Thursday 18 June 2009

Spirit of inquiry

The government's partial climbdown over whether to hold the Iraq war inquiry in public adds an impression of muddle and incompetence to the appearance of political cynicism that surrounded the original decision. This new move reinforces the sense that the decision was rushed through for no other reason than to appease unruly backbenchers and dampen down the 'Gordon must go' campaign. At a time when the reputation of politicians is at an all-time low, how can making important national decisions for blatantly self-serving reasons, rather than basing them on principle, do anything but make matters worse? (Mind you, the Tories are no better: for the party that, when last in power, burdened teachers and pupils with a raft of testing and inspection to declare its belated opposition to SATS was an act of pure political hypocrisy and cynical vote-chasing).

As for the Iraq inquiry itself, although I'm not opposed in principle, I wonder exactly what purpose it will serve. Those who have been most vociferous in calling for it appear to be an uneasy alliance of two groups. On the one hand are the trenchant 'stoppers' of the Lose The War Coalition who won't be happy with anything less than a full-scale condemnation of the decision to topple Saddam. The other group is made up of those who have lost relatives in the conflict and demand to know why their loved ones died. But public enquiries don't exist to provide vindication for the opponents of government policy, or (hard though it may be to accept it) therapeutic closure for the bereaved. I suspect neither group will be satisfied, whatever the outcome.

(Cross-posted at Common Endeavour)

No comments: