Look Left – The Week in Fast Forward

Tony Blair's appearance at the Iraq Inquiry, the London Conf. on Afghanistan, the Northern Ireland talks, child & pensioner poverty, hereditary peers & more.

The Week in Politics

• The Iraq Inquiry is again the lead story this week, with the man who took Britain to war, Tony Blair, appearing before the inquiry today. Mr Blair said he had made “a judgement call” to go to war, that he “couldn’t take the risk” and “could not walk away” – saying he’d “do the same thing again”. His appearance follows that of Lord Goldsmith on Wednesday, when the former Attorney-General justified his u-turn on the legality of war, concluding that it was, after all, legal.

Last night Left Foot Forward reported plans by protesters to submit a petition to the inquiry asking that Mr Blair face “tough questions” from Sir John Chilcot and his panel, and today our Defence correspondent Marcus Roberts blogged on the legal difference between a ‘pre-emptive’ or a ‘preventive’ attack:

“Pre-emptive war has a clear basis in international law whereas the legality of preventive war is far more controversial.”

• The other big story this week was the other controversial conflict of Mr Blair’s reign – Afghanistan, with his successor hosting a conference on the future of the country with world leaders including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Among the plans discussed were proposals to “buy off” the Taleban, with the conference putting together a $500m (£310m), five-year fund to recruit all but the most diehard insurgents. The conference largely failed to heed Left Foot Forward’s advice and ask whether Hamid Karzai was “up to scratch”.

• The situation in Northern Ireland was the leading domestic story this week, with the Prime Ministers of Britain and Ireland flying in to Hillsborough Castle to try and prevent the collapse of the power-sharing agreement and to secure a deal on the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont. For a more detailed look at the week’s events – which are still developing, see Left Foot Forward’s Ed Jacobs’s article earlier today.


Progressives of the week

BeOnsite, who celebrated their second anniversary this week. They work in partnership with government, industry and local communities to train a number of people from all types of backgrounds, including those from socially excluded groups who would normally find it hard to gain employment or to be given a second chance, including former offenders, through rehabilitation projects.


Regressive of the week

Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve, who on Tuesday said there was “no justification” for the abolition of the 92 remaining hereditary peers, prompting democracy campaigners to describe his leader David Cameron as “shallow” and “an utter joke” on the issue of Parliamentary reform. Only last May, Cameron had written of the need to redistribute power “from the powerful to the powerless”.


Evidence of the week

This week saw the release of statistics into pensioner and child poverty. The results on child poverty were bad news. Save the Children found that the number of children living in severe poverty increased from 11 per cent to 13 per cent from 2004-05 to 2007-08. The figures on pensioner poverty, however, were more encouraging, showing that the number of pensioners living in poverty had fallen by 900,000 in the past ten years – a story largely ignored by the mainstream media.


What’s trending on Twitter

Tony Blair’s testimony to the Iraq Inquiry – this was by far the week’s most tweeted story. At lunchtime alone there were four times the number of tweets around the testimony than the two main parties receive on a busy news day

According to our friends at Tweetminster, the second most tweeted story this week was Tweetminster’s own much-debated report. Its main findings – based on a holistic view of all data-sets analysed – were that:

• Labour politicians are significantly more followed, active, mentioned and retweeted on Twitter;

• The Conservative official account though has far more influence than that of the other main parties: its reach is comparable to the accounts of mainstream media (MSM);

• The Liberal Democrats punch above their weight on Twitter, and senior party figures such as Eric Pickles and Nick Clegg have greater reach than their parties’ average metrics; and

• While MSM have more followers, it is journalists that get more mentions and retweets.

Other widely discussed stories this week include the announcements around plans in Afghanistan (especially the funding of a scheme to get parts of the Taliban to switch sides), banking reform (following President Obama’s announcements) and the party leaders’ press conferences that kicked-off the week.

Here are some of the latest tweets on the #IraqInquiry following Tony Blair’s appearance today:

@labsji: Saw a part of #iraqInquiry grilling Tony Blair on BBC. Even if nothing useful emerges, it is sign of democracy being alive.

@David_Stringer: As he left #iraqInquiry, #Blair was heckled by 2 audience members. “You’re a liar,” said one. “And a murderer,” said another.

@rossome: #blair once claimed that God made the decision for him. If he’s not going to jail put him in a mental home. #iraqInquiry

@BrendanCooper: #Chilcot #Iraq #Chilcotinquiry #iraqinquiry Ummmm…. and now, films with Mark Kermode? WTF?

@gilliandonovan: Anyone else noticed there's about 12 times as many police as protestors outside the #iraqInquiry

@elinhafthomas: where is Blair!? what sort of magic trick have they in store for vapourising him out of there now? #iraqInquiry

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