Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 22 May 2007

22 May 2007

 Trying to reduce transparency? we saw through them long ago!

The majority of Labour MPs and some Tories voted last week for a Private Member's Bill to exempt both Houses of Parliament from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act.

Gordon Brown refused to block this bill. Although the official position of the government was to remain "neutral", several government ministers voted for it - and Jack Straw, in particular, was in favour of it.

The bill was brainchild of Tory MP David Maclean, whose pretext was the need to protect the privacy of an MP's constituents. But of course this is already protected under other Acts. Nevertheless, Jack Straw gratefully added that Maclean's Bill was all about "protecting the rights of our constituents to correspond with us in confidence".

But everybody knew that was nonsense. And that it had nothing at all to do with protecting "constituents"! No, MPs want protection against their "constituents"! Under the Freedom of Information act, all of us have access to the detailed expenses of ministers, judges, chief constables, councillors, local authority chief executives and other public figures. But it seems that a lot of Labour MPs and ministers have something to hide.

Do they think that if we know that they have bought an expensive bicycle or taken "friends" out for lunch on public funds, that we will suddenly not trust them anymore? What a joke!

As if their votes for the array of anti-working class policies have not already utterly discredited them as far as most workers are concerned! Trust them? We never did!

The House of Lords, on the other hand, wants to continue to be subject to the Act's disclosure. But the very fact that it cannot prevent the Commons from exempting itself shows just how irrelevant it is. Anyway, its ability to play ping-pong with legislation can benefit the government by delaying the passing of laws until they have had all their teeth pulled out, or they have run out of time.

Of course, it is ironical that scarcely 2 years after Blair's government passed the Freedom of Information Act, to a fanfare of self-congratulation about its commitment to "transparency", it has now voted against its own Act!

Then again, this is a government which is prepared to go to any lengths to cover up its corruption and its lies. Last week it ensured that the judiciary jailed a Cabinet Office communications officer and a parliamentary researcher under the Official Secrets Act, because they had revealed, in the name of public interest, the content of a discussion between Blair and Bush about Iraq.

No, we are not surprised about this latest attempt by MPs to hide from public scrutiny. Is their chief minister not known as "B-liar"?


This last weekend Blair payed a surprise visit to Iraq, apparently to bid farewell to the catastrophic mess he helped to create there.

The knock-on effect of the US-British policy in the Middle East - including the bombing of the Lebanon by Israel, was continuing to cause mayhem this weekend.

The northern Lebanese city of Tripoli was the scene of bloody gun battles which killed 23 soldiers in the Lebanese army and 17 others - who are claimed to have been "terrorist gunmen".

But defying all reality, Blair still claims that his Middle Eastern policy is promoting peace and well-being in the region. A mortar dropped on the British Embassy compound in Baghdad just before he arrived. The US "surge" which was supposed to stop the increasing attacks in central Baghdad has, by the accounts of US soldiers themselves, merely made things worse. They have never suffered such high casualties.

But Blair will not admit any errors. General Sir Richard Dannat, who says that "Prince Harry" could not be sent to Basra because of too much media coverage - knows full well that Basra is too dangerous for a "royal" to be sent there. He said himself last October, that the presence of British troops in the area just "exacerbated the situation".

12 British soldiers died there in April. The British HQ came under mortar fire minutes after Blair made his farewell. It is evident to everyone with any knowledge of the conditions, that the only political players in Basra are the rival Shia militias fighting for control. The British Army is severely limited by daily gun battles and roadside bombs, and lately, suicide bombs. All the more reason, as if it was needed, for troops out now!