Chilcot Enquiry – Clare Short

Posted on February 7, 2010

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If you have become increasingly concerned about the damage our ‘special relationship’ with America is doing to Britain’s reputation in the world, then Clare Short is an MP who should command your respect. This is a lady who has written and spoken extensively about the need for Britain to reassess its foreign policy and play a more intelligent role on the world stage rather than simply following America’s lead. Indeed, her recent Chilcot enquiry appearance, where she heavily criticised Tony Blair for deceiving some cabinet ministers over the invasion of Iraq, proved to be an excellent opportunity for her to put forward her political agenda. The former International Development Secretary has seemingly created one last furore before her looming political retirement.

Ms Short is no longer a cabinet member. She has been marginalised within the Labour Party, her decision to quit the cabinet in protest over Iraq meaning she is now an independent MP who stands in Birmingham Ladywood, with her political ideology seemingly incompatible with the approach of New Labour. Ms Short has been rightly criticised in the past for claiming expenses she was not entitled to on a second home, which she repaid in 2006. The reason I overlook this indiscretion and hold her in high esteem is because her political view usually contains much common sense and she is prepared to speak her mind, even if it means her popularity being reduced.  For anyone who has followed Ms Short’s career the evidence given at the Chilcot enquiry was nothing new. She has said many times that communication within the cabinet around the time of the Iraq invasion was limited and that Mr Blair had assumed almost total control. Such a heavy concentration of power being assumed by one person is obviously incongruent with a democratic system. She also claims that Mr Blair had personally agreed to back President Bush in the quest for a regime change in Iraq, sidestepping the opinions of cabinet ministers in the process.

It is true that she deeply regrets not quitting the cabinet sooner, like Robin Cook did, however, I believe her dithering to be understandable. She is a passionate politician who feels a strong sense of association with her party. Quitting probably seemed an easy option and to stay and fight was more in-keeping with her ethos. She was offered certain assurances from Mr Blair which were seemingly just delay tactics and in the end she did quit after being marginalised as well as disillusioned with Mr Blair’s policies.  It seems to be a sign of the New Labour direction that an MP with such strong and innovative views can be pushed aside to make things easier within the party. Indeed, Alastair Campbell confirmed this with his Chilcot evidence, stating that there were serious fears within the Labour Party cabinet that Ms Short was a loose cannon and a danger to the secrecy surrounding Iraq.

Ms Short is often not taken seriously enough. Her outward passion can lead to the misconception that she is unintelligent and inarticulate but her views are there for all to see. She is embarrassed by our ‘special relationship’ with the Americans, she has stressed the need for a voting system reform and she wants a future that sees Britain play a peace-keeping role rather than a war-hungry one. I can see exactly where she is coming from.

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Posted in: Politics