive of the week
The grassroots community activists’ group London Citizens, who this week held their annual assembly at the Barbican centre in the City, an event attended by Left Foot Forward. Their purpose is to “rebalance the power of money towards the power of people”, and have made great progress in their key objective of a London living wage. Their origins can be traced back to the same organisation that trained Barack Obama in Chicago.
Regressive of the week
Melanie Phillips, pure comedy gold on Question Time last night with a tirade against the vast majority of scientists, who are collectively “conspiring to deny the evidence” that the climate is cooling rather than warming. Erm, that’ll be the evidence which shows that “the eight warmest years in the 150 global temperature record are, according to the Hadley Center, in order, 1998, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2007 – it’s a fact that this is the hottest decade in recorded history” would it Melanie?
It gets better (or worse). She said: “If they see the evidence that it’s not happening, the facts, the scientific facts have to be made to fit the theory. Now that is zealotry. It is ideological zealotry. It is totalitarian in its attitude.” A bit like Melanie in her recent rant against Professor Nutt then; indeed, a perfect description of how the Mail views the world.
And the coup de grâce? “The fact is there is no evidence for global warming: the seas are not rising any more than is in any way out of the ordinary, ice is not decreasing, it is increasing, polar bears are increasing in number and the global temperature is going down and not up. There is no evidence for this whatsoever.” So that’s all right then! Who are the world’s scientists to disagree with Mad Mel of the Mail?!
Evidence of the week
The Office for National Statistics released the latest immigration figures yesterday, which showed that overall net migration had fallen by more than a third to 163,000 last year, while net migration from the A8 European Union 2004 accession states had fallen 88 per cent to just 9,000 in 2008 – a figure unearthed by Left Foot Forward. The Daily Express, surprise surprise, failed to mention the number of emigrants leaving the country – a record 427,000 – in a patently misleading headline which screamed “Immigration: 590,000 new arrivals in Britain a year”.
After the storm of controversy over the hacked climate change emails erupted at the beginning of the week, here are some of the best links that have been tweeted over the past few days: